MANY loving parents still find themselves at odds with their children when it comes to discipline. And when their best attempts to be loving and firm are met with defiance, they sometimes find themselves resorting to a do-as-I-say-or-else approach that conveys little of the love they genuinely have for their children. There is a spiritual authority, however, that parents can draw on. It has its source in God's love as the Father-Mother of all, and it carries with it the spiritual wisdom and affection that are so essential to properly guiding children's lives.
The Bible records that Christ Jesus' authority was often questioned. ``By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?''1 was one challenge.
His answer to questions about his authority came in the form of healing -- healing so convincing that it spoke of the God-given authority that lay behind his life and works. ``I can of mine own self do nothing,'' Jesus said. And he continued, ``I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.''2
To some people it may seem that Jesus was a superhuman being with extraordinary power, but he knew differently. He understood that man is the offspring of divine Spirit. Everything that he said or did grew out of his spiritual relationship to God. Even those who were unsympathetic recognized this spiritual authority, as when some said, ``Never man spake like this man.''3 Authority like this couldn't result from any personal power or position or forcefulness. It's not personal at all, because it comes from God alone.
God's authority in our families follows from His power and presence. Make no mistake -- it requires persistent effort to have this become a working fact in our homes. We tend to resist this authority and think we know what is best for our children's welfare. But it's always better to allow our love for our children to parallel that patient, steadfast love our heavenly Father-Mother God holds for each of us, His children.
Children these days seem very free about questioning parental authority. ``Why do I have to do this?'' however, can be a reasonable question -- perhaps more reasonable than a parental reaction of ``Because I say so!'' Such an answer can miss the spiritual love and gentle reason inherent in God's authority.
The knowing and caring element naturally associated with rearing children never needs to be set aside in order for a parent to exert reasonable authority. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discover and Founder of Christian Science, says: ``The pride of priesthood is the prince of this world. It has nothing in Christ. Meekness and charity have divine authority.''4
Doesn't this meekness stem from our own recognition of God's love and guiding presence in the family? Perhaps it means admitting ``I am wrong in this matter -- you're right!'' Or maybe it means taking a step back to allow something to happen without our personal influence. At other times, it might mean strong action to help a child directly. In any event, however, it will be action that is motivated not by fear, anger, self-assertion, or parental convenience, but by the love which bears witness to God's love for man. This is real parental authority!
1Matthew 21:23. 2John 5:30. 3John 7:46. 4Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 270.