Parenting is THE toughest job in the entire universe. I am quite positive we are keeping therapists, counselors, psychologists, and shrinks in business for years to come by the truck loads of “crap” we are dumping on our children. Here we are, just a bunch of jacked up people trying our best not to jack up our kids. And we do, because are human, and we fail.
BUT…there’s God. Who graciously pours out his mercy and grace. That amazing grace that we desperately need every day. The grace that comforts us when we know we went too far and yelled at our preschooler for drawing on the table just because she wanted to surprise us with her picture. The grace that whispers guidance to us when we aren’t sure how to love that really annoying pre-teen who acts just like our spouse. And the grace that teaches us how to train our children in the ways of the Lord.
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
That’s the hard part. Being responsible for molding your child’s character is S-C-A-R-Y. It’s scary because we don’t want to screw it up. We want them to be upstanding, law-abiding, citizens who do good and give more than they take. We don’t want to raise losers. If we know Christ, and love Christ, and follow Christ, we also want them to know how to be a ‘good Christian’ too.
We say: “Be good. Make the right choices. Follow the rules. Listen to your teacher. Do what I say.”
We teach: “Hey kids…if you’re a Christian, these things are mandatory! God is not happy when you disobey. That’s not what the bible says. You gotta follow these rules and be good so you will go to heaven.”
There’s nothing wrong with teaching morals and good behavior. Where we DO go wrong is teaching these standards without Jesus. Jesus is everything. He’s the missing link to what our children need. He’s the foundation to the house. He’s the roots to the tree. Without him, everything falls apart eventually.
WHAT OUR CHILDREN NEED TO KNOW IS WITHOUT JESUS, THEY ARE NOT CAPABLE OF ANYTHING ELSE. They need Jesus to help them. If we focus so much on ‘being good’ to get rewards in life, we are teaching morality over Christianity, self-righteousness over God-dependence, and rule-following over relationship with Christ. Don’t set your child up so that when they turn 25-years-old they realize all of their morality and good behavior got them no closer to Christ than the day they accepted Him as their Savior.
What now? How do we change the way we are molding our children’s view of God and behavior?
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
1. START WITH YOURSELF
If you realize this is how you grew up and are still letting your moral code of conduct be the determining factor of your Christianity instead of the immediate need of a closer relationship with Christ…then change! You can’t do it alone, you need Jesus. Ask God for clarity on what is in your heart and let him transform you. Ask him for wisdom and guidance on how to depend on him. Repent of your self-righteousness and seek dependence on Christ. You can’t teach your children something you don’t know. He can change your perspective. Your children will follow your lead.
2. TEACH THEM JESUS
Make God and Jesus real in your home. Talk about them on a regular basis. Show your children you can pray about anything by making it a common occurrence during the day. If their finger hurts, stop and pray over it. If they are scared, stop and pray. When something wonderful happens, speak praise out loud to God. Talk about how you can see God in nature. Make the topic of Christ a normal thing. The more you do it, the closer He seems AND is to your children. When we bring our children to Christ, they see who HE is and who they are in Him. They will see how he LOVED others. Jesus didn’t care about the “religious moral code” of “rights and wrong”, he cared about LOVE.
3. CHANGE YOUR LANGUAGE
I’m definitely not telling you that teaching your children good behavior is wrong. No, no, no…please do the world a favor and teach them manners, respect, and a solid moral code. It’s important and necessary, but our efforts are futile if we don’t teach them LOVE. God is LOVE. God commands us to LOVE him, and LOVE others. We can do all the good in the world, but without LOVE it’s useless. Changing our language can cultivate a heart of LOVE instead of simply good behavior. Instead of saying, “You made a bad choice when you hit your brother.” You can say, “Were you being LOVING when you hit your brother?” Instead of saying, “You shouldn’t lie to us. We are your parents!” You can say, “It doesn’t make us feel LOVED when you lie to us. God LOVES it when you tell the truth.” Instead of saying, “I can’t believe you talked back to your teacher. You have embarrassed us and now you have a bad conduct grade. I guess you won’t be going to the movies this weekend.” You can say, “We are really hurt that you treated your teacher with disrespect. How do you think that made her feel when you said that? Was it very LOVING or selfish and rude? Do you believe she saw Christ’s LOVE in you today?”
Are you catching the common denominator? LOVE. We need to impress on our children how important loving GOD and loving others is. Just like in the scripture quoted above, we are to LOVE the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and might and love others like ourselves. Then we are to teach these things to our children. Are you focusing more on their behavior or their heart? On their reputation than their character? When we teach our children to LOVE God, they will desire to follow his commands and the rest will follow.
4. CULTIVATE DEPENDENCE ON GOD
Oh, how we spend so many years teaching our children independence. It nearly is the death of us trying to train our children to be responsible, independent adults. The hours spent on potty training, eating with a fork, brushing teeth, putting away toys, to doing their homework, driving safely, and balancing a checkbook can make black hairs turn gray and thick hair fall out!! Yes, we invest our life into teaching independence. BUT…how many of those hours are spent training our children to be DEPENDENT on God? They cannot and will not be able to live up to our standards of good, moral behavior alone. They will fail and feel like hopeless losers. We cannot convince them that they are capable to accomplish these things out of their own discipline and strength. They need Jesus. We all need Jesus. We are so desperately in need of his resources it’s not even funny. Can we all just start agreeing now that we will teach our children that in CHRIST ALONE our hope is found? Our salvation is found? A life dependent on God for our very next breath is so much more full than a life of worldly success conjured up out of our own accomplishments. Teach dependence…not independence. That’s how we can help our children.
1 Corinthians 13: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast; but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”