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The Gospel & Parenting

How does one live out the gospel in parenting? There is an old tale that Martin Luther once told about a drunken peasant who falls off his donkey to one side only to get back up and fall off to the other.   Christians, Luther says, are like the drunken peasant.  We fall over to license on one side, and then get back in line with the Gospel (Gal 2:14) only to fall the other direction toward legalism.  Back and forth the drunken peasant goes until he returns home.

When it comes to parenting it is easy to be gracious in our attempts to show our kids grace. After all, aside from the incarnation, God’s grace is arguably the most mysterious concept in the Christian life. How could God give us something we don’t deserve? How could Christ have lived for us and died for us? These questions are so huge that worship is the only proper forum for contemplating them.

Let's get some skin on these bones and get practical: Undoubtedly, discipline is going to look different depending upon the age of your children. But what makes parenting uniquely gospel-centered is the chief idea that parenting is a way to communicate to our children the very character of God. Yes, behavior is important (especially in the grocery store when they are going for the gold medal in temper tantrum!), but it is not the most important. Patience & endurance is. If God thought behavior was most important, wouldn’t he actually be more extreme with his discipline toward us? As it is, "He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." And yet he "disciplines those he loves."

Gospel parenting is about the long-term goals of raising children who know and trust Jesus Christ, and rest upon His character, not their own, for significance, joy and meaning in life.   You and I can have well-behaved children yet fail to parent them in the way that God designed.  We can shortcut the path to Gospel-centered parenting when we make Jesus look like us rather than conforming to Jesus and his desires. For example, this means that we can either have a (1) stern/disciplinarian style of parenting that expects emotional & behavioral maturity above our child’s developmental stage (“they must obey me...Ephesians 6:1!”); or (2) laissez faire parenting, non-interference which allows the child to run wild without parental intervention (“Let them be kids... Ephesians 6:4a!”). Frankly, if you’re like me, then you battle these extremes.  I tend to “fall off the horse” when I get tired, angry, hungry or lazy.

Are you experiencing a season of grace in your parenting journey? Are times tough? How will Trinity’s Community Groups be a place where you can share your joys and trials in a meaningful way? Let's remember together that patience and endurance are chief marks of good parenting. And let's remember that it takes a village to raise a child. What more beautiful village can there be but the church?