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Parenting in light of the Gospel

The Gospel transforms all of life’s relationships. One particular area where we can see gospel convictions overhaul our natural methods is in parenting. Let me begin with a few questions: Do you tend to parent more from a standpoint of fear or faith? Do you ever battle with the idea that your parenting should “fix” every issue your child faces? Are you tempted to shield your child from all the consequence of their mistakes? Could you be robbing them their ability to see their own sin and errors? What long term effects could these actions have in helping your child clearly see their need for a Savior? I’ve often wrestled with questions like these. Let me share a few ideas on parenting in light of the Gospel.

Recognize pain is a powerful teacher.

Most of us can vividly recall our most painful experiences. We have to be careful to not rob our kids of the valuable lessons that can be learned through difficulty. Pain is not necessarily a bad thing. It can function like an alarm that lets us know something is not the way it should be. Shielding our children from all of the consequences of their actions fails to teach them some of life’s most important lessons. Remember God loves us far more than our earthly parents. Yet, there are times God also allows us to experience the consequences of our decisions knowing we will learn from them.

Shepherd them; not shield them.

Do your child’s imperfections or mistakes make you feel like you have failed them? Do you fear their mistakes somehow display your own failures as a parent? Our job as parents is a difficult task.

Children need to be guided by love, not shielded from every consequence. I want my children to know that even in failure my desire is to guide them through and help them learn. I do not want them going through “Christian motions” faking their way through, all the while not understanding, and perhaps even missing the grace of God. If my kids are not confronted with their sinfulness and the resulting consequences, how will they ever know that they need a Savior? Furthermore, I don’t want perfection for my kids. I want them to know the Perfect One who will take us back every time we fall.  God is a father who loves prodigal sons and daughters. Grace is greater than sin. The realization of our own imperfections is what should drive us to Him. He is the fulfillment and completion of all that we are not. I don’t want to hide my flaws from my children (they see them anyway). I want to walk in humility, letting them know that I need the Savior as much as they do.

Remember words and actions reveal the heart.

When we parent out of fear, we unknowingly create a self-fulfilling prophecy for our kids. Because our actions put our beliefs on display, we are showing our kids that we are afraid. We focus, incorrectly, on behavior, forgetting that beliefs drive behavior. Beliefs live in the heart and mind. God’s word is replete with these truths in both the Old and New Testaments.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.

Proverbs 21:2

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

Proverbs 4:23

Jesus said in Mark 7:15, “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person defile him.” He also says in Luke 6:45, “The good person out of the good treasure in his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of his heart, the mouth speaks.”

the biggest danger to every human being… is located on the inside of him, not the outside of him.

Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling

King David also connects the words of our mouths to the thoughts in our hearts. In Psalm 19:14 he says, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

We have to help our children to see that their behavior is driven by the fight that’s going on inside of them. We have to help our children see that their behavior is tied to what they are believing in their hearts and minds. Actions and words are a window into the soul. Only then can their motives be exposed and teased out. Where there is an error, we turn to Scriptures that show correct belief. The goal is not to beat them over the head with the Bible, but rather use Scripture as the measure to reveal their hearts. This is how we truly take every thought captive. We compare the truth of God’s Word with the content of our hearts. When our lives and the truth of Scripture don’t match, we have to dig deeper. We need to ask God to help us discern what lie we are believing and replace it with His truth. 

Helping your child see their sin and error is not a shameful thing. This can be a very tender, teachable moment with our children. We can explain that we struggle with it too (confession is good for the soul – so is humility). If our children never see us confess our own sin, what would compel them to do the same? Who we really are is most clearly seen behind the closed doors of our homes. Here’s where it really counts. How we treat each other overrides our words and instruction. Todd Wagner once said, “Children may fail to do what you say, but they’ll never fail to do what you do.”

As parents, we can get overwhelmed with all that we are supposed to be doing with our children. Many times, it can feel like too much. But there’s good news. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 tells us how we are to instruct our children and what to instruct them with. More than following a list of rules or do’s and don’ts, God wants us to genuinely love Him. Our job as parents is to teach our kids how they can love God in every area of their lives. Not just in public, where others can see, but most importantly, in the inward ways, where only God sees.

Jacque Clifton

Jacque is a passionate Christ follower who is committed to teaching other women about the power of God’s Word and prayer. She loves to help others discover how their lives can be used for the glory of God. She has been married to her husband Dace for over 17 years. They have two children and reside in central Texas.