Parenting. Now, that’s an emotionally charged word! It is no exaggeration to say that parenting can bring the highest highs in life and unfortunately for some—the lowest lows.
Parenting is harder today than it has ever been in history. Years ago, most Americans lived in the rural areas of our country and multi-generational family members lived and worked with and near each other. This demographic was an asset to parents because they had help in raising their children. Family members and small communities were a parent’s greatest ally.
Such is not the case today as families live all over the country and our culture has changed to the extent that in many cases communities are a detriment to the lives of our children.
It seems fair to say that most Christian parents are striving to be “perfect” parents and establish a “perfect” family. Although on the surface this seems to be a noble ideal, it is frankly unachievable and both the parent and the child(ren) will constantly be frustrated.
Instead, we must all come to the realization that there has been only one perfect parent—God, and that there will be only one perfect family—God’s family living together in heaven. So, let us set a goal that is achievable: strong Christian families.
Raising Godly Children in an Ungodly World
The observation that some children of Christian parents have strayed off the path of righteousness has frightened some couples from having children. Solomon warned that the farmer who “… watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap” (Ecclesiastes 11:4).
In a similar way, a childless couple who looks at the children of their friends and family or the evil world in which we live, may decide that it is too frightening to bring children into this world. But as a farmer plants his fields by faith, with his eyes on the Lord—even so, we must conceive children by faith with our eyes on the Lord. Because there is a God who does answer prayer, it is possible to raise godly children in an ungodly world.
Preparing for the Big Event
Unfortunately, most parents do not properly prepare for the arrival of a child. They will paint the child’s room, purchase a baby bed and many other items the child will need, activities which are in themselves good. However, the best preparation for a child is to prepare yourselves to be parents before the child arrives. My wife and I spent three years preparing ourselves for the birth of our first child.
Too Little Too Late
Many parents do not really get concerned about parenting until their child begins to exhibit behavioral problems. I have often told parents that they should stay up all night praying for their child(ren) before he or she gets into trouble rather than waiting until they do get into trouble. The old adage is true: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
In our “take a pill and feel better” world, some parents are looking for easy and quick answers to complex child rearing problems. I assure you there are answers, but those answers do not operate in a vacuum. Answers to life’s problems are always based on a biblical foundation that must be laid in the home.
The psalmist warns, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1) and Jesus declared, “Without me [Jesus] you can do nothing (John 15:3).
Parenting By the Book
The Bible is God’s blueprint for life and yet, when it comes to parenting, surprisingly the Bible has little to say. Almost all of what the Bible says about parenting is found in the following four verses of Scripture:
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” (Proverbs 23:13,14)
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4)
“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” (Colossians 3:20)
Why is this? Why are there so few verses of instruction on one of the most important responsibilities in life?
The answer is found in an Old Testament story about a godly man named Manoah and his wife. An angel came to Manoah’s unnamed wife and told her that she was going to have a child—a child who would be named Samson. She immediately informed her husband of the words of the angel and Manoah asked the angel, “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?” (Judges 13:12 ). In other words, “Mr. Angel, please tell us how to raise this child, as we want to be good parents.”
The surprising thing is that the angel did not speak to Manoah and his wife about child training. The angel told the soon-to-be parents how they were to live as parents (Judges 13:13,14). The point is that if a parent is a good child of his or her heavenly Father, then most likely he or she will be a good parent.
In Scripture, parents are frequently admonished to “discipline” their children (See Proverbs 5:23; 6:23; 13:24; 15:10; 16:22; 22:15; 23:13,14; and 29:15,17.) The root word of discipline is “disciple.” Simply put, the purpose of “discipline” is to make a “disciple.” A disciple of the parent? No! A disciple of Jesus Christ.
We should not want our children to grow up in our image, but in the image of Jesus Christ. Dr. Henry Brandt rightfully said, “A parent is a partner with God in making disciples of our children.” Never lose sight of the fact that parenting is a spiritual calling, and the most important contribution I will ever make to the cause of Christ is to “disciple” my child(ren).
The concept of “discipling” a child can be broken down into three parts:
(1) The parent should develop a close relationship with his or her child(ren).
(2) Through this relationship, the parent models before their child(ren) what total commitment to Jesus Christ and obedience to the Word of God looks like.
(3) The parent then teaches the child(ren) how to live out the principles of God’s Word in his or her own life.
This begs the question as to what principles a parent should model and then teach their children to obey. Obviously, there are too many to mention but let me make a couple of suggestions: If parents are “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), then their lives will bear the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). This is the best place to start.
There are several extended practical sections in the New Testament that instruct believers on how they should live. These sections are: Romans 12:1-16:27; Ephesians 4:22-6:24; Colossians 3:10-4:18; Hebrews 13:1-25; and II Peter 1:5-11. Study these practical passages and ask God to help you model these biblical virtues in your family and how to teach them to your children.
In one of the most important chapters of the Old Testament, Moses instructed parents to first live a life that honors God themselves and then teach their children to obey “all his decrees and commands . . . so that you may enjoy long life” and “things will go well with you” (Deuteronomy 6:1-3).
The old maxim is certainly true, “More is caught than taught.”
In his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote: “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:11). Paul assumed that a father, and mothers too, would “encourage,” “comfort,” and “urge” their children to live a life that honors God. This is what it means to “disciple” a child.
I would like to distill parenting down into three biblical commands:
Parenting Command #1: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37,38).
Parenting Command #2—“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” We are to love our spouse and our child(ren) (Matthew 22:39
Parenting Command #3—Live out the truths of Scripture before your children and then teach them how to obey the Lord themselves (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
I know that you love your child(ren) and want to be the best parent that you can be. Obey these three commands and you will be.