Here’s a letter I received last week:
I have a long back story but to simplify for my question, I am in my early 50s, so raised my kids in the era of the home school conference you mentioned [in the post “Christian patriarchy: Here’s how you replaced God”]. Unfortunately I idolized the “perfect” family while covering for my emotionally abusive husband. I raised 5 children and spoon-fed them a hypocritical life, all the while making sure they learned the most important Scriptures….like children obey your parents.
Anyway, God’s arm was not shortened in all my shortcomings, and He allowed my family to fall apart all while He held each one of us. He took me out of Egypt and, I believe, saved my children from further harm by allowing the divorce before they all were adults.
This all comes down to one main question…..
Please untwist Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20 to help release children, teens, young adults, and even adults from the bondage of following a patriarchal abusive father or any sort of abusive father.
My oldest son is a very loving, kind, Scripture-studied man, very opposite his father, but cannot free his mind from those Scriptures as there is no clarity in Scripture as to an age when you would stop obeying and ever not submit to the authority God has placed over us.
Now I have recently met a family with 6 children that the father has brought up not allowing them to get a driver’s license, get a job, vote, or think on their own. They are not allowed to get counsel outside of him and not allowed to interpret Scripture outside of his interpretation. They are completely broken.
I, sadly, am not equipped to give Scripture to combat the “children obey” Scriptures. Please help.
Thank you for your letter. The situations you describe sound so difficult, and yet are sadly all too common.
You mentioned abusive fathers, but I’ve known of several abusive mothers too, ones who have inflicted great cruelty and even sadism on their children, either in conjunction with or separately from the children’s fathers. So my response will equally apply to them.
In researching for my response I read a number of articles that said things like “of course this doesn’t apply to” . . . without explaining why. So I want to do my best to take the interpretation of these passages very seriously because I know I’m writing to young adults who truly want to follow the Lord.
One important and universal rule of Biblical interpretation is to . . .
Read and understand Scripture in context
The larger context of a passage of Scripture means not only the paragraph the Scripture is in, but the entire book it’s in, and then His entire written Word, especially the New Covenant, since Hebrews tells us the New Covenant is better than the Old and supersedes the Old.
Colossians is an amazing and wonderful book unfolding to us who Jesus Christ really is and why that’s important. Paul starts chapter 3 with, “So [considering everything I’ve written about in the first 2 chapters], if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on things on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Then, for these Christians, Paul lays out the directives of what the Christian life will look like when Christians are living and walking in the Spirit, for the love and joy and glory of God. Colossians 3:18-21 say,
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
You can see what a harmonious situation this will create when lived out by those who love the Lord.
The book of Ephesians, written about the same time as Colossians, and with very similar themes, also follows a similar structure: The book is divided into two parts, with the first half consisting of truths about who Jesus Christ is to you, in you, and for you, and who you are in Him. The second half delivers the roadmap of what this Christian life will look like when it is lived in the Spirit of God. At the end of chapter 5 and in chapter 6 we see:
Instructions for Christian wives to honor and Christian husbands to love. Then . . .
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.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. [Then follow 5 more verses in that section describing the armor of God that each Christian is exhorted to take.]
I wanted to make sure you noticed that last part of Ephesians 6, because of that command to put on the whole armor of God and be strong in the strength of the Lord. It comes right after these commands to obey, but it’s only those who are able to stand on their own who can do this. And the only way that can be done is by understanding who you are in Christ and who Christ is in and to and for you, as has been explained in the earlier parts of the book.
I’ll be coming back later to some of these thoughts about the context. For now, here’s the first question:
What if a child’s parents want him or her to sin?
This article has now been incorporated into the book Untwisting Scriptures that were used to tie you up, gag you, and tangle your mind: Book 2 Patriarchy and Authority. You can find that book here.
Update: Read Part Two here.
Go here to download your free Guide, How to Enjoy the Bible Again (when you’re ready) After Spiritual Abuse (without feeling guilty or getting triggered out of your mind). You’ll receive access to both print and audio versions of the Guide (audio read by me). I’m praying it will be helpful.