By Jim Faughn
“No!” – Some who will read this article will remember a time that now seems so long ago when that simple two-letter word put an end to misbehavior on the part of children. When that word was spoken by a parent, a teacher, or any other authority ﬁgure, it was typical for no further action to be necessary. On those occasions when further action was necessary, that action was carried out, usually without much delay.
How the tables have turned! In today’s world, it is not uncommon to hear that word spoken loudly, deﬁantly, and forcefully by a child to a parent, teacher, and/or some other authority ﬁgure who is attempting [in vain, it seems] to guide or correct the child. While one Christian or one family may not be able to change an entire society, Christian parents are concerned about instilling in their children a healthy respect for authority. They recognize that many of the ills of our society can be traced to a lack of respect for authority. They further realize that this is a matter of eternal importance. If a child does not learn to respect earthly authority ﬁgures, how can he or she learn to respect the One before whom all of us will stand in judgment (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10)?
Hopefully looking at some key words in the above title will be helpful to parents and others.
Authority – Whatever else one may say about the God whom we serve, it must be recognized that order is a fundamental concept. Fundamental to order is the concept of authority. We well remember the condition that existed in the days of the Judges when it was reported, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25; see also 17:6).
Respect – Multiple citations could be given from the Scriptures to demonstrate God’s desire for His people to honor the elderly, governmental ofﬁcials, elders, and other faithful servants of the Lord, parents, etc. A good summary statement of this concept may be found in Romans 13:7: “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”
Children – While not inspired, there is more than a grain of truth in the statement, “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” Proverbs 22:6 still advised the reader to “Train up a child...” [emphasis mine]. How sad it is for parents to recognize far too late that they should have been trying to instill in their children a respect for authority from the earliest months of their lives onward.
Your – One of the “life lessons” that some parents and all children need to learn is that it is irrelevant what other families are doing with regards to honoring God and obeying Him. Christian parents in today’s society need to have the same attitude that Joshua of old had: “...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
In – Our Lord told us that thoughts, attitudes, and actions come “from the heart” (Matthew 15:18). It is to be remembered that true conversion takes place when one obeys "from the heart" (Rom. 6:17). Respect for authority must be instilled.
Building –Just as there are certain things that are helpful in building a physical structure, there are similar things that are helpful in building a respect for authority in children. It is hoped that the ones discussed here will serve as a "springboard" for further study and discussion. While the following are not presented as being comprehensive, they are some of the things that are necessary.
Time – No building of any signiﬁcance is built in a day or two. Respect for authority begins to "take shape" over days, weeks, months, and years of effort.
Blueprint – We have the perfect blueprint. It has the words Holy Bible on its cover. Every parent needs to strive for consistency in applying its teaching.
Teamwork – Fathers and mothers [often with the help of some good brothers and sisters in the Lord] should work together—not pull in opposite directions—to achieve the worthy and eternally important goal of building respect.
Example – In human relations, a popular term today is "mentoring." In the building trades, a similar term and concept is that of being an "apprentice." Responsibilities are gradually "handed off" to the next generation which has learned much of what it knows from observation. We need to make sure we are "handing off" a healthy and proper respect for authority.
Foundation – None of the other things mentioned or any of the others that could be mentioned are of any value without a proper foundation. While we primarily think in terms of the church, it should be true as well with regards to families and individual lives that "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11).
Purpose – Why is the proposed structure being built? That will go a long way in determining how it is built. Parents should "build" respect in their children because they realize that the purpose for our existence is to bring glory and honor to our Father and to our Savior.
May God help all of us to strive for that in our own lives and to do all we can to instill that desire in those who are coming along after us.
- Jim Faughn, a retired preacher, serves as an elder for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org