This summer our church worked through biblical marriage and biblical parenting. In preparation for each class, we spent time looking through the most direct statements God makes regarding each topic. During preparation our elders talked about the common loving approaches we have towards others not only in marriage and parenting but in general by serving fellow saints and evangelizing people. It’s important to nuance and understand the specific responsibilities God gives us so that we can specifically apply them in each role we carry. But I pray we do not get so nuanced we forget the general responsibilities we have towards all people.
At the core, parenting, marriage, and life have similar responsibilities. God has called us to some basic, common tasks we must apply to every human being. Yes there are unique situations with each relationship, but there is great overlap too. With this in mind, here are three passages we need to consider as foundational to parenting, but really you can [insert any role here] [Roles include: marriage, parenting, church family, neighbor, barista, parents, coworkers]
- Matthew 5:9
- 2 Timothy 2:24-26
- Galatians 6:1-3
First, Matthew 5:9
If ever there were an important passage I fear lost in our modern evangelicalism, it’s this one. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Peacemaker conveys a role we posses. Paul conveys a similar idea in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Titles like this help us understand our role. Both titles convey a similar function and responsibility. As the salt of the earth, we are called to represent Christ and proclaim the Gospel. This is exactly what an ambassador does, he or she represents the king, speaks on behalf of the king, and represents him to the audience.
Believers have the message, experientially as we have a relationship with our Savior and in knowledge. Every believer knows enough to proclaim the Gospel to unbelievers. This is our calling: share the Gospel. If a person rejects it, he or she rejects the king, not us. If a person believes and repents, he or she accepts the king, not us. Our children need a savior. They need Jesus the Christ. Whatever our parenting looks like, it needs to build upon this foundation. We are peacemakers concerned with speaking the truth about God while calling them to believe. Our children will not, by nature or naturally, pursue peace with Christ. They need us, an outside influence to show them this truth.
Their greatest problem in life is their sinful rebellion leading to death. On their own they will not pursue reconciliation. We must speak and we must be concerned with their salvation.
We teach our kids to obey. But our ultimate goal: win them to Christ. Contemplate the Mormons. Their families often look great on the outside: respectable, integrity, no scandals, and “good people.” This reality should scare us. We can teach our kids moral conformity. But obedience instruction, coupled with peacemaking then provides a better foundation. What does our parenting look like, if instead of just trying to get our kids to behave at dinner, we also contemplate eternal life and their joy in Christ? Teenager attitudes can be brutal. What does parenting look like when it’s not just about our teenagers acting right and not giving us a hard time, but also wining them to Christ? If the goal is merely, make the attitude go away, then this can be overcome while never attaining godliness. If I stamp out my teen’s attitude but he or she has no faith, then standing before Christ at his return or their departure will bear no different result.
A peacemaker’s approach will orient us to thinking about 1. Their salvation and 2. Organize our instruction to confront heart issues and 3. Force us to prioritize the hills we die on. When repentance and faith rest atop our list, we will be longsuffering, patient, instructional, and gentler in our approach. Moral conformity can be the most disgusting endeavor we partake in. It also leads to cold hearts who not only reject but despise our Lord. The religious leaders prove this point in the Gospels and Acts. They hated Christ and His disciples, so much so they murdered him through a great conspiracy and lies.
But the peacemaker concerns him or herself with faith and repentance first.
Second, 2 Timothy 2:24-26
“The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”
Paul provides very clear instruction regarding how we should speak to others, even our children. Now trust me, I wish he said, “yell at them, it’ll make you feel better and it will get through their skulls.” But it does not. Notice first, Paul advocates the peacemaker role. The underlined sections in the passage communicate peacemaker goals. We are not interested in fighting to fight (aka quarrelsome). We communicate and lead with a goal. The goal? Our kids would believe, repent, and come to their senses.
Parents are disciple makers. Therefore, we communicate the truth. The italicized portion highlights our need to communicate. Not only do we correct our children’s wrongful thinking and living, we also set our relationship to instruct them. Discipline is more than just punishment for wrong behaviors. Boot camp disciplines people. It sets them up to a dedicated life. When we teach our children to brush before bed, we are disciplining them. We teach and correct.
As believers, desiring their peace, we know we need to communicate the truth about God. He acted in history, in many portions and in many ways, and in these last days through His Son (Heb 1:1-4). Therefore, we speak and pray they listen.
How we speak is as important as what we speak. This one is probably harder to acknowledge since it seems the Lord gives us kids who know how to expose our weaknesses, impatience, and shortcomings. Paul tells Timothy, when we speak, we need to do so with kindness and gentleness. The idea of gentleness here portrays humility. Do not think of yourself as better than or positionally greater than your audience. In fact, we are to be kind and gentle to all. The idea here is simple, there is not a classification among humans who deserve insults, harshness, or mean behavior. (I wonder what Twitter would look like if this verse were heeded more often?) Be kind to all includes, enemies, opponents, spouses, children, neighbors, other political party, etc. In fact, best way to view it, every person you ever meet, hear about, or see.
Our children need gentle instruction and correction. Good music sticks in the head. Songs get stuck (sometimes for the worse – thanks kids’ cartoons!) in our heads. May our words be gentle and sweet, sticking in the head similarly to music.
Third, Galatians 6:1-3
“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
By this point a few principles probably stand out. First, Paul continues to speak with a peacemaker mindset. Second, gentlenessis back in the equation conveying how we address someone. But there is a nuance here deserving of our attention. Acknowledgement we too are sinners in need of saving grace. Catch the italicized portion, “each one[that’s me] looking to yourself[that’s me], so that you too will not be tempted . . . For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Paul sets up two sides of the fence. On the one side the person needing correction. On the other side, me (or your or us). He says we must engage. “You who are spiritual” means, “you who have the Holy Spirit.” But we must “look to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”
Does this convey the idea of not sharing a similar temptation? Sure, on one level I agree. However, I’m rarely tempted to sit next to my children and treat them the same way they treat each other. My kids have never yelled to my wife about me, “Mom, he’s touching me!” I think this phrase spans beyond, “you can be tempted with the same issue” and reaches into the “helping others can puff you up” realm. Helping others and always being the authority can encourage pride, if left unchecked. Sometimes we help so much that we begin to think we know it all. After all, I’m the parent, you’re the kid. Obviously, I know it all because I said so. Having been a pastor for over five years, I know adults, because we’re adults, do not always have it together. In fact, sometimes we’re like kids but craftier and conniving.
We need to watch out for being prideful in our correcting others. This understanding parallels verse three better too, “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Stuart Smalley would not be happy over this quote, but it’s true. On one level we are nothing, bring nothing to the table, and contribute nothing to our salvation and position in God. No believer is the number one draft pick signing on for millions of dollars. We are beggars who found the free food supplier showing others where the supplier resides.
As parents, acknowledge to your kids who you really are: a sinner saved by grace. Tell them you make mistakes (no, you really do), continue to learn, be watchful, let others into your life to instruct you, and maintain reality. Reality? What is it? We’re not better than our children positionally, just more experienced.
I pray this brief blog post highlights the need for us to apply these principles to everyone, our kids especially. They are human beings, made in the image of God, given to us as a stewardship. As joyful and hard as they can be, what a privilege to concern myself with their peace, instruction, and love.