Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so they won’t become discouraged.
Many kids today are discouraged because they are exasperated. And the source is their dad. Many dads do not know how important their role is with their kids, and are messing up.
I know from experience, because I am a father and have exasperated my son. When it has happened, it was like, “Wow, there’s Colossians 3:21… that exasperation thing… how did that happen and what did I do?”
aggravate, anger, annoy, bother, bug, burn (up), chafe, embitter, irritate, gall, grate, harass, irk, make resentful, peeve, persecute, provoke, rile, ruffle, and vex.
These are what you, dad or mom, can do to your children. Stop and reflect. Let go of your defenses. Take responsibility. You can create lifelong problems for your kid if you don’t get this and let Jesus help you be a good parent.
The first thing to realize is that you are capable of these things, because you are so important to your child. You have a God-given role and function. You, your behavior, words and actions affect your children; so, be careful.
What exactly do we do that is exasperating to our children? Here are a few examples: fault finding, harshness, and unreasonable demands; harassing, being annoying, raging, bugging, and pushing them beyond their young limits.
The big missing ingredient in all these is graciousness.
“No grace” translates to “no love” because love is expressed with gracious actions (1 Cor. 13). And this is how a child ends up saying, “I thought you hated me,” and the astonished parent cannot believe these words, because in their mind, they have been a good parent.
Parents are mandated to nurture their kids. That means graciousness. Pushiness, harassing, aggravating, irritating fault-finding, critical, micro-managing, and in-your-face bossy is not nurturing grace.
Kids need a fail-safe environment to explore and learn. Failure is part of learning. Experimenting, within boundaries of safety, is good.
The end result of exasperation is discouragement. Children are naturally playful, curious, experimenters, risk-takers, and trusting. All of these can be crushed by an exasperating father (or mother).
The boy or girl who is discouraged by their over-bearing father (or mother), goes into the world as an adult who does not know how to play, lacks curiosity, does not experiment, fears risk-taking, and does not trust. This sounds like an adult child of an alcoholic, except your parent may have been a “dry-drunk” which is someone with a “jekyll and hyde” personality who did not drink.
How can a dad repent of exasperating his child? If you do this and want to stop, what is the cure? This verse is in the context of a chapter where Paul is writing about the Christian’s life.
Being a good father or mother requires good behavior that is the result of the man or woman being in Christ. The admonition to not exasperate your kids comes in the context of Paul’s “application section” of his letter to the Colossians. In the preceding chapters and verses, Paul has been expounding on Christ.
The Cosmic Christ
This text, Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so they won’t become discouraged,” has a context of a book and a chapter. The book of Colossians is about the cosmic Christ.
Chapter one has a hymn that Paul wrote about Christ:
He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For everything was created by Him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through Him and for Him.
He is before all things,
and by Him all things hold together.
He is also the head of the body, the church;
He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
so that He might come to have
first place in everything.
For God was pleased to have
all His fullness dwell in Him,
and through Him to reconcile
everything to Himself
by making peace
through the blood of His cross—
whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Christ is head of the universe, the church, the home, and each disciple.
Notice that Christ is creator and sustainer of the cosmos and head of the church. Put out your two hands and consider each of these. It gives you an idea that Christ is a big deal.
We need to have very high Christology, our belief about the importance and power of Christ. The fact that he is head of the church should always give us pause about how we run and conduct our churches. We need to not act like he is the founder who is long gone, but the living head; and there is a huge difference.
Christ holds the universe together and heads up the whole church. He is not working at a distant headquarters, but he is working in all the branches of the living church. On the one hand he created everything and holds it together, and on the other hand he is the head of the church.
Christ reconciles everything. God’s fullness dwells in him and he has the power of God to reconcile everything to himself. And he did it through his shed blood on the cross.
That song above, with those points, is the Christ we serve, the Christ who has saved us, the Christ who is redeeming us and making us sanctified. He is the one who dwells in us to live the life, his life. That is the context of my text about not exasperating your child.
You can only live the Christian life in Christ.
You can only obey his commands, the first and highest of which is to love, if you have him living through you. You cannot live the life without being his disciple and he calls his disciples to bear their own crosses and die so that they will live.
You have to die so that you may live.
You have to have death and burial, funeral and grief, in order to have resurrection life. To try to live the life, bypassing your cross, death, and resurrection is to try to live the Christian life without Christ, “in name only” and not the authentic deal.
That is like the Pharisees, having a “form” of godliness, but denying the power of God. It takes God to raise the dead, to have resurrection life, and that is the only life we can have in Christ. It is not the carnal nature obeying God, but the new life in Christ that has been raised from the dead, and there is a massive difference.
Christ the foundation, high Christology, and a powerful Christ, is the center, the key and the door to our lives, including how we talk to our children. Let’s look at the preceding twenty verses of Colossians chapter three to get the steps, the building blocks, that lead up to this verse, and give it context.
Colossians 3:1-21, outline:
So if you have been raised with the Messiah,
seek what is above,
where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth.
For you have died,
and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God.
When the Messiah,
who is your life,
then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature:
and greed,which is idolatry.
Because of these, God’s wrath comes on the disobedient,
and you once walked in these things when you were living in them.
But now you must also put away all the following:
and filthy language from your mouth.
Do not lie to one another,
since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self.
You are being renewed
according to the image of your Creator.
there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.
God’s chosen ones,
holy and loved,
accepting one another
and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another.
Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.
Above all, put on love
—the perfect bond of unity.
And let the peace of the Messiah,
to which you were also called in one body,
control your hearts.
Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you,
teaching and admonishing one another
in all wisdom,
and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do,
in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father
Wives, be submissive to your husbands,
as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives
and don’t be bitter toward them.
Children, obey your parents
for this pleases the Lord.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children,
so they won’t become discouraged.
To get to the bottom line, you must start at the top
“Since you have been raised with Messiah.” Have you been raised with Messiah? Here is what it looks like in your life.
You will seek what is above and set your minds on what is above.
What is above? God, heaven, spiritual things. What is above is Messiah, who rules and reigns.
Our real life, our authentic life, our life that will go on forever is hidden in Christ. Our old life, our sinful, carnal, worldly life is dead. The life we now live is his life living through us.
Put off and away something, then put on something.
We need to live that life and put off and put away old, sinful, carnal, worldly ways and put on Christ and his ways. If we are not doing this, we can not do that. Doing that is living the life.
We must put off (put to death): sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed,which is idolatry. We must put away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, filthy language from your mouth, and lying.
If you consume pornography, engage in unchecked lust, engage in greed (envy & covetousness), have an anger problem, speak rotten and ungracious things, bash people, or lie, you need to let Christ save you.
If you have ever played the game “Monopoly”, it has a phrase: “Go directly to jail. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.” If you are doing these things, operating in them in your life, you are hamstrung from walking with Christ, in Christ, and you will not be able to live the life, including properly loving your spouse or your child.
These things, listed above must be put off and put away. “How?” you might ask. Through Christ, through the cross, through Messiah’s blood. His death appropriated into your life and then your death, your death of your fleshly, carnal, worldly nature.
This dying is not a suicidal, jumping off a cliff or “offing yourself along.” Your death is relational. His command to his disciples is, “Take up your cross and follow me.” It is your cross-walk, with him and after him, following him.
And, it is not a solo flight. You are joining his community. He is the master of each one of us and we each have our own crosses that look very similar although unique and we each are working out his salvation individually and communally.
The church, whether it is micro or mega, should be a house of healing, a place of recovery, or a hospital. Human nature is addictive by definition. We are very prone to addiction. We all need grace and freedom, healing and deliverance, to one degree or another.
Recovery ministry, mentors or sponsors needed for most all, in seasons
It is hard to think up one example of a Christian who does not or has not been in need of a recovery-support group during a season of life. We all need a group where life in Christ is shared and pretty much all of us need a human sponsor, at least during intense recovery seasons.
Every mature Christian I can think of has had a sponsor type person (mentor) and usually a support group that understands their particular issue(s). Not being in recovery and trying “fake it to make it” while going to church, is like being someone treading water while the cruise ship sails by.
Now to live the life
AFTER we have begun to “put off” and “put away” there are things to “put on.” We put these on, bring them out, or develop them, because we have them in Christ. We put on: heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, acceptance of others, forgiveness of others for all complaints, and above all, love.
With these being put on, developing, or worked out; we can live the life. That’s good news and you become the good news. Imaging the song in chapter one being sung through your life. Christ is all in all and he is living in me and through me. That’s super good news.
