Joannie and I have three children: Caleb (5), Ellie (3), and our recent addition, Luke (3 months). As they grow older and become more active (relationally, recreationally, scholastically), more aware of how to be manipulative, and increasingly learned and attentive to their surroundings, etc—I find raising children an increasingly daunting task and responsibility. It is overwhelming to know that I am responsible, as well as Joannie, in raising these precious children, and more particularly raising them under the rule and reign of God, through Christ. Please understand that I am no where near being an expert in parenting, nor do I claim to be. I am a learning parent. Nevertheless, in my learning, and more importantly in my growing and understanding of the gospel, my desire is to raise my children in a gospel-centered manner. Here are some tenets, albeit not exhaustive, to what I believe it means to raise children in a gospel-centered way.
– it doesn’t mean everything we do will be centered around the child or children.
Life doesn’t stop when we have children. In addition, our life does not revolve around our children. Do not misunderstand me, I and Joannie love our children. However, they are not the most important thing in our life, Jesus is. Our love for Jesus must be so strong that it may look at times I “hate” my children (Luke 14:26).
– It doesn’t mean that we legislate the gospel to our children.
In other words, we do not rule the family with an iron fist. We need to understand that we cannot force our children to follow Jesus, nor can we force them to act godly. We are sinners. I find that many times we parent the way most churches posture themselves towards the lost. They want them to act right before joining. Church is messy, or at least should be, because it is comprised of fallen people. Parenting, likewise, will be messy for we (the parents) and our children are sinners by nature. Therefore, we must model gospel-centered living as well as gospel-centered discipline; disciplining our children with grace, mercy, and love.
– It does mean that we point to God as the supreme authority in our family
I see mixed signals in so many Christian families. We worship God on Sundays, but the parents become the gods during the week. Many want their children to behave or do certain things because “they” (the parents) said so. In practice, parents act as supreme authority. If parents fail to model that they too are under the rule of God and that they answer to him, children are then taught they can do anything they want when they get older. They see freedom to live however they want when they become an adult and parent, because they are the ultimate authority. In essence, they, the children, are raised to be practicing agnostics, atheists, or deists. Gospel-centered parenting models submission to Christ, the Lord of our life, and teaches children that we ultimately answer to him.
– It does mean that we oversee our children and practice redemptive and restorative parenting
The goal of parenting is to bring our children to Jesus, the gospel. Therefore, everything we do with are children should be redemptive and restorative. This is very similar to not legislating the gospel. But, this point takes the gospel further in what it does. Not legislating the gospel to our children provides them some slack and at least an understanding that they will sin; practicing redemptive and restorative parenting gentle points them to Jesus. We teach them our talk should be like Jesus, our actions should be like Jesus, we should love people like Jesus, we should obey authority because of Jesus. In other words, Jesus becomes the redemptive and restorative hero of the family’s life. And we teach our children that unless we have Jesus we cannot please God. It is all about Jesus!
These are some of my thoughts and what I am learning about gospel-centered parenting.