So my wife and I are expecting our first child soon and of course we’re very concerned and fearful of how we’ll raise our son. As a teacher and believer, I’ve been exposed to numerous children at all ages at work and at church, and such observations have helped mold my perception of parenthood, but more with what not to do than what to do. I’ve met many parents at school who have a difficult time controlling their children only because they are blind to how their children are mirror images of themselves. So many times my colleagues and I go, “oooooooohhhhhh, now we know why this student acts the way he/she does” when we meet the parent(s). I’ve learned that this places a heavy emphasis on how I act and believe in front of my child, for of course parents are the biggest influence in a child’s life, but all of these encounters still leave a huge hole in my collection of parenting skills, namely what does good parenting look like?
Initially my foremost fear is that we’ll teach our son the law, what is right and what is wrong before God’s sight, whereby fatally placing a heavy emphasis on works-righteousness and salvation through good works. I know that we need to be gospel-centered, but what does that look like, and how does one go about doing so when trying to teach a child right from wrong without emphasizing a good/bad reward/consequence system in the name of grace?
So I picked up Gospel-Powered Parenting by William P. Farley and it has shown me quite a few things. Primarily, the parents must believe and live out the gospel. The first half of the book is used to convict and make sure the reader believes in Jesus Christ and His regenerative work of forgiveness, justification, sanctification through grace. At first I was a little upset because I wanted to learn about some “gospel techniques” in raising up my son, but such talk is futile if the parents have little understanding about what Jesus did on the cross for us. I also appreciate that the author points out that children are innately sinful. There is no such thing as a child born good or well-behaved. Prayers about our child not being foolish should be redirected to him coming to a point in his life to love Jesus and for us as his parents to lead him to Christ. The author points out that our rules, discipline, and love will not change his behavior or beliefs, but that only God can change and turn his heart. We can teach and discipline him all we want, but it is Christ who is the ultimate parent, for when raising children, parents are dealing with non-believers and in any such case, the seeds of the gospel must be planted and God will make it blossom.
I must point out though that the author does talk about total conversion which I am not in direct agreement with, that children are only saved when they exhibit complete loyalty and dedication to Christ with fruit of the Spirit. Such implications question when I first believed and was saved, but I’m at peace with that so whatever. Now I’m looking forward to reading Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson. It’s been given excellent reviews from thegospelcoalition.org and also from my man John Piper.