Father’s Day is a time of expressing appreciation to dads. That’s a good thing. Happy Father’s Day! But this post is about presenting a challenge that the Holy Spirit gives to fathers every single day.
Paul issues a two-pronged challenge directly to fathers:
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
First – don’t provoke your children to anger. Why does Paul make such an obvious point? Surely everyone knows fathers should not be angry. That’s true, but anger is one thing that most fathers struggle with. Anger too often accompanies leadership. This is a sign of weakness, not strength.
Anger may come when a child disobeys and rejects authority. There is pressure to have the home run smoothly. But when chaos comes so does anger. Fathers are supposed to be respected. So disrespect brings anger. But anger will not produce obedience, order or respect.
Dads this is where we miss the point of Paul’s challenge. If you become angry, you provoke anger. Of all the warnings that the Holy Spirit could have given to fathers, he chose this one: Don’t provoke or encourage your children to anger.
How can fathers avoid encouraging anger?
This is where the second part of the challenge comes in: “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Here is another way to understand this second prong. Fathers, you are to lovingly confront and teach your children about God. Your children enter the world in rebellion to God and in need of his grace (Ephesians 2:1-3). Therefore, your children must be taught how to live in God’s world so that it will go well with them. Your children must be taught the ways of grace and the gospel, all of things that Paul has been teaching in his letter. But this must be done without anger or you will provoke anger.
Recall what Paul says at the end of Ephesians 4. He says to get rid of anger and be kind, tenderhearted, compassionate to your children just as God is to you. If your instruction as a dad is not front-loaded with kindness and tenderness you will provoke your kids to anger.
Don’t misunderstand. Paul is not saying be a wimp! He is saying to have the courage to compassionately confront and teach your children just as Christ is kind and gracious with you. This is the kind of discipline and instruction that honors God and does not provoke anger.
Before you can be a faithful dad, you must first be constantly conscious of how dependent you are upon God’s grace. This is the only place of safety for you as you discipline and instruct your children in the Lord.
Dads, and moms as well, accept Paul’s challenge. Show Christ to your children, not your anger.