Scripture Reading: Ephesians 6:1-4
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
I want to focus on the first part of these instructions to parents — “do not provoke your children to anger.” Over the years in my ministry, I have dealt with many adults who carry deep resentment that stems back to their childhood. This resentment affects greatly how they treat their children and spouses. It also affects their moods, temperaments and social skills.
How can we provoke our children to anger? First and foremost by failing to give them loving discipline. I use these two words together — loving and discipline. Remember what we are told in Hebrews — “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6). One of the most unloving things a parent can do is to fail to discipline his or her children. Discipline provides boundaries. It creates safety for children. However, this discipline must always be done in a loving way. Our children musk know that they are deeply loved and accepted by us. We must never discipline our children in anger. But we must not neglect discipline either. Discipline is about training children to do what is right. Remember God’s words to children — “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” (vs. 1-3). Children have to be trained to obey.
Another way we can provoke our children to anger is by being too rigid and demanding. We must teach our children the importance of obedience. However, we must remember that they are children who need loving guidance. We must encourage them by our words and actions. We must seek to build them up and not tear them down. The home needs to be a place where they can heal and be nurtured. When we discipline them in anger or become too rigid and demanding, we can do them great harm. Our anger can easily become their anger and can hinder them for the rest of their lives. Overly demanding parents can produce insecure children because these children never feel that they can live up to their parent’s expectations. They will seek acceptance from others — sometimes in unhealthy ways.
We provoke our children to anger when they see their parents arguing and treating each other harshly. A child’s security depends greatly upon the relationship that exists between his or her mother and father. When there is unrest and unresolved conflict in the home, children suffer.
There are many other ways we can provoke our children to anger. I’ll mention one more. Children who grow up in the home of a parent who has addictive behavior will be affected. Most children of alcoholic parents will become resentful and bitter. They become embarrassed over the behavior of their parents and will be deeply affected by it.
The good news is that it is never to late to change. Parents who have provoked their children to anger have the opportunity to repent and to seek forgiveness from their children. This is true with our grown children as well. We can admit our failures to them and ask for their forgiveness. Healing and reconciliation can come when we apply the gospel. With Jesus, all things are possible.
Lord Jesus, I confess that I have at times provoked my children to anger. I admit my failures and seek Your forgiveness. Give me the opportunities to make things right with my children. Thank You that You are the great healer and reconciler of broken relationships.
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