The police car raced up to my back bumper. I panicked.
Am I speeding? At least I’m on my way to church. That’s got to count for something.
I looked down at my speedometer and saw that I was a few miles over the speed limit so I slowed down.
Now I was watching my speed as much as I was watching the road. I wasn’t going a mile over the limit, even down hills. I must have looked like the guiltiest man in the county. The officer following me had to be thinking that I was trying to hide something, or someone, in my trunk.
My perfect speed only seemed to make the police car get closer. But he never flashed his lights. Eventually, in a no passing zone, the officer passed me. My guess is that he was going around 80 miles per hour. Still no lights.
This has happened to me a lot and I hate it. But I’ve also learned from it.
In Ephesians 6:4, fathers are told, “do not provoke your children to anger” but instead to, “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
We can provoke our children to anger when we lay on them a burden that is too heavy for them. A burden that we don’t even bother carrying ourselves.
“YOU KIDS HAD BETTER STOP YELLING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
In this verse, fathers are also told to bring their children up, not just in discipline and instruction, but in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. In his excellent book, Father Hunger, Douglas Wilson says that the goal of a father is not to get his kids to follow God’s standard but to guide his kids to love God’s standard so deeply that obedience seems like the only sensible option.
This requires a lot of prayer, correction, instruction and leading by example.
That police officer that was behind me a few days ago did an excellent job of getting me to stay under the speed limit. He is, after all, the one with the gun. But I couldn’t help but question his methods. At the same time, there are plenty of methods, mostly involving brute force and fear, parents can use to ensure obedience from their kids. There are even commercials on the radio guaranteeing a transformed child in under one minute.
But we must remember that the command to obey was given to the children (Ephesians 6:1). Paul never said, “Fathers, make sure your kids obey.” There’s no need for grace if our only task is to raise well-programmed robots. The policeman provoked me to anger because he was a law man that wasn’t keeping the law. He was being a hypocrite, acting as though he was above the law. A father who cares only about obedience apart from grace, the instruction of the Lord and leading by example is no different.
The dad who really wants to raise his kids in the discipline and instruction of the Lord must himself submit to the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Otherwise, he’s just abusing both the authority and the children that God has given to him.