WE WERE IN A MCDONALDS PLAY AREA for lunch after church. Next to me was a young mother with two sons, about age four and six. The four year-old was in trouble. “Sit on this chair,” his mother said. “Your punishment is time-out for ten minutes.” She put out her hand to restrain him, but her son cocked his fist and took a viscous swing at his mother’s arm. Then he looked her in the eye and said with vehemence, “I hate you!”
What amazed me was not the child’s sinful reaction, but his mother’s. She did nothing. She did not get angry. She did not scold him. She just ignored him. She acted as if this was normal acceptable behavior, the kind of thing any mother would normally excuse, just childish immaturity.
She was the one with the problem, and her son reflected it. She did not see sin through God’s eyes. She did not feel about it as does God. She tolerated rebellion and disrespect.
We can probably excuse her. Hopefully she was not a Christian. She didn’t know better. But how about you? How about most professing evangelicals? Many in the church would react like this mother, but in doing so they unintentionally scandalize the gospel. That’s a strong statement, so let me explain.
Parents represent God to their children. “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1). This means that God has put every parent in their child’s life to represent his authority to that child. Parents need to be firm where God is firm, gracious where God is gracious, and decisive where God is decisive.
God hates sin, especially disrespect for authority. We should hate it also because authority is the ultimate issue. On the Day of Final Judgment our children will give an accounting to God for their response to his authority. Did they embrace it, love it, and submit to it? Or, did they hate it, flaunt it, or rebel against it? How they related to God’s authority will determine their eternal destiny, either eternal conscious torment, or joy “inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8).
The Old Testament shows us how God feels about authority. “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death” (Exodus 21:15). “Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death” (Exodus 21:17). “Cursed be anyone who dishonors his father or his mother” (Deuteronomy 27:16). Proverbs 30:17 sums it up with graphic language. “The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey its mother will be plucked out by the Ravens of the Valley, and eaten by the vultures.” God has designed these words to get our attention. Although capital punishment for these sins does not apply in the New Covenant, it shows us how God feels about child rebellion and the eternal consequences that could follow.
As we have seen, God gives parents to children to teach them what God is like, to help them internalize God’s feelings about sin. God is slow to anger. He is patient with the weak. He shows grace to the undisciplined. But it is a colossal mistake to presume upon his goodness. God is never tolerant of evil. He hates it. The cross is the measure of that hatred. When Jesus died he took the capital punishment that each of us deserve for these sins against our parents. The cross shouts this message. “God hates rebellion. It deserves crucifixion, and God must justly punish it.” Either your children will put their faith in Christ and he will absorb God’s wrath for them, or they will receive it themselves through eternal damnation.
So, what should this mother have done? She should have reacted decisively. God is not patient with these sins, therefore, no parent should be either. She should have said something like this. “Do you have any idea how serious your sin is? In the Old Testament this rebellion would have provoked the death penalty. God is angry, and so am I. I am not going to discipline you in public. But when we get home I am going to spank you. I am going to do this because I love you. God disciplines the sons that he loves, and so do I.”
How about you? Do you see it this clearly? This is how an understanding of the gospel affects parenting. It provokes us to act. And our action produces happy, contented, respectful adults that bring praise, honor, and glory to our Father in heaven. For more on age appropriate corporal punishment that does not hurt your child but connects pain to disobedience go to Biblical Discipline That Makes Children Fun.
Would love to hear your comments…