Mother’s Day Reflections
This Mother’s Day my eldest son, who lives in his own house on our farm, had no fancy greeting card for his mother. Yes, he did buy her a Cappuccino on the way back from our outing to her favorite Abyssinian restaurant (she was raised in Ethiopia). You think this might bother her? No way. As my wife put it, the best gift she could ever receive was the consistent love, care, and Christian testimony of her son 365 days a year.
According to Feathers, the publication of the California Poultry Industry, the Federal Aviation Administration has a unique way of testing the strength of windshields on airplanes. The device is a gun that launches a dead chicken right at the plane’s windshield at approximately the speed the plane flies. The theory is that if the windshield doesn’t crack from the carcass impact, it will survive a real collision with a bird during flight.
The British were interested in this technique and wanted to test a windshield on a brand new high-powered locomotive they were developing. They borrowed the FAA’s chicken launcher, loaded the chicken, and fired. The ballistic chicken shattered the windshield, went right through the heart of the engineer’s chair, smashed the instrument panel behind him, and imbedded itself in the back wall of the engine cab. The British were stunned and asked the FAA to recheck the test to see if everything was done correctly. The FAA reviewed the test thoroughly and had only one recommendation. “Thaw the chicken,” they said.
The point is that there’s a right way of doing things; and when you do things the wrong way the result is usually chaotic. In the book of Ephesians Paul writes: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1-3). This is not some kind of psychobabble such as you might find in a secular book on parent-child relationships. Paul does not say, “Children, obey your parents.” He says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.”
The key to the command is “in the Lord.” As in the case of the wife who is to submit herself to her husband as unto the Lord, so it is with the child to the parent. Children are to obey their parents for Christ’s sake. They are to obey, not simply because this is what their parents want, but because this is what the Lord Jesus wants. This is their responsibility to Christ.
The Greek word Paul uses for “obey” here means “to be under another’s authority.” It is the same word that would apply to a soldier in obeying the orders of his superiors. In short, Paul is telling children, “Do what your parents say.” In Proverbs a lengthy section is devoted to child-raising, and its theme is this: A child must learn obedience. This is far more than accomplishing the wishes of the parents, whatever they may be. Obedience itself is the issue.
Wise parents want their children to learn that the important thing is not merely to do what they ask, but that obedience is the important thing. If a parent says to the child, “Do so-and-so” and the child procrastinates or refuses, the parent does not say, “Honey, I told you to do so-and-so.” He says, “Do what daddy (or mother) says.” The important thing is not the specific request but the issue of obedience to a parent.
Paul adds a reason for his command: “Obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Paul does not merely appeal to custom or mere tradition. He is pointing out a basic law of life. He is saying, “If you do this, everything will turn out right; and if you refuse to do it everything will go wrong, because it is a violation of one of the fundamental laws of living.”
Proof of this claim is seen in our daily newspapers. Today we suffer from rebellion because a generation has been taught they need not obey, that there is nothing important connected with obedience. As I pointed out in my book The Myth of Adolescence, many teenage emotional disturbances stem from an attitude of rebellion toward a parent. Furthermore, rebellion always leads to folly. When we are rebellious, we make terrible mistakes. We do things that we would never do otherwise. Thus it is absolutely essential that children learn to obey their parents willingly. Nothing is more important. Paul says, “This is the right thing to do, and it’s the only way to make your life run right.”
Paul also notes that this was the first commandment with a promise: “Honor thy father and thy mother that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth” (Exodus 20:12). Paul is reminding us that sullen obedience is really resentment and bitterness, and there is nothing more destructive in a human heart than that. Doctors agree that a bitter heart can produce ulcers, indigestion, allergic reactions, and other physical ailments. But willing obedience is a benefit to children who obey. That’s why God promises that honoring father and mother will actually mean a lengthening of life and will make life more enjoyable.
Not long ago I was watching a Christian father and his little four-year-old son during a worship service. The little boy was standing up and walking around during the service. The father motioned to him to sit down, but the boy simply shook his head, indicating his willful disobedience. The father pleaded with him but finally gave in to the little boy’s desires. What was saddest of all is that you could see in the child’s eyes the words, “Daddy, please make me obey!” This child has no security, for a lack of proper discipline will create insecurity in a child more than anything else. The child without discipline feels terribly unhappy.
On Mother’s Day, a card might be a nice gesture, but loving obedience makes a better Mother’s Day gift for most of the world’s women.
May 13, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book, Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon, will be released this year.