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If, indeed, a disciple is a learner, no relationship is more suited to the practice of discipleship than the relationship of children to their parents. Family is the first government in virtually all times, cultures, and religions. Life begins with both an association and authority. In this natural economy, interested parties act according to filial love, self-interest, tradition, and community to create an environment that fosters health, growth, learning, and maturation into adulthood. But this common arrangement hardly entails a universal standard. Parents can be harsh, soft, practical, idealist, hands off, hands on, narrow, or open—all before they’ve said a single word concerning their goals for you.

But the Christian home does possess both method and goal in the revealed Word of God. Consider the simple form of Ephesians 6:1–4:

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 go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

The command: obey in the Lord. The assessment: it’s right. The promise: flourishing and life. The method: the discipline and instruction of the Lord. The manner: without anger. This is discipleship: learning obedience to what is right and good by teaching, example, admonishment, and practice.


From the child’s perspective, no other arrangement in life is as well suited as the home to pursue discipleship. It requires no relocation, it costs you nothing, and you will never have another teacher so invested in your success. Merely growing up in the home of Christian disciples, if you can learn anything at all, you will almost certainly learn loyalty, respect, submission, and service to the Lord.

All this must be viewed in terms of covenantal obligations by parent and child. Follow the paradigm of Deuteronomy 6:4–9: It begins with theology (“The Lord is one”). It speaks to relationship (“Love the Lord your God”). It gives direction (“These words that I command you today shall be on your heart”). It’s applied generationally (“You shall teach them diligently to your children”). And it provides methodology (“You shall talk of them when you sit . . . walk . . . lie down . . . rise”). Where the families of the world have a natural version of discipleship, Christian homes have gospel discipleship, grounded in the saving work of Christ, the truth of His Word, the laws of His kingdom, and the disposition of love. This discipleship is for good (Prov. 1:9). God obliges parents to teach it. God obliges children to learn it from their parents.

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From the June 2018 Issue
Jun 2018 Issue