I read an article recently (though I cannot recall where, unfortunately) that made a hopeful point for parents everywhere: God, in a very serious sense, was the perfect Father – the perfect parent – for Old Testament Israel, and yet they rebelled repeatedly. The same is true, in a spiritual sense, for Christians in this day and age. This is confirmed by Old Testament references to God as Father of Israel (Isaiah 63:7-19 comes to mind) as well as in the New Testament, where we also see this idea in 2 Corinthians 6:16-18, Galatians 4:6, etc.
Let that sink in for a minute, because I think that this is one area that we Christians tend to be overly legalistic and judgmental on. I have heard numerous sermons and talks on how if you would just do A, B, and C as a Christian parent, then your children will turn out maybe not perfect, but certainly faithful. Most definitely not rebellious. And then, since this message is so prevalent throughout Christian parenting literature, if you have a child who does reject the faith or otherwise causes the family grief, your parenting practices – sometimes even your faith – are called into question.
Let it not be so! Yes, the Bible gives mountains of wisdom when it comes to parenting and yes, many parents need to get their priorities in order: what your kids need most isn’t a nicer house, more money, better vacations, or more selective schools. Rather, we must also and always remember that sin runs deep – even in the best of parents and the most obedient of children. That the law can never save, but only reveal sin. And that it is only by grace alone – the grace given to us by Christ on the cross – that any of us, not to mention any of our children, walk as disciples after Him.
Is there hard work for parents to do in bringing up their children? Yes, of course. We dare not be lazy at this most important of discipleship tasks. We must begin to see Christian parenting as no less (and perhaps more) important than our efforts at evangelism and discipleship outside of the home. But does that hard work occasionally not bring forth the desired result? Yes, sadly, this is a possible result as well.
It was often the result for God with His wayward nation of Israel. But there is also hope, because we know at the end of time that God’s Kingdom, filled with all of His children saved by Christ, will someday come into it’s own and there will not only be no more tears or sickness or crying, but no rebellion or heartbreak as well. God the Father is bringing this about. Your and my role this side of heaven is faithfulness in word and example. Prayer for our children. And trust in God’s plan for the ages.