Parent or Friend?

Parent or Friend?

On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Exodus 19:16-17

In a small group discussion recently, we talked about the parent-child relationship, with several parents expressing how important it was to establish that we’re parents first. We may become friends with our children later, as they grow into adults, but particularly in their teens, our kids need us to be parents, not peers. This got me to thinking about my relationship with my own parents while growing up. Like any kid, I loved fun mom and dad. I did not, however, enjoy discipline mom and dad. I preferred parents who bought me ice cream, and I didn’t much like it when they disciplined me. If you’d have asked me what I wanted from my parents, I’d have said fun. What I needed though, was discipline. I simply wasn’t capable of making that decision myself and so, even though I desired no discipline, I needed my parents to be parents.

This seems to be God’s intention in today’s passage. As God led his people to the promised land, he instructed them on an appropriate relationship with him. He’d delivered them from the Egyptian army, fed them with bread from heaven, and miraculously provided water in the wilderness. Yet whenever things didn’t go exactly as the Israelites thought, they grumbled against God. As God provided for his people’s needs, this hadn’t necessarily bred the healthiest relationship with him. So, God came down to meet his people to establish an appropriate relationship, instilling healthy fear and respect. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, “Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it” (Exodus 19:11-12).

Though God is depicted in the Bible as our comforter (2 Corinthians 1:4), he’s also our heavenly father. We’re meant to have a loving relationship with him, but this isn’t a peer relationship. Rather, it’s a parent-child relationship. When we were kids (I’m referring to a healthy family here) we questioned our parents and objected when disciplined – That’s not fair! As kids however, we simply weren’t equipped to see what we needed, but only what we wanted. We wanted all fun from our parents. What we needed was discipline. If we’d have gotten everything we wanted with no boundaries, we’d have become monsters. So it is with God. We may prefer God to be our big buddy in the sky, but he’s not. Rather, he’s our heavenly parent, which is what we need.

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