Fathers, do not exasperate your children

Published 4:53 pm Friday, June 7, 2019

By Rev. Brad McKenzie

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother- which is the first commandment with a promise-that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth.  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  Ephesians 6: 1-4 (NIV 1984)

Ephesians is Paul’s letter that focuses on the way Christians are to live, the way we are to act as part of the church and even has instructions for marriage, parenting and for children.  I am interested, captivated and convicted by his words to fathers.  Do not exasperate your children.  That is not a word or a concept that we use a lot in our modern language.  Again, I am interested, captivated but mostly convicted by this teaching and thinking about my own children.

Exasperate is a serious word and a serious concept to avoid.  In a simple definition, it means to irritate and frustrate intensely.  To be fair, when parents are doing their job responsibly, children can become irritated and frustrated not because of parental negligence, but because discipline and guidance rubs against a child’s selfish focus.

Paul is not warning a father to avoid being responsible and disciplined, but he is warning against crushing our children’s spirit.

My wife and I have tried to follow a bit of wisdom we heard when our daughter was born, “break the will without crushing the spirit.”  Paul is trying to help us dads with this very task.  We do not have to crush a child’s spirit to teach them, discipline them and disciple them.

What I want to point out here is that in Paul’s reminder to children to obey their parents and honor their father and mother and the promise of blessings that come with following those commands are intrinsically connected to fathers who do not exasperate their children.

Paul is intentional about pointing out fathers in this process.  He does not say parents, he says fathers.

Fathers, do not push your children so far that it defeats them, crushes their spirit and deflates them.  In a sense, he is saying to us fathers that if we will avoid exasperating our children, they have a much better chance of living and experiencing the blessing of the promise that comes from obeying and honoring their parents.

All of us dads have a very specific role to play in our children’s lives.

We are called to first be men of God who love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbors as ourselves.  When we approach fatherhood from the platform of love, a platform shown to us by our heavenly Father in sending Jesus, instead of exasperation, we set our kids up to respond positively and graciously to us, life and most importantly the Lord.

Even if you have been convicted, like I have, at the reality of exasperating your kids, tomorrow is a new day and you can get a fresh start.  The mercies of God are new every morning, and that goes for us dads as well.

In God’s love and transformation, there is always the open door for a fresh start.  That Is Good News!


Rev. Brad McKenzie is Lead Pastor at Frist Church of the Nazarene, 3810 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Orange.