Yesterday, at the baby shower mentioned in the previous post, I was asked to do the devotional. It was an interesting thing to prepare for, as I was among the younger set invited, and not even a mother! However, I was really glad I did it - most lessons to be learned as parents are more than applicable to older sisters as well! This is what I ended up saying (though not word-for-word, thank goodness! I was able to survive without reading notes!)
As my only titles right now are “sister” and “daughter”, I obviously can’t give any deep insight into the concept of being a “mother.” But as I was preparing for this devotional, I began to wonder how our relationship to God – as His adopted children – plays in to the relationship parents, or even older sisters, have with those under their authority. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” This one verse has several ramifications for how parents (or sisters!) ought to interact with their children (read: siblings).
In the first place, we, as imitators of Christ, ought to strive to treat and train our children in the way our heavenly Father treats and trains us: in love. We all know Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20, where children are instructed to obey and honor their parents, but both of these sections of Scripture are immediately followed by an exhortation to the parents: “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21) The Greek word for “provoke” means “to stimulate,” and seems to imply the parent attempting to force a certain emotion upon his child. I recently read an article which discussed the methods used by parents to discipline and train their children. In this piece, the author observed that many parents try to make their children obey, or be sorry for wrongs done, by emotional manipulation. Over-dramatized sorrow for an “offense”, over-powering anger for a disrespectful attitude – and “best-actor-of-the-year” award for the mom who forced her child into the “correct” emotion by provoking him to guilt or fear.
The author went on to say that we ought, instead, to strive to show only genuine emotion to our children. If we are truly desirous that they learn obedience – rather than being simply put out because our instructions were not followed – then our authentic, quiet disappointment will be more effective in encouraging a spirit of repentance than the all-too-obviously fake weeping because they tried, in the midst of a temper tantrum, to smack us. One of these methods achieves obedience by guilt, fear and, later on, resentment, while the other results in children obeying and honoring out of a love and concern for the parent. One exposes a priority of getting “my to-do list done now, the way I say,” and the other reveals a genuine concern and desire for the well-being and character of the child. One is empty selfishness, the other, selflessness. Selflessness which imitates the character of a Father who “emptied Himself of all but love.”
In addition, according to this verse in Ephesians, children are imitators. This being the case, there is a second thing we, as those in authority over children, can glean from this passage. We have not only physical parents, but also a spiritual Father, and we are under the same commandments as our children to honor and obey Him. Our heartfelt devotion, love, and dedication to His instructions – or lack thereof – will be seen and imitated by the littles we are training. If we exemplify for them true repentance at wrong done, and true humility in admitting our faults; if we proclaim to them – by our actions – the joy and true freedom found in obedience; if we tell them of, and let them see, the Son we are imitating, they too will imitate that obedience.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Training requires example as much as – if not more than – discipline.