© Marcelo A. Tolopilo
Deuteronomy 6:1-9 is clearly the most important text in the whole of scripture on mentoring our children in the ways of the Lord. As I talk to parents and grandparents about this very issue, surprisingly I find that fear, guilt, and anxiety are often unwelcome intruders into their hearts regarding the training of their kids. Older parents frequently express remorse over their failures as parents and wonder, “Did I harm my children with my sin? Did I do enough to encourage them in their journey to God?” Younger parents wring their hands in fear over the future of their parenting, and worry, “I hope I don’t let my children down with my struggles and impair their spiritual development.”
While it is wise, and good, to scrutinize our lives for sinful weaknesses—identify them, repent of them before they harm others, or confess them so that we may encourage healing and restoration—it is unwise and counter productive to be self-obsessed with our failures and become paralyzed, immobilized by guilt and fear. If we have confessed our sins to the Lord and turned from them we must absolutely embrace and live in God’s grace! (This is why I have written a chapter to parents in my book Discipleship: God’s plan for Parenting entitled, “Starting Where You Are, by the Grace of God.” God by His grace gives us the precious gift of a fresh start every time we fail. We need to walk in His grace and then we will become agents of His grace to those we love—even though we have often failed them.)
The Three Rules of Christian Parenting
So when I kick off my three week series on parenting, the big picture… (Hmmm, that might just be my title for the series), I will attempt to unburden my fellow Christian parents and grandparents with the following simple, but I think, helpful encouragement. In the same spirit of grace I offer it to you. May the Lord use it to lighten your load. Here I present to you three rules regarding parenting.
1. Parenting is that parenting has never been done apart from sin.
Our first parents (Adam and Eve) had children only after they disobeyed God and were removed from the garden. This as you know greatly increased the difficulty of their child rearing and introduced immeasurable pain into the process (Genesis 4:8).
Sin has always clouded the parenting picture and infused it with many a heartache. Yet the Lord still commands it (Deuteronomy 6:1-9, Ephesians 6:4), reminds us of what a blessing it is (Psalm 127:3-5), and has brought, continues to bring, and will bring eternal blessing through it (Genesis 18:19, Luke 1:30-33, Luke 2:7). Still, remember, parenting has never been done apart from sin.
2. You will not be the exception to rule one.
My friends, if there is one thing that is universally true about humanity, it is that we need a Savior! We are all sinners (Romans 3:23). There is only One Man who is perfect, Jesus Christ. He is our sin bearer who, by virtue of His perfection, carried away our iniquity as our substitute at Calvary. He bore our sin, paid God’s redemption price with His blood, and through our union with Him, God gives us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Positionally, God sees and treats us as if we lived Christ’s life, because at the cross He treated Jesus as if He lived ours. One day—when we’re in His presence—our practical righteousness will match our positional righteousness.
Yet, until that lovely day dawns, we will wrestle with sin. Which among others things means that you will not be the perfect parent. So learn from your parental failures, do not be paralyzed by them, and look to God’s sustaining grace to shepherd your children. God knows your frailty and He will enable you by His grace to spiritually nurture your children and grandchildren—in spite of and even through your failures. Lean hard into Jesus and His grace.
Now that you understand rules one and two what should be your guiding rule for parenting? Rule number three.
3. Major on love
Earnestly pursuing the selfless love of Jesus in your home will greatly short circuit the schemes of the devil and the effects of sin on your family. Make it your ambition to allow the love of God to rule in your home. Writing to all Christians (which interestingly enough includes parents and grandparents) Peter reminds us, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”