Please don’t underestimate how significant this question really is with regard to our parenting models today? in my read-the-popular-books and survey-around-town opinion, the status quo emphases of parenting tend to center around a three step process: act grown up, get some self-esteem, then go be good. The question I would ask – is this approach antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus?
Jesus actually seemed to teach the opposite of act grown up. In Matthew 19:13-15 as in other sections of Scripture, Jesus is not by any means saying “don’t be maturing.” He certainly seems to be emphasizing, however, that “acting grown up” includes losing an element of trust in our daily rhythms. This loss of trust is common to those who have had the factor of age affect them to un-believe what they were made to believe and to trust only the tangible. A critic might suggest that this is not in line with maturing. I beg to differ. “Maturing” is very different than “acting mature.” Growing up is very different than acting grown up. The former is a life-long process, while the latter is an occasional act. The former is involves living fully and learning through mistakes, while the latter involves living cautiously and leaning on my own understanding. Maybe we don’t need to parent our children to “act grown up,” but rather to never quit growing. Maybe part of maturing is admitting that we will never be fully mature.
Jesus also seemed to contradict this thought of the importance of self-esteem. In Luke 9:23, He declares that if we are to follow Him we have to deny self. Toward the end of Matthew 10, He states that we only find true selves in Him. If this is the case, then the notion of self-esteem may be one of the distractions the evil one is using against ourselves and our children, hindering us from grasping the depth of the value we have in Christ and Christ alone. We are broken. We are selfish. We are unable to fix ourselves, if we agree with what the Scriptures teach about us. Our value is not appraised based upon our daily evaluation. Rather, our value has been declared – WE ARE WORTH DYING FOR. Maybe we should be parenting for “God-esteem” rather than self-esteem. Maybe part of believing that our dreams really can come true has little to do with me “putting my mind to it” and more to do with me surrendering my understanding of myself to what my maker thinks of me. “For God so loved the world…”
Jesus furthermore seemed to avoid the compliment good. He responded to a man who gave Him such a compliment with this, “And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19, NASB). Does He want us to just go be good? Now, don’t read me wrong here. I am not suggesting that He does want goodness on display in our lives. However, it is ultimately not about my personal goodness but rather about people colliding with His goodness personally. And for some strange reason, He has chosen to send us as He was sent (John 20:21) as ambassadors of His goodness (2nd Corinthians 5:20). But it’s His goodness, not mine. It’s His having been good to me by coming to offer forgiveness before I ever said I was sorry that continues to need to be on display. Maybe we should be parenting for our kids to be grateful for His goodness and be compelled to give His goodness, rather than attempting to modify their behavior for personal goodness. Maybe part of going and being good has more to do with living WITH a good God among others and less to do with being perceived as having a good image FOR God by others.
So, back to the original question…are my kids seeing the Gospel in my parenting or just a pressuring to be good? Am I parenting in a way that is antithetical to the Gospel.
Leave your thoughts on these as well as your suggestions as to how we can cultivate the Gospel daily as parents and parent our kids in a Gospel-centered way. I hope you will, cause Jen and I are praying to be maturing in this way…