Tim Chester, of The Crowded House in the UK reminds us that one of the main areas of life in which The Gospel is lived out is the home; the family. But it’s not always apparent how the Gospel should affect the way we parent. After all, isn’t a large part of parenting setting rules and boundaries? How can we go about this without raising little legalists?
The Gospel story informs our parenting and leads us to “missional parenting.” As the Gospel of Mark opens, we are told that the “Good News” is that the Kingdom of God has come. And yet, to many of us, the fact that God is in charge and we are not is not immediately seen as “good news.” But the Gospel places us not under a tyrannical rule but a grace-filled Father.
One of the main problems with way we parent is that we still see the idea of “rule” as oppressive. We resent our government, we complain about our bosses and we often exasperate our children, driving them to resent our rule rather than experiencing boundaries as an extension of our love for them.
Chester offers five points to help us understand how the Gospel impacts parenting:
- The main goal: model loving authority.
The home is one of the main places we learn to submit to authority instead of living for ourselves. The family is an important context in which we proclaim and demonstrate the goodness of Christ’s rule, though there are two ways we often get this wrong: 1) child-centered and 2) parent-centered. Christ is the center, not us.The main goal is not control but children who love God.
- The main hope: your child knowing and serving God.
When our children look at our lives, what would they say matters most to us? If it is not God, then perhaps we shouldn’t worry as much about the “world’s” influence on our children but our influence. The goal is to teach our children to treasure Christ above all things and they will watch whether or not this is true of us first. If we don’t “get grace,” parenting will crush you. Our children will know what we value most. What do you praise your child for most? Sports? Grades? or loving others? They will learn to pursue what you praise them for most. For many of us, children are actually an idol; where we find fulfillment.
- The main focus: Your Child’s heart.
Our behaviors always flow from the heart. It is not enough simply to modify a child’s behavior. We often discipline for selfish reasons (we want a quiet home, our reputation, etc.). If this is the case, we’ll often go to whatever lengths necessary to control behavior through manipulations, fear, bribery, and emotionalism. Our role as parents is to address behavior through addressing the heart. We must not only ask what the behavior is but what drives it. Do we continually make excuses for our child’s misbehavior (he’s just tired, it’s all the sugar he eats, etc.). Our actions are always the outworking of the heart.
- The main battleground: Your heart.
One of the main difficulties in parenting is not always our child’s behavior, but our own hearts. When our heart is not completely given over to God, we will not respond calmly to situations but out of frustration.
- The main theme: Grace
Parenting often feels like a battle, because it is. One of our main roles as parents is to bear the image of God to our children; to show them what our Heavenly Father is like. Children need to learn to live under authority but they also need to learn of a Father who loves His enemies and gives His own live for those enemies. Our number one aim is to show how great it is to live under God’s gracious reign of love.