Parental authority is often seen as a curse rather than a blessing. This is a sad reality. Authority is a gift of God to his people and especially to families. Authority is often abused on the one hand or grossly neglected on the other. However, it is important not to frame your view of biblical authority based on abuses or personal experience.
Parental authority is a daily object lesson that all of creation is under the authority and rule of the Lord of the Universe. However, viewing authority as a gift requires an attitude adjustment. Authority is said to curtail imagination, stunt creativity, restrict freedom, and diminish individual worth. These misconceptions have filtered into families.
In contrast, how does the Bible speak about authority?
The first thing to remember about all authority is that it is derived and not earned. This is especially true of parental authority. Parents are not necessarily better people than their children. Thus, respect for authority is not directly tied to the person in authority, but to the Person who established that authority.
Secondly, human authority reminds us that all of creation is subject to the rule of God. We all live and die at God’s will and pleasure. This is not a popular notion in our culture, but it is true.
Thirdly, parental authority is established by God for the benefit of your children. In 2 Corinthians 13:10 Paul says that God has given authority to build up and not to tear down. Building up is a primary benefit of authority. Too often parents think of authority merely as a tool for controlling children.
This third aspect of authority is closely connected to Ephesians 6:3 where obedience to parents is connected to children being successful in navigating the troubled waters of life. Success here is not necessarily in terms of wealth or physical health. Here, Paul is telling children that trusting God by obeying parents, even imperfect parents, is an act worship and trust in God, that he will bless in his own way and time.
To faithfully implement authority, much thought, consideration, and prayer must be given. Building up is done with pleasant words. Words that are crafted to build up according to the needs of the hearer are indeed pleasant words. These are the true words of authority. Pleasant words are an essential balance to the times when firm, even sharp, words must be used to lead and protect your children.
Situations are different in each family. But the need for kind, constructive, building authority is the same in all families. Biblical authority must be done with humility or it becomes something ugly and tyrannically self-serving.
Authority is about building up—it is about leading your children to the cross of Christ.
This post originally appeared on Shepherd Press and was republished with permission.
Jay Younts is the author of Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, and he is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is a ruling elder at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.