Writing Free to Parent has made me ponder what it would look like if Jesus were to parent children in today’s world. His heart for children is clearly seen in the following verses, although the culture in His day granted little importance or respect to children:
- “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:3-6
- “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 18:10
- And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. Mark 10:13-16
- And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” Mark 36-37
The Bible offers us directives as parents. For example, we:are to teach God’s Word diligently to our children (Deuteronomy 6:6-9), and we are to discipline our kids and train them up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6, 29:17). Of the few direct statements for parents in the The New Testament, two clear commands are given not to provoke them:
- Fathers do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
- Fathers do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Colossians 3: 21
Both times, this exhortation for parents, and fathers specifically, follows the two commands for children to obey their parents. What’s the connection? Could it be that we have a propensity to provoke our children in our attempts to get them to obey?
To provoke someone is to deliberately annoy or make them angry.
And it leads to anger and discouragement. I believe it is a form of manipulation that has no place in the discipleship of children. Instead of provoking our kids, the Bible tells us to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of Jesus!
That’s my question: How would Jesus parent your children?
How would He foster obedience? Certainly not by provoking, or with anger or harshness. His practices would instead flow out of His nature which is loving, full of joy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Next week’s post will take this idea further with four applicable ways NOT to provoke our kids!: