Volume 17, Issue 4: Childer
Loving the Standard
In this space, we have been discussing the issue of sons leaving home to make their own way, and daughters being
under their father's authority until they are given away in marriage.
This of course represents a particular understanding of Scripture and of the world, and it almost invariably will
bring people who hold to it into some sort of disagreement with other Christians who see things a bit differently. Some
Christians think that daughters can leave when they are grown, just like sons, and others think that sons must stay, just like the
daughters. Assuming such disagreements are not the result of a perverse unwillingness to submit to Scripture in any way, how
are we to process the differences we might have with others over such things?
In all areas of child-rearingnot just this oneit is the task of the parents to teach their standards to their children
in such a way that the children come to understand, love and embrace them. Simply understanding them is not
sufficient. Neither is "loving" them, if loving merely means admiring and respecting the standards from a distance. The task
of parents is to behave in such a way that the children love what the parents love, the way the parents love it. The love is
seen when the children gladly do what they have been taught.
There is a vast difference between "knowing what my father thinks and believes" and "loving what my father
loves." Truth-oriented parents (the kind who tend to read books on "how to" oversee a courtship) tend to focus on the
syllogism, or the argument. "Here are the verses, here is the argument, here is the record of all the times we went over this
argument with you, and why are you so rebellious?"
Just as the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath, so argument was made for the sake of
understanding, not understanding for the sake of argument. The point of working through something, the point of arguing a
position, should always be to win the
person, not win the argument.
Over the years, I have had to give counsel to many parents who for many years had been very strict and very clear
about their standards when the kids were growing up. In fact, they were
so clear that the kids, once grown, knew
exactly what they hated, and they knew exactly why they hated it. When confronted with the indisputable fact of their children's loathing
of what they taught, the usual tendency is to go over the argument again.
So bring this around to differences over courtship. Suppose a man believes that a son does not have the authority
to marry apart from his father's blessing. Suppose further that he has been such a wonderful father that his son would
not dream of marrying against his father's wishesthe son believes exactly as his father does. I may disagree exegetically (as
I would), but God bless them all. Suppose a family thinks for various reasons that daughters are on their own the same
way and at the same time sons are. I differ with this alsobut if the daughter loves her father's standard (and not just the
liberty it gives her), and she respects and honors him in all that she does, then God bless them too. In both cases, the
fundamental things are sound.
Whenever parents apply a standard to their children that requires compliance or obedience, the parents are writing
a check. Truth-oriented parents tend to focus on whether or not it is their check-book, and whether or not they are
an approved signatory on that account as far as the bank is concerned. "I am your father. That means I have the legal right
to sign this check. Outta my way."
But there is another level of discussion altogether. I may have my checkbook, and be a signatory, and still not have
any money in the bank. When parents teach their children to genuinely
love the standards being inculcated, this is just
another way of saying that there is plenty of money in the account. It would not be unwise to write that check.
Legal authority to sign is not the same as moral authority in signing. This is why "strict" parents so often have
children who rebel. And frequently children (particularly daughters) rebel in matters of courtship because courtship is seen by
the daughter as her one ticket out. I put the word "strict" in quotation marks because the real problem is that such parents
are not strict enough. If someone carefully got out the right checkbook, and scrupulously signed their legal name on the
proper line, but it was a check for $2500 and only $50 was in the account, I would not describe the problem as being "too strict."
But many times such parents are truly baffled by what is going on in their homes. If I tell them that they should
not "write this check," in their defense, they point to all the wrong things. They point to the Bible verses that give them the
right to sign checks. They point to the articles I have written that say they have the right to sign these checks.
A high view of Scripture invites us to build up enormous amounts of capital in our kids. More than that, we are
called and required to do so. But in all areas of life, spending within our means is a discipline that takes practice. When it comes
to matters of courtship, parents should be particularly careful to spend within their means. If a father has left his
daughter emotionally deserted and insecure for twenty years, and
then, when a young man comes around, the father starts assuming
his paternal prerogatives and starts saying
no, he is being extremely foolish. He is on his way to bouncing a big check.