1_ Parent from grace rather than for goodness.
As parents, let’s try to love and lead kids the way God loves and leads us. He loved us first, taking initiative to come near. How much initiative do we take to encourage and equip our kids? Let’s try to emphasize that we are loved by the God who came near, trying to learn more about what God thinks of us rather than what we think of Him. What are we emphasizing with our kids?
Let’s try to encourage them to believe that they are fully secure and freely loved by Jesus in hopes that they will live as though filled up rather than seeking to be filled up and will love first and be a friend first rather than waiting around for friends and giving allegiance to the ones who give attention to them.
Jesus may not value our moral development as much as we often think He does. Rather, He does value that we love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. The former is a life toward personal goodness neglecting grace. The latter is a life from grace embracing God’s goodness.
May we parent from grace rather than for goodness.
2 _ Parent for kids who will make disciples among the lost rather than become saved and satisfied.
It is the difference between extraction and engagement. Whichever one your kids see you do is the one they will likely do, and whichever one you do for your kids will shape the one they likely choose to do as adults.
Be cautious of only placing kids in “Christian” environments and isolated Bible studies assuming that this will grow them into quality Christian adults. What if it doesn’t? What if this is just personal discipleship rather than making disciples. One Jesus commanded. The other Jesus never modeled for us. He did, however, model learning the ways of the Kingdom of God together, measuring the fruit of our lives inside of community rather than with a mirror.
If we as parents extract our kids out of the environments in which they can learn Jesus inside of pockets of family-like relationships both with followers of Jesus as well as with those who don’t, then we may get something we thought we wanted but actually probably don’t – a thinker who struggled to critically grapple with anything outside of Christian dogma, an isolationist who fears cultural engagement prohibiting themselves from loving as Jesus has loved, a religious spiritualist who follows moralism rather than Messiah.
May we parent in hopes that they will make disciples, along with us first as well as when we send them along.
3 _ Parent toward learning and living the ways of Jesus rather than just learning them.
One time, I told a dad who was adamant about keeping his kids in all Christian settings until they went to college that he might want to rethink that. He was missing an opportunity. And they were missing the point. He asserted that he wanted his kids to “thirst for the Lord.” I suggested that keeping his kids around a fountain drink dispenser for 18 years would ensure their lack of thirst, not their thirst.
For the kids that become so familiar with the Scriptures because of constant access and instruction, the temptation will most certainly arise to “go deeper” intellectually rather than to “go further” into life, into relationships. There is nothing wrong with intellectualism, just isolated intellectualism. That’s the stuff that real-life bad guys are made of, not to mention James Bond villains. Parents ought to consider being careful of overexposure to learning without outlets for living. And not just living personally, but living with others.
We as parents might want to look to equip kids to read the Scriptures as though God is relational not just some concept, as though living WITH God is more important than living FOR God, as though their goal is to continue being a learner rather than considering themselves the learnED, as though wisdom is not knowing more about God but rather knowing better how to imitate Him in our everyday relationships and choices, and as though sent one rather than saved one.
May we learn AND live the ways of Jesus with our kids and pray they will go and do the same.
4 _ Parent in an environment that welcomes confession and offers restoration rather than an environment of demanding expectation and exasperating correction.
What made David a man after God’s heart? It wasn’t his stone-slinging accuracy. It wasn’t his rugged good looks. It wasn’t his song-writing ability. It wasn’t his passion to build a worship house for God. And it certainly wasn’t his charming seduction skills or cunning deception activity. So what was it?
It was how quickly he would admit he was wrong. It was how humbly he would agree with God that He was right. That is called confession. And it emerges from a contrite heart.
I asked some of my French-speaking fellow pastors from Montreal one time how to say “contrite” en Francais. They had no idea. It was a great example of how rare that characteristic is in people. And a great example of how essential it is that we cultivate for it in the hearts of our children.
I would suggest that it is absolutely crucial that our homes be environments where confession is welcomed and forgiveness is free and restoration is expedited. Demanding expectations are heavy weights for a child to carry. What makes it worse is our demanding expectations stifle expectancy in parent-child relationships, which is the picture of exasperation. It typically leads to exasperating correction methods and parents spending an enormous amount of energy correcting their behavior rather than an intentional amount of energy shepherding their hearts.
The presence of confession and reconciliation and restoration is a clear evidence of the Gospel alive among us (2nd Corinthians 5). And isn’t that what we want in our homes? Isn’t that what we want our parenting based upon? Isn’t that what we want our kids to learn and experience and live and give away most?
May our homes be Gospel environments where confession and reconciliation and restoration and growth reside.