Similar to a sports team, one of the most important aspects in developing our family team is to formulate a training program for the participants. A power packed verse in the New Testament regarding our family training program is Ephesians chapter 6, verse 4. Understanding the key Greek words that underlie this verse adds great depth to its meaning. The English version (NASB) reads like this with the Greek counterpart to the bold words shown in parentheses.
“And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up (έκτρέφετε) in the discipline (παιδεία) and instruction (νουθεσία) of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4.
- EKTREPHO translated “bring up” means “to nourish or feed“
- PAIDEIA translated “discipline” means “training that regulates character“
- NOUTHESIA translated “instruction” means “putting in the mind“
So an expanded or amplified version of Ephesians 6:4 might read like this, “Fathers, do not provoke, antagonize, or exasperate your children to the point of harming your influence. Instead, nourish them by establishing a training program that puts into their minds the ways and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Our training goal is two-fold. The top line, “do not provoke”, is about establishing a relationship. Generally speaking, your positive influence in the life of your child is directly proportional to your relationship. The bottom line, “instruction”, is about establishing a training program that puts the ways and knowledge of our Lord into the minds of our children. Both lines are important. The top line starts with a sincere interest in getting to know your children. The bottom line starts with examining God’s Word together as a family in a pattern that is regular, planned, everyone involved, and parent-led.
Ephesians 6:4 is a balance of relationship and instruction. Just like the balance of celebration and responsibility, love and control, grace and truth.
A group of tourists went to visit a marble quarry in western Vermont. As their tour progressed around the quarry, one of the visitors called out to a jack hammer-wielding worker below, “What are you doing down there?” The worker snarled back, “I’m cutting this stupid rock into a square!” Seeing another worker who appeared to be doing the same thing, the visitor called out to him, “What are you doing?” The second worker, obviously happy in his work, called back, “I’m on a team building a cathedral!”
When we view family life through the eyes of the first worker, we are just a group of people living under the same roof. Your contribution to the effort may go unnoticed in the busyness of day to day activities. Conversely, you may not acknowledge the contribution of others to the family’s well-being. In short, we are just cutting rocks into squares.
But when we embrace family life through the eyes of the second worker, our family becomes a team that is building a cathedral. Each one in the family has a contribution to make. Our job as Mom and Dad is to require a contribution, recognize the contribution, and celebrate the contribution. Part of developing our family identity is getting your kids on your team. If we require them to join the team with all responsibility and no celebration, family life becomes defined by rules; cold and rigid. When we celebrate and reward without responsibility, we fail our kids. We haven’t taught them the value of self-discipline, loyalty, and service.
As in all things family, building a cathedral requires balance. A balance of responsibility and celebration. A balance of love and control. A balance of truth and grace.
Yesterday we saw our daughter and son-in-law, Annie and Matthew Dorin, and their girls, Danielle and Lily off at the airport in Houston. With their stack of boxes, footlockers, and suitcases, you would have thought they were moving overseas; and they were! Yes, they are off to France for language school in the village of Chambéry on their way to a permanent assignment in West Africa with the mission agency of Wycliffe Associates.
It was sad to see them go. Rhonda and I were getting spoiled with trips to the Houston rodeo, the museum, and the park with the Dorin clan. And sharing breakfast with those precious girls. But I have to honestly say there was something almost palpable in the air that lessened the pain of their departure. Annie and Matthew have heard the voice of Jesus and are following the mission that God has specifically for them. That assurance was enough to turn their parting into an anticipation of the adventure that awaits. What adventure of faith is waiting for you? Developing your family identity, hearing the voice of Jesus, and following where He leads is not something to write and read about. It is a plan to put into action. Let’s live the message we teach.
Bon Voyage to Matthew, Annie, Dani, and Lily and may God bless the work of your heart and hands.