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Mar 19, 2023

Family Dynamics

Family Dynamics

Passage: Ephesians 6:1-4

Speaker: Patrick Lafferty

Series: Song & Dance - The Gospel Melody that Moves in Ephesians

Keywords: love, discipline, children, grace, obedience, instruction, parents, honor

A discussion of the implications for the gospel would be incomplete without attending to (re)formation of the relationship between children and parents. Both, we’ll find, need each other for different reasons. And both need the gospel to find their way in what often feels like the wilderness of childhood and parenthood.

Readings & Scripture

LEADER: Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.

PEOPLE: It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

LEADER: Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.

ALL: Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

LEADER: At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

CENTRAL TEXT: Ephesians 6:1-4
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

ALL: Father, we who are young, forgive us for thinking we know better–that we have nothing to learn. We who are older, forgive us for forgetting we once were young, and can still be foolish. Young or old, we all need what only you can give: a perfect love that forgives all sin, casts out fear, and makes us wise. Where we have failed to put away childish ways, forgive us–but also help us to see again the wisdom and beauty of the love we see in your Son–your only Son.

LEADER: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

BENEDICTION: 1 John 3:18-20
LEADER: Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

ALL: Amen!


  • Exodus 21:15, 17
  • Deuteronomy 5:16
  • Deuteronomy 6
  • Proverbs 4:1-4
  • Mark 7:9-13
  • Luke 2:47-51
  • 2 Corinthians 10:1
  • Colossians 3:20-21
  • 2 Timothy 3:16
  • Hebrews 12:5-11


  1. More like your mother or your father? Go. Which parts of the other parent are still noticeable in you?
  2. Name several reasons why kids think twice about obeying their parents.
  3. We can only speculate, but why might the commandment to honor father and mother (which Paul focuses on here) be the only one of the ten (and thus worth Paul mentioning) that has a promise attached to it? 
  4. It can be argued Paul chose the word “fathers” in verse 3 to address both fathers and mothers; mothers are prone to the same issue as fathers. But if you had to guess why Paul might’ve in that moment been focusing his comments toward fathers in particular, why might that be?
  5. To kids of all ages, how does obeying your parents help you learn what it is to follow God? How do you learn not just to do what they say, but to learn why what they say can be good for you?
  6. To parents, grandparents, and care-givers, how is the gospel furnished to keep parents from simply getting kids to comply with their will, and instead to help parents nurture them to both understand and then love God’s will?
  7. Whose responsibility is it to raise a child in the Body of Christ?


InView Media Album 03.19.2023


  • . . . we send our children into the wilderness. Some of them on the day they are born, it seems, for all the help we can give them. Some of them seem to be a kind of wilderness unto themselves. But there must be angels there, too, and springs of water. Even that wilderness, the very habitation of jackals, is the Lord’s. I need to bear this in mind. - Rev. Ames, in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead
  • The greatest danger for a child where religion is concerned is not that his father or tutor should be a free-thinker, not even his being a hypocrite. No, the danger lies in his being a pious, God-fearing man, and in the child being convinced thereof, but that he should nevertheless notice that deep in his soul there lies hidden an unrest which, consequently not even the fear of God and piety could calm. The danger is that the child in this situation is almost provoked to draw a conclusion about God, that God is not infinite love. - Sören Kierkegaard
  • Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
    Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
    Fill up the intersperséd vacancies
    And momentary pauses of the thought!
    My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart
    With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
    And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,
    And in far other scenes! For I was reared
    In the great city, pent ’mid cloisters dim,
    And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
    But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
    By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
    Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
    Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
    And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
    The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
    Of that eternal language, which thy God
    Utters, who from eternity doth teach
    Himself in all, and all things in himself.
    Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
    Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.
    - “Frost at Midnight,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • Lay your sleeping head, my love,
    Human on my faithless arm;
    Time and fevers burn away
    Individual beauty from
    Thoughtful children, and the grave
    Proves the child ephemeral:
    But in my arms till break of day
    Let the living creature lie,
    Mortal, guilty, but to me
    The entirely beautiful.
    - “Lullaby,” W. H. Auden