I recently discovered this quote from John Piper (Here is the source):
The most fundamental task of a mother and father is to show God to the children. Children know their parents before they know God. This is a huge responsibility and should cause every parent to be desperate for God-like transformation. The children will have years of exposure to what the universe is like before they know there is a universe. They will experience the kind of authority there is in the universe and the kind of justice there is in the universe and the kind of love there is in the universe before they meet the God of authority and justice and love who created and rules of the universe. Children are absorbing from dad his strength and leadership and protection and justice and love; and they are absorbing from mother her care and nurture and warmth and intimacy and justice and love—and, of course, all these overlap.
And all this is happening before the child knows anything about God, but it is profoundly all about God. Will the child be able to recognize God for who he really is in his authority and love and justice because mom and dad have together shown the child what God is like. The chief task of parenting is to know God for who he is in his many attributes, and then to live in such a way with our children that we help them see and know this multi-faceted God. And, of course, that will involve directing them always to the infallible portrait of God in the Bible.
The idea of parenting our children as God parents us has gripped me for over a year. I’ve had a few friends and a few books steering my thinking in that direction, even before I came across this Piper quote. I haven’t fully wrapped my mind around the idea yet, but I’m fascinated by it and would welcome any discussion on the topic.
How does God deal with disobedient children? This has been the hardest facet of this topic for me to understand. The punishment for my sin was paid in full by Jesus Christ, and I am no longer under condemnation for my sin. God has shown me grace. When I first began thinking about this topic, I wondered, “So, in order to parent my children as God parents me, am I to show grace toward my children and overlook their sin?” Is that how God parents us? Overlooking their sin didn’t seem right, and it didn’t line up with other parenting verses in the Bible.
Because I am God’s child, there is no punishment in store for me, but does He let me continue in sin? Look at Hebrews 12:6-11:
For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
So, God does not punish his children, but He does chasten his children. What does “chasten” mean? According to Strongs Concordance, the word means, “to train, educate, discipline.” And the word “rebuke” means “to convince, tell a fault, reprove.” The word “scourge” refers to corporal discipline.
Here are some keys that I’ve taken away from this passage:
1. I no longer “punish” my children. Instead, I correct or discipline them. You might think this is just a matter of semantics, but, really, punishment and discipline have different goals. The goal of punishment is to make my children “pay” for their disobedience. The goal of discipline is to correct their behavior and to teach my children. You’ll often see me guiding my children in “doing it again the right way.” We try to use lots of scripture to show them God’s ways. We remind them whose “team” we’re on.
2. In verse 10 we see that discipline is for our children’s profit. It is not to make my life easier or to give me a vent for my frustrations. I think we all know this in our hearts, but it’s easy to react in the moment and make it all about me.
3. From verse 11, the goal at the end of my discipline is “the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” I should not walk away from a discipline situation still holding my child accountable for his disobedience. I should not walk away angry, nor should he. My goal is for my child to realize that his disobedience is wrong and to help him make the right choice. I want us to be hugging and smiling in the end, not walking away feeling resentful toward each other. This goal in mind affects my attitude toward my child when he has disobeyed. I am working toward restoration, rather than vindication.
I am in no way the perfect example of this type of parenting, but I think it’s right, and I’m growing and become a better parent, I think, as I strive to parent my children as God parents me.
I welcome your thoughts on this topic. My thinking is always sharpened by thoughtful, God-loving friends.