Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gospel Parenting

Within minutes after my first child was born, I knew that parenting would be one of the most challenging endeavors of my life.  I looked at my newborn daughter (and 17 months later, my son) and realized they knew nothing apart from the instinctive urge to feed.  My wife and I would be responsible for teaching them everything.  The sudden realization was overwhelming, to say the least.  No task could be as important (or difficult) as raising a child in a sinful world, and it is a task we parents simply can't afford to neglect.

Parenting has existed on earth since Adam and Eve, and one may expect to obtain valuable insight from examining their record.  When we do, the results are not as appealing as we might expect.  On the contrary, the first parents have a dismal record with one of their sons killing his own brother.  

But maybe the failure of the first parents is due to nothing more than their lack of experience.  Maybe humanity has discovered more effective ways to parent over the many centuries since Adam and Eve.  After all, this only seems logical. 

However, when we look at parenting over the entire course of history, we discover that it has not improved overall and, if anything, has only gotten worse.  The parenting problem is so widespread that even the world has attempted to solve it.  Countless studies have been done to determine the most effective ways to raise respectful, law-abiding children who will contribute to society as adults.  As with every issue, the world claims to have all the answers when it comes to parenting; but the world's answers are continually proven wrong when the results leave much to be desired.

So what is the answer?  How can believing parents fulfill the weighty obligation of raising their children in godliness in the midst of so much sin and worldly pressure?  

The answer:  We can begin in the Bible.

In John 1:14-17, John refers to Jesus as "the Word" Who "became flesh...full of grace and truth."  He goes on to say that "the law through Moses was given; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."

Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the epitome of grace and truth.  John contrasts the strict requirements of the law of Moses with the grace provided through Christ.  In short, the New Covenant made possible by Christ, has brought a radical transformation.  For us now, everything can be examined through the lens of grace and truth, and God's Spirit equips us with both the ability to decipher the truth and the power to act upon it.

While parenting is never easy, the ability to filter our parenting decisions through the standards of grace and truth as the foundations of our evangel arms us with a priceless advantage.  There is no dilemma for which we cannot find an answer in God's Word.  Even when the Bible doesn't seem to provide a crystal clear answer, we can generally arrive at the solution by looking at the world's answer and doing the opposite.  

When a child is bullied, the world's answer is, "Don't you ever start a fight son, but if someone else starts it you be sure to finish it!"  The gospel answer, based in grace and truth, is, "Love your enemies and turn the other cheek."  When a child is a victim of theft, the world's answer is, "Steal it back because it's rightfully yours!"  The gospel answer is "give them more."  When a child is severely wronged, the world's answer is, "You don't need to love that person if he hates you."  The gospel answer is, "Don't claim credit if you only love those who love you in return."  When a child doesn't fit in with the popular crowd, the world's answer is, "Let's change your image with new clothes and hair so you'll be accepted."  The gospel answer is, "Find your identity in Christ, not the world."

Of course, even when raising our children in grace and truth, they will inevitably require discipline.  Sadly, one of the biggest mistakes parents make is neglecting to discipline their children.  Parents fear that their children will become rebellious or view them as mean if they correct them when they "miss the mark."  In reality, there is no greater mistake a parent can make.  God - the perfect Father - frequently disciplines His children and He doesn't do it to be cruel.  Rather, He disciplines us all in order to train us in righteousness (Heb. 12:11).  The key with discipline is to act out of love instead of frustration.  Paul instructs us to not vex our children (Eph. 6:4) because when they feel unloved they will not respond with openness and trust to our guidance.  

Parenting is never easy, but the perfect Father has provided us with an invaluable tool to greatly simplify the process.  By filtering every decision in raising our children through the standards of grace and truth, opposing the world's ways, and lovingly disciplining our children when necessary, we can be confident as parents.  Commit to gospel parenting and rest assured that your children will grow up following God rather than the world.

© 2012 by Stephen Hill

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