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Fifth in a series, Brain and Bible, linking deep Bible teaching with insights from 12 Rules for Life, by Dr. Jordan B. Peterson.

What is the most important job of a parent? Keeping the baby safe? Financial security? Making sure they get a good start in education?

How about this for a parents job description?
‘The first four years of childhood my job is to promote my child’s opportunity to be liked by children and adults.’

Welcome to Rule #5 Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them

Luke 2:41-52

Go here for discussion guide

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1 Corinthians 4

For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you. So I urge you to imitate me.

Over times some of us reach adult maturity. Adults know how to keep relationships bigger than problems, act like themselves in a group, and take care of the needs of two people at the same time. Themselves and someone else. They have been practicing returning to joy from upset emotions for a while. Because of these habits becoming skills, the adult is emotionally stable and relationally sophisticated enough to stay relational in the face of difficulty. One of the results is you don’t find adult maturity folks turning to addictive behavior to cope.

Then after spending several years practicing the skills of remaining relational, acting like themselves, returning to joy from upset emotions, and enduring hardship well, a few adults are ready for parent maturity. This means practicing all of the RARE leadership habits well, and modeling and teaching these life skills to the next generation.

Dr. Wilder teaches on Paul and the church of Corinth. In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul is saying that parent level maturity is missing from the Corinthian church.They didn’t have anyone with parent-level spiritual and emotional maturity. He said they lacked a “spiritual father.”

Then what happened? The Corinthians had a bunch of people running around the church looking out for themselves and complaining that their needs weren’t getting met. But they didn’t have a lot of mature people to guide folks into a deeper walk with Jesus, a walk that expressed itself in love. There were lots of gifted people, but not many practicing mature love.

Not much has changed, it would seem. Most churches are not lacking for talented or gifted people. Yet, they are starving for leaders with maturity to love well, even in the face of the many problems any community will face.

ME

Gifted people in other arenas of life aren’t always gifted leaders in churches. What does this have to do with maturity levels?

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Ephesians 6

4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

Here, Paul is turning the Roman world upside down again.  Instead of punishing an angry child, the ball falls into the father’s court.  Yes, dad, children are to obey you, but it doesn’t end there.  Parents are called to a mutual responsibility. Parents are to behave appropriately with their children, as well. Parents are not to treat them harshly so the children would become bitter and resentful.

This goes along with the “love your neighbor as yourself” command of Jesus that we considered last week. We saw how to love your neighbor as yourself begins with your closest neighbor.  The closest neighbor you have if you are married is your spouse. Husbands and wives are to devote themselves to each other.

Then, if you have children, they become your primarily focus for devotion and flourishing. When Paul uses the phrase, “Bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord,”  he is mainly speaking of parenting skills. Treat your children as Jesus would treat them if he were you. Here is how Jesus treats children.

“Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.” (Matthew 18)

It can’t be any clearer. The way we treat our children is the way we treat Jesus.  Our children are to flourish. When fathers and mothers care for their children the way Jesus cares for them, their lives are blessed. Now, to be a parent seems a bit overwhelming when you look at it from Jesus’ view. And it is.

Martin Luther went so far as to declare being a parent the highest calling there is. Serving God in this way is the peak of Christian devotion. Think about what our families would look like, what our communities would look like, what our nation would look like if parents would see children as their highest calling and raise them to flourish. Jesus is serious about this. Listen to what he says next.

“But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Jesus is absolutely serious about the way we treat our children. Cherish them, provide for them, protect them, raise them to know how much Jesus loves them, and you will do well.

Treat children harshly, abuse them, ignore them, make them disposable- things will not go well for you. As a family, as a community, as a nation…

ME

What are ways children are treated poorly in our society? How is this different than what God desires?

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Ephesians 4

29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

This is one of the top Christian blindspot verses in the whole Bible. What is a blindspot verse? A teaching from God that is directly violated by many, but hardly ever considered. In Christian families and Christian churches, we directly violate this particular teaching time and again from generation to generation. So often, what comes out of our mouths is not good, it is not helpful and it is not encouraging.

The Bible says, “Speak the truth in love,” but it is only in kind and tender relationships that we can “speak the truth in love.” We may think we are being helpful, but we don’t have the spiritual maturity or skill to speak in such a way that gives helpful feedback. Instead we say things in a way that is heard as harsh criticism and shame.

When Christians speak negatively with each other, in their homes, in their churches, it grieves the Father and weakens any influence for good we might have.  We are called to be encouragers not discouragers.

And language is not just about words. Here, I think of parents. The most foul and abusive language parents can ever use has nothing to do with the “s” word or the “f” word, or, heaven forbid, the “G-D-it” words. The most foul and abusive language a parent can use is probably silence. The lack of words. The most foul and abusive language ever is the language of silence where a child never hears this simple phrase: “I love you.”

Think about it. There are people you know who have parents who never said,  “I love you.” Some of you have parents who were never told they were loved by one of their parents. You may be the child of a parent who hardly ever or never told you or tells you they love you. I am so sorry. You may be the child of a parent who never praised you, only belittled you, who tried to tear you down over and over and over and over.  This is pure evil and sinful and they couldn’t be more sick. They possess sin sick souls. And here is the irony.

Those parents who are so cold and ruthless with their children may even have consider themselves strong Christians. They would never think of cussing! If they ever caught their child cussing, out comes the soap! How dare you say, “Ass?” or dammit?”  “Good Christians don’t swear!”

No how dare you shameful parent! You did not consider how precious your son or daughter is to their Father God? He adores them! How dare you!

If it were up to me, I would have a permanent bar of soap ready and available and I would wash out your mouth for not encouraging your child every second of every day. I would wash it out for eternity.

But, if I consider those parents through the eyes of God, I begin to realize what they must have gone through when they were children that they would become such a spiteful person later. This doesn’t excuse them, but it does make it possible to move toward forgiveness.

ME

When someone is using foul or abusive language, what is your response? Is there another way you could handle this?