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.