26 January 2016

Light Your Children on Fire

What are Christian parents to do? What does Christian parenting even look like? There are nearly as many theories about how to raise children as there are parents. Should they spank or not spank? If they spank, are they supposed to use a switch or just their hand? Are they supposed to discipline or train or ignore? Are they expected to positively reinforce or punish? Does birth order matter or not? Is it essential to homeschool, or should they send them to Christian school, or public school or a mix? It is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information that is out there.

As a subculture, we are not short on theories and so my specific thoughts here will probably just add more noise to the cacophony. So read on, or don't. Its up to you.

Let me state my concern, and then I will flesh it out a bit. I have serious reservations about a certain brand of Christian parenting that seeks to break the will of a child, through physical discipline. The goal is apparently to create children of total obedience who unquestioningly follow the directives of their parents, I suppose the theory being that they will then unquestioningly submit to God. Like a good dog or horse, a child whose spirit is broken is well behaved.

But listen, our goal as parents is not primarily to produce well behaved children. Our goal is not to come to church on Sunday morning and have people tell us how well mannered our children are. No where in the Bible does it say that we are to raise automatons. Yes, we are to discipline. Yes, we are to encourage kindness, and self control, and humility, and other-centeredness, but that is not our principle goal and my fear is that the form of parenting that I am talking about loses sight of the balance, seeking to raise Pharisees, but not Christians.

So what is our goal? Let me suggest that our goal is to light our kids on fire. As parents, let's kindle a desire for Jesus. Don't squelch their passions, fuel them. Point out God's creative work in blazing sunsets, the sound of a symphony, and the smell of fresh baked bread. God is everywhere present; help them to see Him. Let's teach them about how radical, how amazing God's grace and mercy really are. But let's not only teach them, let's show them by the ways in which we love them and forgive them when they mess up. Let's not just give lip service to the truth that God's work in us is a life-long process when in reality we expect them to be perfect. When we see evidences of the Spirit's fruit in their lives, talk with them about His work, and when they sin, remind them of grace.

For my part, I will take a quirky, creative, misbehaving child who knows her status as Jesus' beloved over a Pharisaical, anesthetized child whose only goal is to obey his parents, but knows nothing of the blazing fire of God's grace.

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