It is not for nothing that when the apostle Paul defined spiritual maturity as a criterion for leadership in the church he included, among other things, the way in which one lived in his or her own household (1 Timothy 3:4-5),” notes theologian and pastor Ray Anderson (On Being Family, by Ray S. Anderson & Dennis B. Guernsey).
Both theological and secular research demonstrates the significance and consequence of good parenting. As a Son, Jesus responded in love and within relationship to his Father, carrying out His will day by day. However, it was in his earthly family life with responsible parents that he gained knowledge and practiced the meaning of being raised ‘in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.’ Thereby, experiencing parental guidance and teaching both in common family relationships as well as in collective worship within his community.
The expression ‘instruction of the Lord,’ Dennis Guernsey shares, is derived from the Greek word nouthesia. A dimension of meaning of this word has to do with the quality of gentleness. Guernsey explains, “We can illustrate this by describing the work of a rice farmer. Anyone who has ever seen rice farmers plant their crop are especially aware of the toil and tenderness associated with the process. One by one each individual shoot is placed in the ground under the water and tapped in with the hand and feet of the planter. It is backbreaking, painstaking work. When the field is planted and the farmer stands back and surveys his or her work, it is a spectacular sight. In what was once a smooth pond or small placid lake the planted rice protrudes through the surface of the water evenly in rows, with just enough of the plant showing to allow it to catch the warmth of the sun. Words like “careful,” “tender,” “orderly,” and “gentle” leap to the mind when describing the process. So it is with the “instruction of the Lord.” The word “instruction” has a caring, loving and gentle quality to it” (Ibid.).
This is a fitting portrayal when one reflects on the intentional spiritual formation of children, one that is also a reminder of the importance and key roles of mothers and fathers in the spiritual lives of their children and families.
In regard to the task of the church, Guernsey contends, “Prophetically, we are to challenge parents to be integrally involved with the task of the spiritual formation of their children; supportively we are to provide whatever instruction they need to do their job and do it well. Perhaps the task of the church is to parent the parents. To this end, I suggest an emendation and amplification of Ephesians 6:4:
Leaders of the church, do not provoke parents in such a way that they provoke their children to wrath. Instead, direct their behaviors so that they might direct their children appropriately. You must also become instructors of instructors—of parents who will, we hope, teach their children to love God” (Ibid.).
Alongside you in His service,