What Does God Require of Parents?
My wife will sometimes ask me the question, “Are we good parents?” Usually this happens after a particularly hard day when the kids have been at their worst or our relationship has been strained. The question used to make me defensive. It would make me think of all the mistakes I had made as a father and the ways that I could have handled situations better. Over time I have realized that this question is not only a good one, but extremely important.
Evaluation is a part of life. We are evaluated in a variety of ways. We were tested in school to decide our GPA, we receive “evals” at work to add to our qualifications for promotion, we can’t even drive without passing a test. We may not always like being evaluated, but we must recognize the value of evaluation.
The question becomes, “By what standard should we evaluate our parenting?” If we ask our kids, we will land somewhere between “You’re a mean daddy” and the “best parent ever” depending on how well we have met their desires. We could ask the “experts” but there are so many experts, books and content on parenting that its hard to find any consistent picture of a good parent. We could compare our parenting with our friends and acquaintances, but that usually becomes an exercise of comparing extremes. We feel better when we see their worst and we feel bad when compared against their best, because no one talks about average days and average moments.
Finding a Standard
Evaluating by these standards will leave us frustrated by a sliding scale that makes it impossible to please any of our evaluators. As believers we must not be content pleasing our children or peers; instead we must seek the will of God for our parenting. We must seek the wisdom of God’s word, we must seek the help of God’s spirit and we must lay our inadequacies bare before the cross.
I want to submit to you that there are at least three unchanging requirements for all Christian parents found in the word of God.
Becoming parents does not change the fact that God has commands and requirements for our individual holiness. ‘You must be holy as I am holy,” is not negated by adding a few kids to your equation. Parents must be diligent to pursue personal holiness.
It is a scary notion for anyone, but an especially real one to parents. Being judged by every careless word that comes out of our mouths should give us pause every time we are interacting with our children. How many times have we said something that we later regret and how many times have we neglected to say things that we should have said to our children?
Our holiness is trashed by our constant careless words. This can make us feel like hypocrites and kids are sometimes more perceptive of our hypocrisy than others. They recognize when our actions are fake or our promises are hollow. They notice trends over time that are inconsistent with the words we speak. Children have keen eyes and sensitive hearts that are shaped by our actions and words.
Parents....this is why we need the Gospel. If we evaluate our personal holiness by the standard the Bible holds us to, then we know, that no matter how diligent we are, we will always fall short. There is no one who is “good enough” to match God’s perfection. If we are to be holy as our heavenly father is holy, then we have a huge need.
Commitment to Marriage
God created marriage as a gift to be cherished and children are a product of the gift of marriage.
By God's design marriage is to be the foundation of a loving, godly and full household. In Genesis 2, God makes a comment that hits at the heart behind His design for marriage. Man was to leave his father and mother and cling to his wife for companionship, for "it was not good for man to be alone." (Gen 2:18) The second purpose for marriage is found in Genesis 1:28, is that, from the foundation of companionship, the happy couple would "be fruitful and multiply."
Both of these purposes are vitally important parts of the gift that God gave first to Adam and Eve. Marriage is meant to be a safe and committed union, between a man and woman, that fosters a beautiful environment to grow little worshipers. Yet, that is no longer the norm for marriages in the our time. Husbands and wives lose their desire for the companion that they committed themselves to, and seek a way out. Multiplying is also being put off for the sake of work, pleasure and convenience. Not to mention the desire our world has to redefine God's gift.
Married couples.... This is why we need the gospel. In the gospel, our hearts are renewed and we long for the marriage relationship to be as it was meant to be. We will seek ways to love the our spouse and fight for that companionship. We will also long to see our children grow to long for that same relationship with their chosen commitment.
Worship is the ultimate requirement of God for all his creatures. All of creation has the sole purpose of proclaiming the excellence of God and making much of His name. We are called upon to actively offer worship to God.
It is our joyful privilege to know our creator intimately and to offer Him our allegiance and our praise. All of creation screams of his greatness and we must join in that chorus by offering ourselves in worship to him.
When we are truly concerned with worshiping our creator, then we will naturally and effectively help our children worship the Lord too. This becomes the greatest task of all believing parents, to train our children to worship our God.
Facing the realities of life without Christ and feeling compelled to acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior, we would be of the worst kind of evil to withhold the truth of salvation from our children, therefore...
Parents...our children need the Gospel too.