On Sunday we had a time of dedication for one of our church families. The couple dedicated themselves before God and the church family to train and love and seek their baby's salvation. And we dedicated ourselves before God to love and support their family in their commitments.
For me it was an opportunity to think on some of the lessons God has taught me about parenting:
There are no guarantees. As we were reminded in the message on Sunday, a child’s faith and maturity are not something we “achieve” the way we bake a cake – just because we add all the correct ingredients the result won’t necessarily be the same every time. A child’s faith and maturity are the result of God’s work, a parent’s responsibility and a child’s response. When we forget this our parenting becomes marked by worry, frustration, and pressure.
Don’t make an idol of your child. When John warns us to keep ourselves from idols (1 John 5:21), he’s talking about all of the things that we can replace God with for fulfillment, security, identity and significance. When our children take God’s place in our lives, they suffer and our view of God becomes skewed.
Anger never accomplishes anything constructive. There are so many things that tempt parents to anger and frustration. And when we see defiance and sin, feelings of righteous anger can be natural and good. But God is clear in James 1:19-20 that we can’t accomplish any good through our anger. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Parents need a strategy for diffusing their anger.
Words are not enough. Abuse is real and children need to be protected from out-of-control parents. But in trying to address this, our society has often robbed parents of the healthy leadership and discipline that children need to mature. Proverbs 22:15 teaches that Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. Parents who threaten and bribe their children instead of giving physical consequences for defiant behaviour, will never root out deeper sin issues in a child’s heart.
Pharisaic parenting is the Christian parent’s biggest downfall. In Matthew 23:2-4, Jesus said of the Pharisees, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. The Pharisees were into big expectations for others, hypocrisy for themselves, and never sought to help the people they led. Christian parents need to avoid burying our children in unrealistic expectations but instead be our children’s biggest supporters in together seeking the life that God calls us to.
Proactive teaching reduces reactive frustrations. In Ephesians 6:4, Paul encouraged fathers with these words, Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Discipline can shape behavior but only God’s Word can ultimately shape a child’s heart. No matter how busy the workload, or how inadequate he feels, I believe God has called every father to lead his family by opening the Word of God with them. Sing it, memorize it, read it, discuss it: the style will change as your children grow but our responsibility doesn’t.
The Gospel should be a parent’s theme. Parents desperately want to shape their children’s behavior. And behaviour needs to be addressed. But if all we do is shape behaviour we will have slavish, unconverted children who obey because they have to not because they want to. Parents should:
winsomely point their children to a loving God,
model and teach confession and repentance over sin,
regularly point and give testimony to Jesus as the solution to sin, and
guide their children to seek and experience the wonder of forgiveness and reconciliation with God.
Parenting is the hardest job you’ll never get paid for. And so I hope we as a church family will look for ways to bless and encourage the parents in our congregation. Offer to pray. Offer to baby-sit. Offer to listen. Serve in Sunday School. Share your mistakes. Admit your failures. Help them know that they’re not alone!
May God bless our parents!
In awe of Him,