This past Sunday evening we have the first of two classes on parenting at Creekside, titled Gospel Centered Parenting. The goal of the class was to walk through aspects of the Gospel and make connections to how we parent our children. We used the lense of “Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation” as our grid to think through this. Some of the basics that came up in our time together were:
The Biblical account of Creation informs us that our children are image bearers of God. That is not something they attain at some point in life, that is true from before the moment they draw their first breath. That reality seems more apparent to us when we first bring them home from the hospital or receive them in to our house if we are not the birth parents. But time and our day to day duties cause even the most grateful parent to forget the gift they have received in being a parent. Gospel Centered Parenting then seeks to remember that children are of innate and inestimable worth, before they do a single solitary thing and we are to find ways to communicate that every chance we get.
The biblical teaching about sin and the Fall, balances the scales by informing us that these image bearers are invaluable but deeply and profoundly broken. It reminds us that sin and corruption are not just “out there” but it is inevitably in “here”, in us, even our dear and darling children. (I must confess I have met some children that make that reality very easy to believe while others seem more gifted at hiding that fact. In that way, they’re really no much different than adults, only more so.) And so as parents, we should never be surprised when our children sin. That is what sinners do. And so our job as a parent is not mainly to keep our children away from the bad stuff out in the world as it is to help point them to where to go with the bad stuff they find in their own hearts. (Let me add, protection is clearly a vital job, especially in fallen and evil world, but if we think we can keep our children pure by separating them from the world, we are vastly underestimating the corruption in their own souls and as a dear friend often says, we will inevitably grow our own virulent, personal strain of sin, not unlike bacteria in a petrie dish).
The good news of Redemption is that broken things can be mended, wounds can be healed and enemies can be reconciled. The central story of the Bible is that Jesus came not only to reveal the Father to us, but to provide a way to get back to Him, and to be fully restored as dearly loved children. All this is done by grace, received by faith and offered to rebels who are willing to admit their rebellion. And so Gospel Centered parents need to not only teach the need for soft and repentant hearts, but to demonstrate it in our interactions as well. We need to make sure ‘grace’ is not just a word, but a way of life for our families. We need show them that they and every single other person who has ever drawn a breath, including us, needs this grace each and every day.
The final part of the biblical story is Consummation, the promise that in the end, Jesus will make everything new, that perfect justice will finally be delivered and God will draw his people to himself in a new heavens and a new earth. It is a message that is intended to engender hope in dark days and to foster endurance during trials. Knowing this to be true allows us to give our children a peek at the end of the story so they can have confidence now. Along with this hope, it also gives the Gospel Centered family a reason to celebrate and be joyful. I’m convinced this is an area as parents we would be well served to grow in, celebrating God’s goodness and faithfulness. I ‘m afraid that too many families inadvertently teach that the christian life is an endurance test. Of course we need to be disciplined, we need to be able to work hard (another good gift from Creation) and we need to see that our children grow up to be productive members of society. But those things are not mutually exclusive from teaching them as well that in Christ they are “over comers” and that what awaits them at the end of life is a lot like the most joyous celebration that the first century culture could imagine, a wedding feast.
We talked about all of this and more during our time together. And yet, as I drove home, I felt uneasy. We had forgotten something. Later on it struck me that we missed a key element to Gospel Centered Parenting: the truth that there is grace and mercy for us as parents as well. That there is forgiveness and second chances for moms and dads who make mistakes and there is rest for the weary, yes, even for parents. We will not be gospel centered parents unless we preach the gospel to ourselves first. We will not be parents of grace and mercy until we have first received that grace and mercy that is ours in Christ.
So parents, take heart. the Gospel is not only for your children, but for your as well.