Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Love and Grace in Parenting

In my last post, I talked about the transforming love of God. As a follower of Christ, I am called to show God’s love to others in how I interact with them. And because “other people” also include my children, this causes me to evaluate how I parent them.

Recently I was reminded of something very important: my children are not “mine;” they are God’s, and he has entrusted them to me. What an awesome, and very serious, responsibility. It is not something to be taken lightly. I am to guide them and to show them who God is. And if it’s true that people see God through our love, certainly that must also apply when the people in question are the children God has given me!

I take my role as a parent seriously. As God disciples me, so I want to disciple my children. I don’t want to rely on fear-based motivation to get my children to do what I think is right, because this is not how God disciples me. I want to introduce them to the love of God, the only power that can actually transform them from the inside.

The interesting thing to me about this is that it is not within my power as a human being to transform the heart of anyone else– and that includes the hearts of my children. (And, actually, Christians can get ourselves into some dangerous territory really fast if we start thinking it is our responsibility, or even within our power, to change people’s hearts.) I can, however, show them God’s love and grace in how I treat them, and I believe God will use his love to transform them as he sees fit. Therefore, my role as a parent is about so much more than shaping outward behavior; I am responsible for treating my children in a Godly way, reflecting God’s love and grace in my interactions with them. In fact, that is the responsibility of all Christ-followers in our interactions with other people, whether they are adults or children.

And so I attempt to treat other people, including my children, the way God treats me– with love and grace. Do I slip up sometimes? Yes, of course. More often than I’d like. I’m human. I am incapable of showing perfect love (defined in 1 Corinthians using words like “patient” and “kind”) because I am not perfect. And the beauty of it all is this– when I mess up, when I do the very things God would not want me to do, when I fail to love as he loves me… God continues to disciple me in love and grace!  Even this is a beautiful reminder of how I am being called to treat my children when they mess up.

The love of God transforms people’s hearts in a way that fear never can. Fear may shape people’s outward behavior, but it cannot change their hearts. Only love– only God– can do that. This is something so important to me in my role as a parent.

You may be thinking, “This ‘parenting with love and grace’ stuff sounds good– but doesn’t it really turn out to be nothing but permissive parenting?” The short answer is no; showing the love and grace of God has nothing to do with being permissive. I’ll address this topic further in my next post. :)

1 comment:

  1. One thing great about parenting is it does help us to understand and relate to Scripture in a way we could not when we were younger and single.