August 15, 2010

Leveling the Field

When we talk about people, in general, do we feel that some are superior to others? When people give pro-life and pro-choice debates, the essential issue can sometimes be whether the desires of the mother are more important than the life of the growing child. Does the growing child have to sacrifice his or her life to make the mother's dreams come true? Pro-life argues that they are equal while pro-choice argues that they are not.

We know that in God's eyes, all people are created equally in His image and for His glory. We know that all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory and are equally deserving of an eternal punishment in Hell. We know that all people everywhere are called to repent and believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. We know that at some point, all people die. And we know that in the new heavens and the new earth, all nations, tribes, tongues and people groups will be represented, worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ around His throne. So, in some sense all are equal without regard to any divisive factor.

Is it different when you're a parent?

When the child is growing inside your body, after birth and later, it's easy to consider their life as equal or even more important than our own. We change our diet, our lifestyles, our driving habits, our media preferences, we stop smoking, we lose weight, and all sorts of stuff.

But what happens when our children begin to rebel and manifest every form of the sin nature and constant, consistent discipline is required? Do we then see our children as underneath us as we assume and assert authority, making it evident that his or her obedience is required? Do we consider every act of defiance an affront to our authority as parents? Are we fighting for preeminence? Even after this rebellious stage is over and our children freely and joyfully obey us (or is that just a figment of my imagination), will we then see them more as equals?

When does a child stop being a child? Sometimes even when they reach adulthood, parents still assume authority over them - giving orders or manipulative wishes, disrespectfully looking down upon them and their decisions, nagging, etc. Even once the child/adult gets married and begins their own family, do the parents still assume some kind of attitude as if they are superior to you because they're older and wiser? Are we as children of our parents still seeking their approval for the choices we make?

Parents and their children are equals. We were both created in God's image. Both of us are created to worship God by glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever. We are both sinners. We both are required to joyfully obey God. The roles are different, but each of us are equal in personhood. Our responsibilities differ, but we are still equally required to honor and obey God with our respective stewardships. I am to obey God by bringing my children up into His admonition, assuming authority over them by administering discipline according to the present need and through daily living and speech, preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, teaching them to fear and obey God. They, as children, are required to obey God and their parents as His agents. It's not so important that they disobey me (although that is very important) as it is that they are disobeying God. I cannot be nearly as offended at their rebellion as God is. I am just a finite being, as they are, but God is holy and infinite. I am acting as God's agent. My administration of discipline is on His behalf.

Here's the quote for further emphasis and clarity:

Ephesians 6:4 commands you to bring your children up in the training and instruction of the Lord. This is a command to provide the training and instruction of the Lord; to function on God's behalf. Understanding this simple principle enables you to think clearly about your task. If you are God's agent in this task of providing essential training and instruction in the Lord, then you, too, are a person under authority. You and your child are in the same boat. You are both under God's authority. You have differing roles, but the same Master.

. . .
Called to Obedience
You do not come to your child demanding, for your own purposes, that he knuckle under you and obey. No! You come with the corrections of discipline that are the way of life (Proverbs 6:23). You engage your son on behalf of God because God has first engaged you.

I recall many conversations that went like this:

FATHER: You didn't obey Daddy, did you?
FATHER: Do you remember what God says Daddy must do if you disobey?
CHILD: Spank me?
FATHER: That's right. I must spank you. If I don't, then I would be disobeying God. You and I would both be wrong. That would not be good for you or for me, would it?
CHILD: No. [a reluctant reply]

What is this dialog communicating to the child? You are not spanking him because you are mean. You are not trying to force him to submit to you only because you hate insolence. You are not mad at him. You, like him, are under God's rule and authority. God called you to a task you cannot shirk or shrug off. You are acting under God's rule. You are requiring obedience because God says you must. (pp 28-30)

This is just one of the lessons explained in Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp, which is my current read. It is highly recommended and there is a lot for the new (or seasoned rookie) parent to learn. One of the major emphasis of his book is guiding the heart of the child, because it is out of the heart that he or she learns to worship God or worship idols. It is the Christian parent's role to show the beauty of worshipping a satisfying God.

1 comment:

Erin said...

It is an excellent book, I hope you enjoy it! I didn't get a chance to speak to you yesterday, but I hope you are feeling well and holding up as you wait for little girl to arrive!! :-)