For part One of this post see here
3. Christian Parenting is about your Hopes
When your child says, ‘Mum, Dad, I’ve got something to tell you’ what do you really hope they’ll say? And what do you most dread?
We’ve seen that the home is where children learn what is on your heart. So where is your heart? Remember Jesus says, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21). Parents unfailingly pass on their cherished values. What is your greatest hope for your children? That each is become doctor and not a dustman? That they get married and give you grandchildren? That they have economic well-being (or whatever the latest OFSTED target is)? Good table manners? What are you praying for your children? And when do you pray most earnestly for your children? Your crisis prayers will kick in when something you really value for your child is threatened: what is it that you treasure for them? Jesus told a parable in which a merchant sold everything he had to buy the pearl of great price (Matthew 13.45-46). We want the pearl too but often fail to sell everything: we long for our children to be disciples as long as they also gain a diploma, or a daughter-in-law, or a deposit for a house. Achievement, marriage and possessions are great blessings but terrible treasures compared to the gospel.
There is another side to the treasure of grace. God showers undeserved mercy on us, and as parents we are called to mirror his grace in the way we love our children, initiating grace and unconditional love. They most need to know this when they have, or feel they have, disappointed us. Specifically, the child who knows your heart longs for them to walk with Christ, but has chosen to walk away for the moment. For all their gifts and achievements, they may feel they have disappointed you. They need to know of your unconditional commitment to love them and enjoy them, even as they know that behind the scenes you are praying for their return.
The long game will also help to determine how you tackle day-to-day situations. Instead of making it all up as you go along, keep thinking, ‘how will this decision now help my child treasure God above all else?’ Family life never stays the same and keeping track of your long term hopes will help you keep your bearings as you adapt to a fast-changing family life. As soon as you’ve worked out how to handle one stage of family life, your children grow into the next one! Change what you do, but never why you do it: you love your kids and want them to know and love the Lord Jesus. The way you train and discipline your children will change as they grow up; and the best time for a family meal and bible reading and prayer will change with family routines, but your end-goal remains always in sight. Parenting is a life-long task. There’s so much more to say. Don’t read it; hear it from other Christian families in your church with whom you can share and pray, laugh and weep.
Even as I write this I am thoroughly daunted because I can’t do this on my own. Maybe you feel the same. Good! Our children will not be saved by works, ours or theirs. They will be saved by grace. My role as a parent is to live by grace and let them see me doing so. You can do it too.
4. Christian Parenting is about a whole lot of fun!
Don’t forget to enjoy your children! This is really important. There is a theological point here as well. If we truly believe that there is no better way to live than under the rule and blessing of Jesus Christ, then our lives as Christians should show it. And if you believe children to be a blessing from the Lord, then tell them; and thank him; and live in the light of it. Enjoy!
Useful resource The Gospel Centred Family
This was first published on the Gospel Partnerships Blog