Yesterday at Revolution was the “bonus match” in our Man vs. Wife series. I got to preach on parenting, which I haven’t done a whole lot of. We did a series a few years ago called The Perfect Kid, but not much beyond that, so it was fun to unpack what Paul had to say in Ephesians 6:1 – 4. If you missed it, you can listen here.
In parenting, as in all of life, the goal of what you are trying to accomplish matters. It will dictate the decisions you make, how you spend your money and time, what you emphasize and ultimately, if you succeed or fail.
Too many parents, especially those in the church, have the wrong goal. Their parenting is not unique. What does that mean? It means, if you are a follower of Jesus, you should have a different goal and parent differently from those who don’t follow Jesus. Ask this, can you accomplish the goals for parenting or your kids without Jesus? Your kids can be successful, healthy, moral, marry well, have good values, and do all of that without Jesus.
Elyse Fitzpatrick said,
“Most parents who attend church want what most of parents want for our children. Jesus or no Jesus, we just want them to obey, be polite, not curse or look at pornography, get good jobs, marry a nice person, and not get caught up in the really bad stuff. It may come as a surprise to you, but God wants much more for your children, and you should too. God wants them to get the gospel. And this means that parents are responsible to teach them about the drastic, uncontrollable nature of amazing grace.”
Paul tells parents they need to expect their kids to obey, to honor them and to respect them. Many parents do not have this expectation. Whenever I hear a parent count to their child, they communicate, I don’t expect you to listen to me the first time. When I get to 3 will suffice. As kids get older and become teenagers, many parents let their guard down and don’t expect them to speak respectfully. It is easier to let them get away with it than put up the fight. I understand the weariness of parenting, but if God gave you children, it is time to step up to the plate.
Paul ends this section by letting us in on how to raise kids that are respectful and obedient. By discipline and instruction in the Lord. Whenever he uses the phrasing he uses in vs. 4, he is speaking about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He is calling parents to bring the gospel into their parenting, on all occasions whenever possible.
The word for discipline, means to “nurture, educate, or train,” and the word for instruction, means “calling attention to” or “mild rebuke,” “correction,” or “warning.”
In other words, Paul is saying that the way Christian parents are to bring children up is by nurturing, correcting, and training them in the truth of or about Jesus Christ. Paul is telling parents to daily proclaim the message about Jesus to their children and to warn or rebuke them when they forget to live in the light of what Jesus had already done. He was telling them to tether every aspect of their parenting to the gospel message.
Here are 6 ways to bring the gospel into your parenting:
- To bring the gospel to your kids, you must be changed by the gospel. If you aren’t changed by the gospel, you won’t be able to communicate the gospel to your kids. You won’t see your need for it, their need for it. You won’t see how great and mighty and all encompassing the gospel is.
- A culture of the gospel. Every house, family and business has a culture. A culture is how things happen without discussion. Does the gospel influence everything that you do as a family, as a parent? Does it dictate your finances, your time, rules, entertainment?
- Plan to bring the gospel into your home. What is your plan to teach your kids Scripture? When will you personally open the Bible? When will you do it with your kids? What will you study? For our family, we use a mixture of The New City Catechism and the Train Up questions from Revolution. Our MC uses the Train Up questions each week with the kids. We write the question and answer of the week in our kitchen and refer to it throughout the week and discuss at dinner as a family. For more on this, read Family driven faith.
- Make time. The quality time argument is a myth. Your kids don’t need or want quality time, they want quantity. A big difference. Make time for daddy dates, family meal time. You may have to give up some hobbies as a parent. I haven’t golfed in 7 years. I’ll retire one day and golf then and I’ll be terrible at it. Studies show, kids who have regular meals with their parents are less likely to do drugs, smoke, have sex, run with the wrong crowd, and they get better grades.
- Don’t sacrifice the mission field in front of you. This argument often comes up in the discussion of a mom working. I’ve had mom’s tell me, “At work, there are so many people who don’t know Jesus, God has placed me there.” Each one who told me that then sent their kids off to have someone else raise them in daycare. What they did, while sounding noble, “living on mission at work”, they sacrificed the first mission field God gave them: their kids.
- Bring the gospel into conversations when your children sin. When your child sins, talk to them about it. Ask why they did that? What is controlling them? Ask your teenager why they wear that? What does that communicate about their self-image, how they believe God made them? Ask until you get an answer. Then, seek ways to bring the gospel into that. Talk about how because of Jesus we are approved, we don’t need to control things, we don’t need to be the most important. When you punish them, don’t walk away. Remind them of your love, of God’s grace and how Jesus took our punishment but there are still consequences. For more on this, read Give them grace.