Two weeks ago, we hosted the first of a two-part parenting seminar with Paul David Tripp. It differed from many talks and books on parenting in that it wasn’t particularly prescriptive. While it was incredibly practical, it didn’t aim to give a list of tips: “In this situation, do this.” Instead, it gave a holistic mindset for parenting by which parenting strategies can be better evaluated and incorporated. It helped parents lost in the trees, catch a glimpse of the forest. Three highlights stand out.
1. A parent is God’s ambassador to a child.
Parents often exclaim in exasperation, “Children don’t come with a manual!” Everybody can relate to the sentiment, but in a sense, it’s wrong on two counts. First, the Bible has lots of teaching on parenting. It is our manual for how to raise children. But, it’s also wrong because we’ve been given something better than a manual. People who have become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ have a living relationship with our Creator, whom we now call Father. We learn how to parent our children by learning from the way that God parents us. Put another way, we represent our Father as we seek to parent our children. We’re His ambassadors to our children. Paul Tripp urged us to re-think our role in light of this. “Our job is to represent the One to whom our children belong. We’ve been called to represent the character, methods and goals of the One we’ve been called to represent. Every time I exercise authority, it must be a beautiful picture of the authority of God. So it’s not about what I want for my children or from my children, but what God wants to do through me in my children.” When we don’t consider this, often our parenting can become about our needs for comfort or accomplishment. He said, “Whenever you see your child sin against God’s law, it’s never an accident, an interruption or a nuisance, it’s the grace of God to allow you to see the sin and brokenness of your child so you can represent God’s purposes in the life of your child.”
2. God’s law is an essential tool to a parent.
As we understand our role as parents, God’s law is an essential tool in training our children. If we’re seeking to represent God to our children, God’s laws more than just cultural norms or our own traditions and experiences should be our guide. The law gives children the wisdom they need to live and the path God has designed for our flourishing. James 1:23-25 compares God’s Word to a mirror. It helps children to see the condition of their hearts. Children come into the world blind to their sin and if parents don’t help children see themselves in light of God’s law, the blindness will remain. They will neither grieve nor repent of their sin and will pass into adulthood with no urgency about their need of salvation. Clear rules that are consistently reinforced and over time explained from Scripture bring to life the power of God’s law in the life of a child.
3. God’s law is a limited tool to a parent.
As essential a tool as God’s law is, it has its limitations. Tripp explained that the law has no ability to rescue or transform the hearts of our children. “If all your children needed were a set of properly enforced rules, Jesus would have never had to come.” Effective Christian parenting can’t do without rules and consequences, but it must be more than that. He compared the law to a hammer. If that’s the only tool we have, we’ll see every problem as a nail. We need to use the full tool kit God has given us, of which grace is a critical part. He called us to ask, “What is God seeking to do in the life of this child right now and how can I be a part of it?” This helps make the solution about God’s purposes and the child’s needs not the parent’s frustration.
This Sunday, October 29, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm, we’ll be hosting the second part of this parenting seminar. Admission is free but childcare will not be provided. Attendance at the first part of seminar isn’t a pre-requisite for the second. For parents who wish to purchase and read the book, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, we’ll be hosting a follow-up group discussion in the new year on Sunday January 28. May God give grace to our parents that we might bless our children.
In awe of Him,