As parents who care for our children’s spiritual well-being, we try to teach them right and wrong and help them tackle whatever spiritual problems they encounter.
However, other than the fact that they’re born into sin, it may well be that a child’s biggest spiritual problem is that the grace they hear about in the gospel story is not what they experience in their closest relationships. The same parents who send them to Sunday School fight in the car on the way home from church and don’t resolve well. Or they yell at their kids impatiently. Or they complain openly about other people. Or they insist on being right. Or they discipline angrily and without grace. The list goes on.
We may think our kids won’t notice these behavioral contradictions, but increasingly they do notice and feel embittered (Col. 3:21) or exasperated (Eph. 6:4).
I was reminded of this when I led the children’s choir in my church. One of the songs the kids learned was from Galatians 5:22. After singing through the listed spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, one of the children said, “Someone should teach that list to my dad.” The child’s dad was a church leader.
We realize of course that no parent gets it just right. That’s what grace is for! But in our work with churches and their families over the past twenty years, we see more and more children saying that the way their parents act at church and the way their parents act at home are entirely different. We have spoken with many churched teens who flat out say, “My parents are hypocrites!”
If this sounds familiar, make it a point to start making small changes. Pray before disciplining. Ask for forgiveness when you know you’ve blown it. Invite your kids to pray for or serve others together with you. Learning to receive and live by the fruit of God’s Spirit yourself may well be the the key to more kids saying, “My parents’ faith is real, and it compels me to live by faith myself.” Change doesn’t happen overnight, but little differences in your attitude and behavior can begin to turn the momentum and bring real faith to life in your home!
- When was a time when your kids saw you live by the fruit of the spirit? If this question is hard to answer, ask your children.
- What could you do to live like that more often?
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