What is Christian Parenting and what makes it unique? In this series we seek to answer that question. Part 1 gave some definitions to consider. Part 2 examines the foundation of Christian parenting.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” – Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV)
If you are a parent you will eventually have a day – or many days, as I’ve experienced – when you question what you’re doing. You will start to wonder if you are a good parent. You will become exasperated with your children. You will be tempted to blame your children for your problems. You will feel like finally exploding and lashing out at the little rebels you brought into this world.
You will have a day when you feel like the weight of the responsibility of parenting will crush you. You will feel like the task of raising your children is too great a burden for you to bear.
You will face a day when suffering comes knocking on your door and you have to address it with your kids and yourself.
On that day – on that frustrating, enraging, terrifying, depressing, lonely day – on what will you stand? What will hold you up as the waters of life start to rise around you?
What is your foundation?
Over the last few months my family and I have watched men building a house in the once-empty lot next to us. First they cleared trees away from the build site so they could have room for the house. Then they used excavators and bulldozers to level out the area on which the house would be built. They brought in truckloads of sand and shaped the sand into a flat plateau that matched the dimensions of the house so they could insert pipes for electrical line, water, and gas into the exact spots required on the house plans.
Then they brought in lumber to erect the frame, covered it with plywood, attached the roof and secured windows into exterior cutouts.
Wait….I skipped a step.
After putting in pipes, the contractors poured tons of concrete to lay the foundation for the house. They leveled it out and waited for it to dry. Then they started raising the house itself.
Imagine that your family is like a house and that raising your children is like the process of constructing that house. Before you build your house, you need a solid foundation to build on. Otherwise, when the storms of life come, the sand underneath your beautiful, painstakingly constructed, open floor plan, HGTV-worthy dream home will be swept away and the whole structure will crash down.
The only solid foundation that will never move, never change, never shift, never break, and never weaken is Jesus Christ. And the only way to build your family on him is to build your life on him first.
Now as a side note, I am being very deliberate when I say that Jesus Christ needs to be the foundation of your life. Generically saying that God needs to be the foundation is not quite specific enough, as you can believe in any manner of deity and say that you believe in God. Most people will understand that when I refer to Jesus I mean the historical man Jesus of Nazareth, whose life and teaching is recorded in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. When I call him Christ, I am affirming that he is worthy of the title of Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the King of all creation and the Savior of God’s people.
So what does it mean to have Jesus Christ as the foundation for your life?
First, it means you believe that what the Bible says about Jesus is true – he really lived, he really did what the Bible says he did, he really died, he really rose from the dead, and what he said about himself is true. This belief itself requires a belief that the Bible, including both the Old and the New Testament, is not just a religious text but is actually a true account of who God is and how we should relate to him.
To this end, I encourage you to research the Bible. Determine for yourself how the events described in the Bible line up with historical research and archaeology. Learn about the history of Bible translation, textual criticism, manuscripts, textual transmission, and how Christians have interpreted the Bible over the centuries. Find books, written by both Christians and non-Christians, that challenge your assumptions about what the Bible says and how to read it. If you have never examined your own beliefs about the Bible, you cannot know if those beliefs hold up to scrutiny. Personally, my research into the Bible over the years has solidified my belief that it’s telling the truth about Jesus.
Second, having Jesus Christ as the foundation means you believe he is worthy of your eternal trust and allegiance. Having faith in Jesus goes beyond belief that he is real, even beyond belief that he is God incarnate – after all, even the demons know that he is God. Faith in Jesus means that you stake your entire being on him. You affirm your need to be saved from the power of and punishment for your sins and that the substitutionary death of Jesus is the only way to be saved. You affirm the deity of Jesus as God the Son and therefore affirm his supremacy and authority over all creation – including you.
Third and finally, having Jesus Christ as the foundation means you live out faith in Jesus as the living God on a daily basis. If Jesus really rose from the dead and rules as God, it should not feel odd to speak to him, sing to him, and keep on the lookout for his action in the world. This means talking to God as you would a dear friend, keeping nothing from him, honestly sharing your fears, joys, disappointments, gratitude, sins, desires, needs, and hopes. You ask him for help and guidance with trust that he will give you what you need.
Faith in Jesus is the solid foundation for your parenting. But here’s a warning: if you seek to deepen your faith for the purpose of becoming a better parent, you’ll wind up digging a well of sand. Jesus is not a means to an end; he is the end. He is worth pursuing independently of any benefit that such pursuit might bring you in this world. The difference between pursuing Jesus for the sake of knowing him and pursuing him for the purpose of making your life work better is like the difference between taking your spouse on a date to get to know them better versus taking them on a date so they’ll agree to you buying a new trinket for some hobby.
You can’t build a house without a foundation, and you can’t live life as a Christian apart from a solid faith in Jesus Christ. If Jesus is the rock upon which we build our lives, he is also the rock from which the stones for our houses are hewn. We’ll discuss how those stones can be put together in Part 3: the Goals of Christian Parenting.