Beyond Manners: Trade Nice Parenting for a Bold Gospel
- Thursday, November 01, 2007
A football coach at a Christian high school told me it can take the better part of a season to convince his players that it’s okay to try hard in competing against your opponent. ‘‘Many think it’s wrong to,’’ he says, rolling his eyes. ‘‘Some of these boys think it’s wrong to tackle another person. Some of them I’ll never convince otherwise.’’
Why would teenage males believe it’s wrong to compete? Why would Christian school kids believe it’s wrong for them to set a boundary against an aggressive child or to be proactive, protective, and loving by defending someone being bullied? One primary reason is that we’re not showing them all of Jesus, the one who said, “Leave her alone” (John 12:7). Read the Gospels, and you see that, yes, Jesus is the Lamb who was offered as a sacrifice for us. But read Revelation, too; do we know and remember that He’s also the Lion, God’s Ultimate Warrior?
Jesus is meek — He said so himself. Meekness is synonymous with yielding and being submissive. But do we ever pause to ask ourselves, What is Jesus meek toward? We cannot read the Gospels and conclude that He was submissive to the will of man, which is always tainted with self-interest and is sometimes wicked. Jesus is submissive to His Father’s will. This is our calling, as well, and it’s what we should be teaching our children. And being submissive to our Father’s will sometimes brings us into conflict with this world.
Meekness isn’t false humility, meekness isn’t timidity, and meekness isn’t terror of conflict. Meekness is knowing who we are, believing that what God says is true, and then submitting to Him in obedience because we love Him in response to His love for us. Overall, that’s not what our children are receiving from many of us. Many of us are sending our children out onto life’s daily battlefield in fear that’s born from overprotection.
Making matters worse: One study shows that 85 percent of people who attend church possess what can be described as a passive personality. Passive people are almost always fearful people who extend fake niceness. They are “kind to a fault.” Yet instead of learning how to be more like Jesus by becoming more bold and courageous, they hear sermons that encourage them to be even nicer and more pleasant -- even when they come face-to-face with clear examples of cruelty, injustice and wickedness. For many, it’s the wrong prescription, like giving birth control to a diabetic. Passive people already play life too safe, and they go to churches that tell them to play life even safer, producing children who are even more in love with safety than the risk that accompanies genuine faith and purposeful living.
Our noble goal is to raise assertive —not passive or aggressive — children who are able to live abundant lives and are better able to love God and others. This requires helping our children to grow the tougher virtues. But for some Christian parents still reading from the Official Script instead of the Gospel facts, encouraging kids to be more ruggedly righteous and to embrace virtues like boldness, tough self-love and tough other-love is a frightening mandate that borders on (and even crosses over into) unChristian behavior. The opposite is true. I’m not advocating the development of children who are selfish and mean — again, just the opposite.
I’m talking about children who are well-schooled in assertive living and are more likely to become powerful and redemptive forces for good. People who understand that in order to possess integrity, a person must be willing to use force justly, which is part of the original definition of integrity. Children who, as adults, will be better able to handle their own tears and to help dry the tears of this world. Children who, throughout their lives, can love their neighbor and ‘‘encourage the timid and help the weak’’ (1 Thessalonians 5:14) by sharing their strength and goodness.
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