By Bill Warren, Professor of New Testament and Greek NOBTS
Question: What does the New Testament say about the role of parents?
Bill Warren responds: Jesus has a great example for parents in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15). The father (clearly representative of our heavenly Father) is portrayed as one who is more concerned about getting his son back than in defending his own honor.
Unlike the cultural norms, the father runs to the son, welcomes him back into the full role of a son by giving him a ring, a robe, and sandals, and then has a feast in celebration of his return.
Since we are made to reflect God’s image and likeness, by implication parents should be like this father, more concerned with the welfare of their child than in defending their personal honor – something often done at the expense of the well-being and future of the child.
Also, Jesus’ teachings about the value of children in Mark 10:13-16 carries the implication that children should be treated with dignity and as ones worthy of our attention. Matthew 10:21 shows how betrayal within a family is so horrible that such a case can be used to depict a highly negative situation with no further explanation needed.
By implication, families should be the opposite of what is portrayed in this passage, being built instead on a godly foundation of trust, security, and unity.
In other passages, God is shown to be one who seeks a healthy relationship with us as He provides what we most need, a reconciled relationship through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
God initiates a love-relationship with us as He loves us first (1 John 4:10), a great example of how parents should take the initiative in showing love to their children so that children will learn to respond to love and thereby learn both the meaning of love and how to show love.
Parents are not to frustrate their children in exercising their role as parents, while children are to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:20-21).
Parents are to provide for their family (1 Timothy 5:8), for not doing so demonstrates a character flaw worse than that of non-believers, since God’s character as a caring Father is not being exemplified.
In sum, the NT teaches that parents are to care for their children like God cares for His, with God always being our primary example since we are made to reflect His image and likeness as we seek to be like Jesus.
Bill Warren, Ph.D., is Professor of New Testament and Greek and Founding Direct