Five Common Mistakes Christian Parents Make

My wife and I are in the throes of parenting and are surrounded, in our church and among friends, with other parents in the throes of parenting. So my parenting radar is hot. I’m learning, growing, repenting everyday as I ask the Lord to make me a faithful dad.

It’s often easier to learn how to get better at parenting by observing and owning our mistakes. So here is a list of five tendencies Christian parents have. I hope it helps you think through this journey:

1) We overexpose our kids to the culture. The Bible doesn’t use the term, “culture”, but there is a very similar word, “world.” This is a loose definition of the prevailing thinking in a given society. Typically the values of the culture run counter to the way of Christ. Not always. Sometimes a culture is shaped by Christian influence. Today, we parents should be cautious in what we allow our kids to imbibe. We can be passive in allowing them to form ungodly convictions based on what everyone else is thinking and saying. What’s more, there are corrosive images that can hurt their souls. This is why we have to be wise to monitor the media they consume, how much time they spend online, and the amount of time they spend with friends.

2) We underexpose our kids to the culture. This is an equal and and opposite danger to overexposure. It is easy to adopt a fortress mentality as parents, sheltering our kids so much from the world that they have no ability to discern truth from error, ugliness from beauty. There is a tendency to overprotect our kids so much so that we fail to prepare them for their mission in this world. Our kids will one day live as adults and will require the requisite skills, both spiritual and social, to make wise choices. If our only parenting mode is protection, we fail to teach them how to apply the Scriptures to the reality of life in a sinful world. What’s more we rob them of the God-glorifying act of enjoying, consuming, and creating the best of culture: art, beauty, and grace as expressed by artists whose talent points to a masterful Creator.

3) We mediate all of their petty disputes. I wonder if there is a more difficult thing to resist than the impulse to dive in and solve all of my kids interpersonal problems with their friends. But I’ve found that when I become my child’s defense attorney, all the time, it not only harms my child’s ability to make good choices, it destroys the fragile unity among Christian parents. At times there are issues that are serious that must be addressed and there are times when a parent has to step in if a child is being bullied or abused. I’m not talking about these moments. I’m talking about the every day, garden-variety squabbles that kids have. Let’s face it, our kids are sinners in a fallen world. They will, at times, say things and do things that surprise and shock and hurt. They will at times be the recipient of hurtful words and actions. If we step in and take it personally every single time a kid calls our kid a name, we’ll not train them for life in the real world. We’ll damage their ability to work out forgiveness and repentance. And when they grow to be adults and face life in the world, wow, they will be in for a big, huge, rude awakening. It is said often in Scripture that we demonstrate our love for God by the way we treat people. So we need to let our kids learn these lessons as they interact with their friends.

4) We focus only on short-term behaviors. I’m learning this lesson as my daughter Grace gets older. She’s eight now and we’ve given her some liberty to go a few houses down and visit with her friends. These are good families with whom we have relationships. At times, we’ve gotten upset with Grace because she made poor choices, such as going past the boundaries we’ve set because her friends encouraged her. Or maybe going into someone else’s house or backyard without our approval. Sometimes it’s a simple act of disobedience. But there are other times when, frankly, she was presented with quick choices and wasn’t sure how to respond. We’ve often just reprimanded her for not getting our permission, but we have realized that we didn’t always give her the tools to choose wisely. So we’re sitting her down and running through scenarios, trying to train her how to make wise choices in the moment. We parents have a tendency to allow the frustration of the moment or just pure laziness to set a pattern of simply punishing behaviors rather than trying to set our kids up with the right information and tools to make good choices. We have to remember that there will be a time in the future when they won’t have us around anymore. And so if we make every decision for them. If we give them no space to fail and come back and figure out what they did wrong, if we don’t equip them to discern, they will be helpless when the time comes for them to be on their own. In the back our minds we have remember that we’re not simply training our children to be good, we’re equipping them for God’s unique mission in their generation. Are we doing this?

