First off, there are far more than three ways to blow it as parents. Secondly, I know all of these through experience. Third, God’s grace is not dependent on our success or failure as parents. But we are responsible for how we steward the children he entrusts to us.
I’m reading Deuteronomy right now. I’m only a few chapters in, but am getting pounded by the responsibility that God places on the adults to raise children in an awareness of God’s redemptive story. For the Israelites at this time it was the story of God’s gracious rescue out of Egypt and the promise of a Messiah. For us we look back on God’s gracious rescue of his creation through the the death and resurrection of Jesus and looking forward to his promised return. As I was praying this morning I thought of at least three ways we are in danger of blowing it as parents when it comes to rooting our kids in the story.
1. Assume Your Kids Will just “Get It.”
We have no control over whether or not God regenerates our kids hearts. We do however, have all kinds of control over whether or not we are communicating the gospel to our kids. Don’t just assume your kids are “picking it up” from being around a church, but intentionally speak and show the gospel to them. God is clear with Moses- Do things because I have redeemed you- Then explain why you are doing them to your kids. Don’t think you are spiritually leading your family by driving the minivan to a building every Sunday. If you are never verbalizing a robust gospel to your kids, don’t be surprised when they don’t live out the implications of God’s Story like you hope they will.
Try building gospel reminders into the life of your family. Have family worship, maybe a set night where friends are invited in, serve in your ‘hood, throw great parties and then explain how they find their roots in God’s grace.
2. Make Church a Place & Time.
The Israelites knew their identity was tied to God’s selection of them so that they would be a blessing to the nations. They didn’t “go to Israelites” they were Israelites. How about our kids? Do our kids understand that church isn’t a place we go, or an optional activity, but a people they belong to because of God’s gracious work in rescuing them? Do they get there is a purpose to the gospel bigger than making them miss Sunday morning cartoons?
Try coaching your kids before church gatherings on why they are a part of a church, joyfully participate in your missional community, and stop saying you are going to church.
3. Forget Grace in Discipline.
God never just gave rules. He always rooted his commands in who He was and the gracious rescue he had worked to free the Israelites from slavery. As parents, it is easy to just take the moral route and try to get your kids to behave. I get that. The 15th time with the toddler walking down the hallway after being put to bed, the teenager who just came home drunk, or the 10 year old with a questionable internet history tend to make us want to react, and react strongly. The problem is that when we react we often forget grace and just want the kids to behave without caring for their hearts.
Try starting your discipline with a reminder of the gospel, an affirmation of your love for your child, & then move on to consequences. Creatively and clearly articulate the gospel even in times of personal disappointment and frustration with a child’s behavior.
If you see some symptoms of any of these three in the life of your family, don’t panic- fall on the grace of Jesus & repent. I’ve seen all three pop up in my short career as a parent. We are held accountable for how we steward our families, but that shouldn’t crush us. The gospel offers the refreshing good news that even though we have (and probably will) blow it, our place in God’s family isn’t based on our performance but Jesus’. So confess where you fall short, be revived by the amazing Grace of Jesus, and chart a new course for your family to live together as followers of Jesus.