In my Thursday night Bible study, we’ve spent about four weeks on Ephesians 6. Yep, it’s true. And we aren’t done yet. You’d think we’d get hung up in the warfare part, but that wasn’t it. Two and a half of those weeks revolved around the parent-child relationship. Paul packs a lot into a few verses, and one of the things that intrigued me was the way we looked at Ephesians 6:4. I’d read it, thought I understood it, then looked at it a whole new way.
Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord. -Eph. 6:4 (AMP)
Side note… I’m a HUGE fan of the Amplified Bible for study. I love the way it lays out the multilayered meanings from the original languages. It’s hard to read straight through, but for study, it’s my hands-down favorite.
It’s the part up there in brackets that made me really think. “Do not exasperate them to resentment.” Uhm, shouldn’t we be talking about my child shouldn’t exasperate me? Hello?
The answer is no. If you have children–or have ever been around children–you’ve seen discipline go two different ways. Either the parent speaks and the child hangs their head, maybe pouts, maybe slams their door, maybe rolls their eyes. That’s normal. None of us like to be rebuked. But you’ve also seen it go this way. The parent speaks and the child screams, yells, shouts, maybe kicks or throws something. And I’m not talking about two-year-olds. I’m talking about the ones old enough to know better. What’s just happened? They’ve been provoked to anger.
If you pay attention, you’ll see those moments of anger happen when we as parents blow up off the cuff, when we react instead of responding to the situation. Likely, our discipline is coming out in that moment in a storm of our own undisciplined anger instead of the calm, rational discipline we should be handing down. Hm. It’s not that God is saying not to discipline or to make them feel happy, happy, happy all of the time. Discipline isn’t fun and they won’t like it. But He is saying not to bring up that wrath and anger and yes, possibly even momentary hatred, in them. (Did you know the original word for provoke has its root in “to vomit up.” Yep, I’ve seen angry reactions kind of like that. Gross.)
When I was a kid, I remember my dad sending my brother and me to our rooms when we did something wrong, telling us he’d be back to tell us our punishment in a little while. I don’t remember the punishments, but I remember those loooong minutes of agonized waiting for it. I used to think that was the punishment, but now that I’m a parent, I realize he was cooling down so he wouldn’t tear us apart in anger. Tell ya what… it worked. And it’s a lesson my husband and I have carried forward–or tried to–with our daughter. Oh, she gets angry, but that’s the moments when I have to ask myself why.
What do you think of Ephesians 6:4? Ever been provoked to wrath?