I am a young pastor and parent. Let me give full disclosure- by “young” I mean 33 years old, with a five year old and a two year old. I know that are a lot of you out there as well. We have entered into one of the greatest stewardships God has granted mankind. If you are anything like me, you spend time worrying about your parenting. I mean, we will stand before God and give an account of how we raise our kids, and if we are honest, we’ll admit that none of us came from perfect homes ourselves. So, how do we do this? Where do we get our parenting manual? Everyone has an opinion, and everyone has advice that they feel free to offer, whether solicited or not. I could easily stay awake at night wondering whether I was too stern or too soft. Did the moment that I lost my cool and responded sharply undo the fun and laughter that we enjoyed together? How good do I have to be in order to be “good enough”? How much of my mistakes will the grace and mercy of God cover?
A good place for us to begin is Deuteronomy chapter 6. This section of scriptures gets read, taught on, preached about, and meditated on, but sometimes I wonder if we do it a disservice by placing all our emphasis on verses 6-9. The paragraph starts with verse 4. I’d like to look at these verses, especially as they relate to parenting, and this wonderful stewardship that God has given us.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 reads, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Thus begins one of the most commonly used passages for teaching our children. But notice where the text begins. It doesn’t start with a step by step process for producing moral children. It doesn’t begin with creating an environment conducive for spiritual growth. It doesn’t even lay down some final goal of producing believing children (as if that were in our control anyway). The text begins with me and you. It starts with the adults, or in our case, the parents. And it cuts right to the heart. It speaks to that area of our being that cannot be faked. Yes, it can be hidden and masked for a time, but over time the truth of it emerges, and our children will take note. See, Deuteronomy 6:4-5 speaks straight to what we love. And it is there that any discussion of biblical parenting must start.
Verse 4 makes a declarative statement of fact. There is only one God, and He demands to be OUR God. This solely existent God will tolerate no rivals. He demands (and deserves!) our allegiance AND our love. This sets Him apart from the pagan gods of history (including Allah), who demand mindless obedience alone. Ours is a God of obedience and love. But not just any love, and especially not love the way we use it in our society today. Our God wants exclusive, complete, and passionate love. Love from our hearts, souls, and might. It is complete, He wants it all.
So, a question as we begin this conversation. I ask it to myself as much as to anyone else. You want to be a good parent, right? You want to handle the stewardship entrusted to you in a fashion that will please your Lord and Savior? Let’s get back to basics. Do you love Him? I have heard parents of wayward children make statements along the lines of, “they know better, they were raised in church.” But did they see a love for the Savior evidenced in your life? Did they see a passionate walk with Christ? Did they see you in the Word- reading it, meditating on it, singing it, applying it, living it, learning it, talking about it, consumed with it? Did they see you in prayer- confessing sin, pleading with God for the souls of others, praying for them, praising the Creator of the universe? Did they see you among God’s people- encouraging, worshiping, loving, edifying, bearing with the difficult? Did they see you live out the faith that you spoke of? How often did they hear you come to them and confess a sin against their little heart, asking for their forgiveness? I have to ask myself, before I think about parenting strategies, correction patterns, and dates with dad- do I love my Lord with everything I have? It is in that love that I will find the love, strength, joy, and power to love and parent those whom God has entrusted to me. I will freely admit that I fall short. But I don’t want to stay here. I want to pillow my head tonight farther ahead than I was this morning, and the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and on and on. Do you? It’s where so many parents stall out before even putting the car in gear, but it is the most basic and fundamental aspect to our parenting our children in a way that brings glory to our God.