Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Note 1 at Eph 6:1: Notice the difference between the instructions to the wife in Eph 5:21-33 and these instructions to children. Children are to obey; wives are to submit. Submission and obedience are not always the same (see note 2 at Eph 5:22).
Even the obedience commanded here has the limitation that children are to obey their parents "in the Lord." This doesn't mean that only children with believing parents have to obey. It means that children don't have to obey any instruction that would take them out of the Lord's will (see note 2 at this verse).
Note 2 at Eph 6:1: This phrase "in the Lord" is very important. This is not teaching blind obedience, even to the point of obeying ungodly commands. Children are only to obey their parents if what their parents are demanding is "in the Lord," or inside of the will of God. However, this needs further explanation.
This exemption clause does not give children the right to disobey any instruction that they feel isn't right. Only in matters where parents are instructing their children to commit flagrant violations of clearly stated commands in God's Word would the children be justified in not obeying. Stealing, lying, murder, committing sexual acts, and other such examples would be things that children do not have to do even if their parents told them to do so.
Jesus gave us a good example. When He was twelve years old, He stayed behind in Jerusalem when His parents left so that He could talk to the Jewish elders. Three days later, His parents found Him and mildly scolded Him for not going with them. He replied that He had to be about His Father's business (Lu 2:42-51). Jesus was Mary and Joseph's Creator. Surely, if any child ever had the right to disobey his or her parents, it was Jesus. He was totally and completely in His Father's will, yet Lu 2:51 says that Jesus made Himself subject unto them and obeyed.
The parents were the ones who were wrong in this situation. Jesus was doing His Father's will, but they didn't understand. They were trying to fulfill their roles as parents out of a pure heart. However, since it wasn't time for Jesus to start His ministry, He submitted unto them.
In cases where children may feel their parents are demanding more than what is right, they should ask themselves some questions: Is what they are being asked to do morally wrong? Even if they are being denied some privilege unjustly, will it cause them to sin if they obey? If the answers are no, then obedience to their parents has to be a higher priority than just getting their way, even if their own way would have been right in that situation.
Children in today's society may find this a hard pill to swallow. Few, if any, of their peers will agree, and social agencies will back children's rebellion almost without question. God gives a promise of blessing to those children who obey the spirit of this command, and that far outweighs any temporary advantages the children might gain through disobedience.
Note 3 at Eph 6:1: The reason for this command about children obeying their parents is because this is right; it's just the proper thing to do. God established order. Bad government is better than anarchy. If all children were free to decide for themselves what was right and wrong, they would never be toilet trained, they would all be malnourished, and they would never go to school. No work would ever get done; it would just be all play. The world would not last very long that way. God says it is good for children to obey their parents in the Lord (see note 2 at this verse).
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