The result is peacefulness in your life. The result is unity with all other people who are Christians. The result is thankfulness.
Mouthpieces of God that teach and sing
And the response in community is that we become mouthpieces of God. God has a lot to say and our desires are taken over by Christ and he animates our speech. We teach one another.
Real, authentic teaching, the kind of teaching that changes lives, comes from brothers and sisters we share life together with, who share the life lessons with us. This is God’s plan for how we are to learn and gives you a clue about why sermons are kind of ineffective, because while sermons can teach, they are not God’s main vehicle.
You can eat all your foods and drinks through a straw, but it is inefficient and will take longer that chomping on a sandwich with your whole mouth or drinking directing from the waterfall. Your mouth represents eating directly from the buffet served up by your brothers and sisters in community. Drinking from the waterfall represents the living water of Christ’s Spirit within each believer that teaches them.
There is something powerful and effective about learning through songs and hymns. Think about Paul’s song and his modeling of song-writing, in chapter one.
And, I believe “spiritual songs” are personal, spontaneous, and authentic; and are birthed from the work of God in a life. Hearing these spirituals is moving and healing because our hearts resonate and heaven’s work in one life is shared to other’s lives through songs in spirituals.
Authentic community praise and worship can contain the old hymns, new psalms, and personal healing songs shared.
Life in Christ
Everything the Christian does in in Christ. It is not robotic, but living life from and in our savior. We don’t wait for any day or hours to meet Christ or be in Christ, but it is all day, every day. And when we come to fellowship, meeting, or gathering with the church; we have come from being with our love all week, and often have something to share and sometimes come with a need.
In the context of this life in Christ, wives can be submissive to their own husbands. And, note that they do it, “as is fitting in the Lord.” Only Jesus Christ can hold your marriage together.
Are you worried about submitting to your husband? If you or he or you both are not living the life from above (literally the preceding verses and figuratively from heaven), then fully submitting is impossible.
Husbands can only love their own wives if they are living in Christ, and are applying the previous nineteen verses in their lives. You don’t have to be perfect, or do it perfectly. Someone has already done that.
You just have to be working it out, walking in it, participating in living Christ’s life. The godly love for your wife (or your husband) is not in you, but it comes from Christ through you. Christian marriage is a covenant between two people and God, in Christ.
Children are called by God to obey their parents. Children should be fast to obey, in the atmosphere of love and grace that their parents foster for them. When the dad and mom are in Christ, and mom is submissive in Christ to dad’s leadership, who is loving her, in Christ; then it easy for the child to be obedient, but they still must learn and be taught obedience.
All that brings us to this special word to dad’s and both parents, to not annoy, anger, infuriate, or exasperate your children. I learned that the word here for “fathers” can actually be translated “parents.” I noticed that Eugene Peterson does that in The Message here.
Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.
-Colossians 3:21 (MSG)
Your child’s spirit is “crushable” by you, dear parent. Handle with care.
We get to Colossians three after one and two. This text is a good text, but it has a context, which is the life of Christ in you. You have to see him and then come to and go after him, as his follower, or being a good Christian parent will not work.
Christ is key. Not just knowing about him, but knowing him. The parent’s intimate relationship of a surrendered life to Christ, as his disciple, is the way to have a home where love reigns and your children are never discouraged by you, who represent the Christian life to them.
You, as a parent, have the privilege and responsibility to show God to your children. You get to model for them what a disciple is like and they will copy you. Your surrendered life to Christ, giving up everything and letting him change you, is the only way.
A Post Script For The Passive:
We have to do certain things:
- We have to “put off” or “put to death” and “put away” many things.
- Then, we also have to “put on” certain things, which are in Christ.
- Our Christian lives are very active on our part.
We work out what He works in (Phil. 2:12-13).
- The Christian life does not work if you are passive.
Faith is always an action and it is regularly tested.
Don’t be confused with working for your salvation.
- You work (“put off”, “put away”, “put on”) because you are saved and are being discipled by Christ.
- He calls for action on our part to work out his life in our lives.
Christ’s school of discipleship is not just an intellectual pursuit, but kinetic “hands on” learning where he gives you “home work”, which is working out his life in your home life. We are graded on how we do Christ’s life in our homes, in our private places.