5) We overcompensate for our perceived childhood gaps. Every generation tends to react to the mistakes (perceived or real) of the previous generation. You hear it in our talk. “My parents never gave me X, so I want to make sure my kids have Y.” What we don’t understand is that our parents were doing the same thing. So the imbalance we experience was likely a reaction to their parents. We want to avoid the reactive, seesaw parenting if we can. It’s good to hilight areas where we think our parents might have missed the mark, but let’s be careful of the pendulum. So if you grew up in a legalistic environment and didn’t like that, your tendency will be toward permissiveness. If you grew up in a loose household, you’ll tend toward legalism, especially if you became a Christian late in life. We are wise to recognize the extremes and avoid them. Furthermore, let’s let the Scriptures and the influence of the Spirit of God guide us. And let’s resist the temptation to reactionary parenting based on what we experienced in our own childhoods. Because, like our parents, we’re fallen sinners in need of God’s grace. Our parenting will have huge gaps. And in twenty years it may be our children sitting on someone’s couch, lamenting the failures of their mother and father. So let’s have some humility.

Compassion for Those at the Back of the Line

I watched this message by Larry Osborne on compassion for those who may not be as spiritually developed as we’d like them to be. And, well, it convicted me in a million ways. You really should watch it. Here’s a quote: “If our definition of a disciple doesn’t have room for a Joseph of Arimathea, then something is wrong with our definition of a disciple.”





Resisting the Pound of Flesh

One of the best illustrations of leadership in the Bible is King David’s refusal, twice, to kill King Saul (1 Samuel 24, 1 Samuel 26). You don’t have to be well steeped in Old Testament history to know that Saul was the jealous king who had disobeyed God and took out his anger and wrath on David. For many, many years he chased David around the land of Israel, trying hard to kill this shepherd boy-turned-King. Even Saul’s own son, Jonathan, knew his father was wrong and befriended David at the risk of his life.

And yet, when David had two chances to kill Saul, he didn’t. Many interpret this as a warning for rebelling against God-ordained authority. I’ve even heard it abused this way to justify corrupt leadership. I do think it can be applied in this context and I do think an anti-authoritarian attitude conveys a lack of faith in God’s sovereignty. However, there is another lesson here that is even more powerful, I think.

When you have been wronged or you have serious disagreements with a person or a movement, there is a temptation to not only disagree, but to nourish the desire to see your enemies pay. David himself struggled with this desire, evidenced in the many imprecatory prayers (Psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 109, and 139.). In these appeals to God, David asked for the destruction of those who opposed him. I imagine he envisioned a portrait of King Saul in more than one of these prayers. And yet the scenes with David in 1 Samuel 24 and 1 Samuel 26 show us just what David did with those thoughts of revenge. He didn’t act on them. 

The desire to get back, to go for the jugular, to have his pound of flesh against the man who had tormented him and ruined his life–this desire stayed where it always should–in the space between David and his God. In other words, while David felt the urge to see real-world justice happen against Saul, David acted on the biblical truth that vengeance belongs to the Lord (Romans 12:9). And apparently God had so moved in David’s heart that when he heard the news of Saul’s death, he grieved deeply (2 Samuel 1).

We could learn a lot of from David’s example, can’t we? Whenever we are wrong or we have a very substantive disagreement with someone, there is a great temptation to not only “win the argument” (whatever that means), but also to see our enemies, both real and ideological, find a swift and embarrassing demise. And here is the scary thing, like David, there will likely be nobody in our inner circle who will counsel us away from pursuing our enemy’s last pound of flesh. Nobody to say, “Hey, wait a minute, trust the Lord, don’t seek vengeance.” We live in a culture that encourages this kind of bloodlust. Politicians don’t simply run for office, they dig and search for the one piece of dirt that will sink their opponents. We can’t simply disagree with people, we have to forward emails detailing their utter depravity and Machiavellian schemes. Church leaders do this as well. Christian bloggers do this. We can’t have civil arguments over substantive doctrine, we must wish our opponents the swiftest possible destruction.

This is why we need David’s example of leadership. When he could have ended Saul’s life in embarrassing humility (dying while going to the bathroom, can you imagine a more ignoble death?), rather David directed his thoughts upward and trusted in the Lord. This is attitude of forgiveness, repentance, and trust is vital for every follower of Christ. It makes us countercultural. It’s even more important for Christian leaders, for what we model in moderation, our followers will exhibit in excess. If we create cultures that celebrate retribution and cheap rhetorical victories, those who hang on our every word will take this to an extreme. And instead of creating disciples of Jesus, we’ll create disciples of an insular, spiteful movement. Let’s not do this.

Instead, when given the opportunity to humiliate those who have hurt us or those who disagree, let’s put the sword back in the sheath and walk away.

Newer Posts
Older Posts