Should we obey people rather than God? Who is the higher authority of our lives?
Ephesians 6:1 has often been misapplied by many parents to justify negative instructions to children, and I’ve witnessed this for some time now in Liberia.
These parents impose and demand that the children must obey because the biblical injunction commands, “Children, obey your parents.”
But they fail to realize that the statement does not end there, instead it continues, “In the Lord for this is right.”
Considering that God has commanded parents to instruct their children in a godly manner, should children continue to follow negative instructions that may likely hinder their relationships with God?
I think it is absolutely wrong for parents consciously to instill negative behaviors in their children, which could easily lead them to anger.
The Bible strongly warns, “Fathers [and mothers], do not provoke your children to anger. Bring them up in the discipline and instructions of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
The theological connection between verses 1 and 4 of Ephesians 6 strongly stresses the basis of moral authority by combining the statements, “in the Lord” and “of the Lord,” with an added standard of moral nature, “for this is right.”
Parents should not ignore these instructions in order to justify wrongdoings in the home.
The common lesson pointed out in Ephesians 6 is that children should obey their parents while they obey God, and parents should instruct their children in accordance with what the Bible says and teaches about child training.
Christian parents should apply the teachings of the Bible rightly as spiritual guides for godly living.
God is the ultimate object of obedience and in whom we find proper standards of morality.
Morality that has not God as its basis is mere living. Had God not existed, perhaps the issue of morality – right and wrong – would have ceased to be discussed.
We should understand that children are to obey their parents but in a godly manner that demonstrates obedience for God.
This proposition can be illustrated by a symbolic representation of the cross, upon which the vertical dimension relates man to God and horizontal dimension relates man to man.
That is, our relationship with each other can only improve when we are rightly related to God.
I have observed a great deal of disobedience from children to God while adhering to wrong parental advice.
It is becoming rampant in homes and communities throughout Liberia as children are being denied the opportunity to refute negative instructions from parents.
For example, I have heard about parents who describe their children as disobedient because they refuse to follow their negative instructions.
The three Hebrew brothers who objected to the king’s command to bow and worship the golden image (Daniel 1:16-20) provides a biblical model for children in how they might respond.
How can we describe their actions? Perhaps, they were in the state of dilemma and had to rather obey God.
In the same way, sometimes children will have to choose between what is right from what is wrong or either to obey God or people.
In Acts 5:28-29, Peter and the other apostles were put into prison for teaching in Jerusalem. Later they were released and instructed not to teach any more in that region.
Yet, with high conviction of their callings, they responded, “Should we obey God or man?”
They had to choose what is right by following God’s way and continue to teach the gospel without fear.
What can we say about their actions? Did they disobey the order of the Roman officials? Of course, but it was because they believed that following God’s will was essential, even though it may be termed as disobedience by others.
At times, people will hate us because we stand for the truth in Christ. They may reject us because we cannot afford to compromise our integrity for any mere humanistic obedience.
For example, should a girl follow her parents’ instruction to get into prostitution? Should she obey God or her parents? To whom ought she give her obedience?
We should rather obey God than people in any situation in which we will have to choose between right and wrong.
Children should be obedient to their parents by upholding godly morals and abiding by all biblical principles for right living.
Parents must raise their children according to God’s standards, not their own. They should be trained in the knowledge and fear of God daily, learning God’s way so that their lives will yield good fruits (see Proverbs 22:6)
It is our consistent and persistent decisiveness to obey God that would resolve this dilemma that children in Liberia, and around the world, are currently facing.
Fayiah S. Tamba is a graduate of Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary in Paynesville City, a region of Monrovia, Liberia. He is from Foya in Lofa County, Liberia.