What is it about a child that pleases parents? What is it about a son that gladdens the heart of a father? What is the greatest compliment a dad could ever pay to his daughter?
These are the questions I was asking today as I went for a walk with my wife, and daughter, and dog – it was pretty easy really to come up with an immediate answer!
There are a couple of bible passages that immediately came into my head. The first is the command for children to obey parents in Ephesians 6.1-3:
“Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ which is the first commandment with a promise; ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’”
Obedience, of course, for children, is their dutiful response to the Gospel. If they want to please the Lord Jesus, in gratitude for all He has done for them, then they will take this matter of doing what their parents tell them seriously. They will pick up their clothes, tidy their room, answer the door, pick up the phone, avoid unruly company, work hard at school, assemble for family worship, get washed and ready in time for church, among all the other things, that this command requires them to do.
If that is true, then of course grounded, sensible, clued-in Christian parents, similarly, will delight in the obedience of sons and daughters. There is, in fact, surely, no higher compliment that a parent could give his child, than saying openly, sincerely and lovingly, ‘You are such an obedient child.’ Isn’t it sad that we as parents sometimes get our priorities for our children wrong – we are thrilled when they do well in sports, education, or acquire material wealth or a nice house, or are able to make us smile (all of these things at the right time, and in proper proportion, quite correctly would please any normal parent); and we indulge or excuse their refusal to cooperate, respond well to advice, demonstrate a stubborn or display a disobedient streak? There should be nothing more displeasing than a child who disobeys (some of us know by experience that this is painfully only too true), nor anything worse that a loving parent can say about a child, than that they are headstrong, rebellious, dismissive or disobedient.
It means, in the church, that we, from the very earliest years, should set a high priority, by precept and example, and by particular sermons we preach, on forming the hearts of our children to obey. Arrogant waywardness in adolescents should not be approved. The congregation in which such covenant children are nurtured needs to pray that God would grant them the precious grace of an obedient, child-like, godly, heart.
The domestic situation, also, should be so arranged that every whiff of disobedience is driven out and discountenanced. Temper tantrums, sneering remarks, disregarding rules, or running wild must find no refuge with godly mums and dads. Couples must be careful, by the example fathers set, and the responses that mothers make, to do nothing to undermine authority structures in the home. Prayer, from the earliest years, for a gracious obedient heart-disposition, should be sought from the Lord, as the highest standards are maintained.
Of course, if we are Christians, then we all are children of our loving Father in Heaven - our native, fallen, tendency, is to disobey the Lord – we were, in fact, at one time, all sons of disobedience. Far too often the flesh still gets the upper hand - how it grieves His Spirit when we despise His Word, or refuse to do our duty with swiftness and gladness.
Nothing displeases Him more when we disobey our Father's commands! How often we have shirked this call to obedience. It should trouble the Christian greatly that we, in our ingratitude, though bought and washed by blood, might displease our Savior, or disobey our Heavenly Father. Is this not a reason for daily, deepening, repentance?
Yet it is also good to remember, the second text that came to mind, as I went for a stroll:
“This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
From cradle, through crowds, to Cross, Jesus always pleased the Father. He always obeyed fully, and was a delight to His Father. It is to Him we must look for the example of what a perfect true son should be! It is to Him we must thirstily come, as an overflowing fountain of this grace of willing, glad, submissive, obedience, to draw and drink daily!
Yet even more profoundly, it is to Him we must flee for refuge from the foul accusations of Satan. Yes, the Devil is right, we are unworthy sons! Of course Satan is correct that we are unfit to be called sons! However, the glory of the Gospel, is that Jesus is the Beloved One, the Blessed Well-Pleasing Son, has covered our guilt with His robe of delightful, obedience - that is our reply to the accuser - that by grace, through faith, in Him, we might be well pleasing children.