I was a teenager in the 1990s, wonderful years filled with grunge rock (or for me U2, REM and Public Enemy), Michael Jordan, and Bill Clinton. It seems like just a few years ago, but it was in fact 30 years ago. Those were coming of age years for me. On January 1, 1990 I was in 10th grade. By December 31, 1999, I had gotten my driver’s license, had it revoked, graduated high school, got my driver’s license back after three years of having it suspended, graduated college, got married, got my first full-time job and my wife and I had our first two kids.
Adults reading this, when were some of you teenagers? What decades? What did you experience in those years? Now think about your relationship with your parents. You never have disagreements with your parents when you were a teenager, right? You never got in trouble, I bet.
I did. (And I suspect most of you did too.) I think I was a generally obedient kid, but I had a couple major issues. First, I was a total jerk to my brother. Second, I would mercilessly tease my little sister, though it was literally how I was saying, “I love you” to her. Third, I was a very reckless and speedy driver, and that led to a horrible accident (which is why my driver’s license was suspended), which you can read about here. My point in sharing this is to say that, no matter when you grew up, the teenage years are often a time of major tension between parents and their teens. My parents were and are incredible people, and I always knew they loved me. But I disobeyed my parents, so I should not have been surprised when history repeated itself with my son. I remember many years with our oldest son where I thought for sure we had ruined him, that we had lost him, and we were utter failures as parents. The bickering and fighting at home was just so intense. As it turned out, I was wrong. He became a well-adjusted adult who is just wonderful. Each person, as you and I did, goes through a journey of maturity and leaving the home and growing up and becoming an adult, and that process is usually fraught.
As we continue our study through Colossians, this week on the blog we have been looking at chapter 3, verses 18-21, where Paul is helping people apply his teaching in verse 17: “Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” In verses 18-21 he is specifically illustrating how people can apply that teaching in the context of family relationships. In the first three posts this week (here, here and here), we looked at what he had to say in verses 18-19 about husbands and wives. Now in verse 20, Paul writes to the children: “Obey your parents in all things, for this is pleasing in the Lord.”
Kids, if we parents say, “Jump,” you say, “How high?” I’m just kidding! But this is an important passage. My wife, Michelle, and I have been parents for 23 years. We now have two adult children and two in their teens. We are also really looking forward to the grandparent stage. We’ve already picked out our grandparent names. Grammy and Pop-Pop. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Paul is talking to the kids. If any kids read this, I suspect they are likely teenagers, which is why I started talking about those teen years.
Teens reading this, therefore, obey your parents. If you think your parents are off their rocker with strict rules and they have no clue what you’re going through in life, still obey your parents. Of course they don’t know what you’re going through. They are not you, and they are not present with you every minute of every day. So give them grace. I was first born, and so my parents were figuring out parenting on me. Same thing with me and my own first born. Every single stage was new and felt ultra-serious and consequential. I remember when our firstborn came home from school one day, in an early elementary grade like 1st grade, telling us that his classmates watched Star Wars films. Michelle and I were dumbstruck. How could those parents be so irresponsible allowing their kids to watch movies that were clearly only suitable for older kids? By the time our youngest two were that age, something shifted. Now they were the kids watching the Star Wars movies at the young age. The funny thing is, as our rules and approach definitely softened with the younger ones, you know what the younger ones said? “You guys are the strictest parents of all.”
Kids, let me tell you a secret. We parents often don’t know what we’re doing. We screw up. Sometimes we are too strict. Sometimes we think we have a situation figured out, only to learn a few months or years later that we were wrong. You’ll have this same experience in a few years when you have your own kids. When that day comes, you will love your kids, and you will grind your teeth at night desperate for them to choose wisdom and to choose Jesus, because you know that way of life is so much better than any other way. Yet the other options for life are quite enticing, and you will be afraid that your kids, who you love, will choose less than the best. But you console yourself knowing that you also chose less than the best when you were a teen, and you probably had your parents up at night, a ball of nerves. So be gracious to your parents, kids. Obey them.