A few weeks ago I gave an encouragement to my students to not be paralyzed by fear. “Fear not” is the most frequently given command in scripture. No surprise when you talk to people today and find out how much fear influences their decision and perspective of life.
This week I want to give the parents an encouragement in the same vein. Christian parents desire to play a significant role in the spiritual formation of their children. However, many are often hindered from fully asserting their influence, their authority, and exercising their responsibility as stewards of their children largely due to fear. So what is it that parents fear when it comes to the spiritual formation of their children? What fear prevents parents from using their authority to be intentional in steering their children towards life in Christ?
1. Want your kids to like you. If you primarily operate out of a desire to be liked by your kids you will inevitably make choices and compromises that doesn’t prepare and equip them for life lived in Christ. Parenting is a role of stewardship. A steward is temporarily given the authority to manage the property or affairs for someone else. When it comes to the stewarding of children they are the property of the God who created them, and his affairs is to be honored and glorified as King over all creation. Throughout scripture’s narrative we see God accomplishing his affairs by revealing himself in creation, to his creatures, and by making and fulfilling his promises. In a day and age where so many are “claiming the promises of God” as a way to declare and demand that God give them the life they want, I feel it is important to clarify what God’s promises in scripture are; God’s promises always point us toward his kingship, kingdom, and the glory of his name.
2. Fear of our kids being unhappy. As parents if we are primarily concerned with being liked by our children then we will ultimately make ourselves, and God, out to be about their happiness. Which if you look at the trends of parenting over the past few generations it makes sense. Up until the 1960s in America parents were concerned with their kids conforming to social mores. Parents would preach conformity even if it alienated their kids, because they feared their kids being outcasts or rebels. In the 1970s a shift happened that leds us to today where parents want their kids to be happy and achieve their dreams. Thus parents today preach self-actualization and individuality even if it means, in the case of Christian parenting, not doing things that fosters a relationship with God.
3. Fear of pushing your kids away from God. The natural response to point two above is, “But I don’t want to push my kids away from God.” If we truly understand that everyone is born into sin, apart from God, then no one starts from a position of being with God. We are born with a predisposition of not honoring God as God, because we are separated from him. Therefore to not point them towards God because they may think we are being pushy and respond negatively toward God and us, only leaves them right where they are in the first place. Not to say that parents can’t be pushy about faith in Christ. I would argue that pushy Christian parents really aren’t pushing God at all. More often than not pushy parents are pushing spiritual disciplines, moral obedience to God, and allegiance to a doctrinal position. None of which is the same as pushing or pointing them towards relationship with God and Jesus. Your kids don’t know you primarily through the chores they do, the things you provide (food and shelter), and core values you promote. They know you because they spend time with you enjoying your presence. Point them towards God’s presence, and trust that God will show them who he is.
4. Fear of being a hypocrite? Many of us have sordid prodigal pasts, filled with wild days and nights that cause us to pause in a moment of self-abhorrence. I’ve heard many parents say that they would rather me talk to their kids about sex or other things because they “made a lot of mistakes in those areas as a teen”. Their fear is that if their child knew their teenage or young adult exploits it would instantly disqualify them from speaking into those realms of life. If that is the case then we should go through the Old Testament Thomas Jefferson style and eliminate/cross out everything written by King Solomon. King Solomon’s wisdom and perspective on life is shaped by a lifetime that was filled with righteous living for God’s glory, and extreme extravagant waywardness. Solomon’s wisdom is powerful, because he never celebrates his times of departure from God’s ways. Without going into vivid explicit detail Solomon is transparent enough to give us an authoritative warning to not walk down the wide way that leads to destruction.
Some fear that if they share their shameful exploits it will give their kids license to do the same. If that were to happen then they will be held to account for that by God not you. Not to mention when they are exhausted and empty from their days of wild living they know they can talk to you because you’ve been there. Don’t become a hypocrite because you fear being a hypocrite; be responsibly transparent with your children.You will be able to testify to God’s grace and goodness and the emptiness of pursuing pleasure and fulfillment apart from God.
Conclude—The story of Samuel in the Old Testament is a very interesting one particularly, I think, for parents looking for some wisdom or guidance in how to raise godly children. Samuel is one of three boys raised by Eli, the high priest of Israel at that time. All three of the boys grew up learning to minister to the Lord at the Tent of Meeting. In other words, Samuel, Hophni and Phinehas, were given more access to and rearing in the ways of the Lord than any child in all of Israel. Yet we are told very early on that Hophni and Phineas were “worthless men”, scoundrels who used their access to do evil to the people and sin against God.
So what was the least common denominator between Samuel and the other two? When God called Samuel he answered. God calls to all people, and he calls to your children as well. Do all that you can to raise your children to be people whose lives are shaped by God in Christ without fear. And when you pray for them don’t just simply pray that they would become Christians and be good people. Pray that they would hear God calling out to them and answer him. Fear not and trust that God is pursuing them for he desires to dwell with them.