What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness? 1 Corinthians 4:21
There are things I sincerely regret from my teenage years. I wouldn’t have been labeled a bad kid by any means. In fact, I think most people would’ve called me a good kid. Still, being so-called good doesn’t mean perfect, and I messed up in a big way when it came to respecting and honoring my parents.
I wish I could say there wasn’t turmoil between me and my parents, but my spirit in rebellion to demand my own way led to conflict. I had become very verbal in voicing my dislike for certain expected responsibilities, rules, and advice. My mannerisms were complete with rolling eyes, waving hands, and deep sighs. These were so disrespectful and so unnecessary.
I don’t like to go back and think about how much stress and dishonor I brought upon them. How my behavior forced them to parent more with the rod instead of a spirit of gentleness. Those years could have been so much more peaceful, but I chose to fight against the loving guidance they were providing for my own will. It doesn’t have to be this way, and I don’t want you to have the same regrets.
The rod is a figurative term denoting the use of discipline or punishment. This is those moments when your parents are using strong and firm words of rebuke, sometimes leading to punishment. Maybe you won’t believe this at your age, but being a parent myself now, I understand that no decent parent likes to use the rod. Unfortunately though, it is a necessary tool in training kids, but it’s not the only tool.
What if your parents could use another tool more often to instruct you called gentleness? Where words of encouragement and compliments are used more often than rebuke. Where concerns and reprimands can be calmly communicated. Where your parents can have an overall trust in you honoring their guidelines. Where there is much confidence in you upholding your responsibilities. Where they don’t have to continually impose punishments to get you to listen. Where more freedom is given instead of taken away. Where the doors of communication can be open to have relevant conversations with each other, gaining a mutual respect for each other’s opinions. Where joy is the main experience instead of frustration. Sound unrealistic to you? If we were talking about this being perfect, then yes it would be unrealistic. But, believing and striving for a better relationship with your parents can only bring you closer to achieving it, and you have a tremendous influence on moving it in the direction of gentleness.
Consider the scripture quoted above from first Corinthians. Though Paul was not technically the Corinthians’ earthly father, he was in a sense their father figure in instructing them in spiritual matters. Jesus had given him this authority, and he took it very seriously. You can read the frustration in his words throughout the book of first Corinthians as he is having to strongly rebuke them for behaviors for which they should’ve known better. But, for reasons stemming from arrogance and selfishness, they were not honoring Christ. Paul writes this letter in hopes that these things will be resolved promptly so that when the Lord allows him to visit them, he can further instruct them in a spirit of gentleness and not with a rod. Just like a parent with a child, there were still things that Paul needed to instruct the Corinthians on. How he needed to further instruct them would be up to them changing their current ways and putting aside their own will to listen with an attitude of humility and obedience.
With all this mind, think about your relationship with your parents as your instructors. Are you happy with your relationship? Are you doing your best to encourage your parents to use gentleness in their instruction? Or, are your behaviors disrespectful and rebellious forcing them to parent with the rod more often? What steps can you start taking to improve?
Just like those Corinthians, you have a stake in how you are instructed, and it is you that has to decide you’re going to change any hindering attitudes or actions. Don’t continue in the same stubborn ways and expect things to improve. If you want something different, then you will have to be different.
So, what do you desire? Shall your parents come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?
It’s up to you!
How blessed I am, my Lord, to have parents that love me! I see that they are trying to do their best to guide me to a meaningful life. I understand that I have a great impact on whether they do this with the rod or gentleness. I desire more gentleness so I will strive to minimize their frustration by honoring them in humility and obedience. Forgive me where I have been rebellious and disrespectful. Cleanse me of all unrighteousness as I seek the way to be most pleasing to You. Through Christ, Amen.
Truth in love,