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Parental authority

God has given you authority over your children.

I’m not thinking about this in terms of discipline, though if you are in a battle with a toddler or a teenager it can be helpful to remember who God put in charge and who should act as an adult next time you feel tempted to throw something across the room.

Rather I want to think about the spiritual implications of us having authority.

Jonah was able to preach to the Ninevites because he had been sent. The kings of Israel had authority over the land of Israel and the priests of Israel were given authority over the people’s lives. Abraham was able to intercede for Sodom because his family were there.

Authority has almost become a dirty word in modern day families. We are happy to think about responsibilities in the family, but the word authority brings to mind an authoritarian style of parenting where parents clamp down on their children’s every move and barely let them breathe or eat without permission. Let’s not confuse an abuse of authority with the authority itself.

You can see that responsibility and authority are clearly linked. Responsibility is about whose job it is to complete a task. Authority is about who has the necessary power to make decisions about how things should be done and to enforce those decisions. In other words they are the ones who should be listened to in a situation.

To have responsibility without the authority to discharge those responsibilities is a very frustrating place to be. This sometimes happen in the workplace where duties are piled on an individual but without the freedom to fulfil them. It’s like being promoted to be a manager whilst your pay remains frozen. You can become impotent to make the necessary decisions whilst still being blamed if things don’t work out as they should.

But God does not give us responsibilities without also entrusting to us the authority to be able to fulfil those responsibilities. His command to train our children is summarized in the Jewish Shema (Deuteronomy 6:5-9 and 11:13-21). Here God commands us to pass on faith to children and to train them for a life of worship to God. We have responsibility for them and so we have authority over them.

Authority could be defined as the power to enforce laws, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge. In other words the person with authority is in charge. If one of our children starts to smash all our plates on to the floor we can’t just stand back and say someone else will deal with this. We have been put there by God to train our children and the buck stops with us.

All of this way of thinking about authority looks at our responsibility to raise our children right, but we also have an authority over what comes into our home. If we do not take this authority seriously other forces will fill the gaps. In our modern world it may be society, voices in school and media or even the child themselves who in the worst case ends up dictating to the family how things will run and grows up a narcissist. Abdication of this authority is therefore not an option, rather it is a responsibility we must take seriously as ones who will answer to God for how we have discharged our duty as parents. Again I reiterate this authority is given to fulfil our responsibility to raise our children in a godly way. Our love for our children drives us to be wise in how we use our authority for the benefit of our children.

If this feels heavy, then that is because it is – it is also countercultural in our society which seeks to undermine parental authority (though it is still the norm in other societies around the world). Yet only when we understand our authority can we use it effectively to combat the invasion of the kingdom of darkness into this generation.

Spiritually this means our prayers become more effective because God has given us authority over our children. The prayers of a parent are powerful, not just because we love our children deeply and so pray for them passionately, but because we have spiritual authority over their lives.

When we pray their lives are changed.

We see this authority spelt out all through scriptures. Children are our heritage – they are ours to raise. As parents we have the responsibility to train our children in the way they should go, to impress the commands of God on to them. As we mentioned above God does not give us responsibilities without giving us the authority to fulfil those responsibilities.

Paul demonstrate this even more clearly when speaking about families where one parent is not a believer. In 1 Corinthians 7:14 he states that the believing parent sanctifies the whole family. In other words, the believer has greater authority over the family unit than the unbeliever to effect change and lead children to Christ.

Let’s not leave our children to drift through this life but let us take up the authority in the spirit that God has given us to fulfil our responsibility as parents. Fight for them in the spirit, watch over their ways and see God bring them through challenging situations and raise them to serve the Lord.

You have the authority to do this.


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