Through the years we have been asked all kinds of questions about the size of our family. We’ve been asked if we were Catholic or Mormon, why we chose to have six kids and if we knew what caused us to have all those kids. But the type of question we received more than any other had to do with the behavior of our kids. People in church who would groan at our arrival would be effusive in their praise just a few minutes later...”Your kids are so good. How do you get them to behave?”
Last week we began discussing what I believe to be the essential principles for raising good kids. I briefly mentioned the importance of the principles of honesty, responsibility, consistency, and respect. Those are all well and good, but they alone are not the key to raising good kids. There is one overarching principle that all others must operate under; one principle that gives all others meaning and purpose.
That principle is FAITH.
Let me state from the beginning that I am unashamedly a Christian. I have a high opinion of the Bible; I believe that it is the standard of our faith and practice, that it provides us with a framework for understanding human nature and the course of history.
Let me further state that I am a Christian who has chosen to be a Baptist and a Baptist who has chosen to be a Southern Baptist. I do not believe that I alone am going to heaven or that I am the only one who has it “right.”
You may wonder why I chose to say “faith” as opposed to “religion.” I strongly believe that religion is one of the many things that are wrong with our world today. “Religion” carries with it the idea of a standardized set of practices and beliefs. Religion tends to force followers into rigid conformity, stifling freedom and creativity. I do not believe that Jesus was primarily concerned with establishing a religion.
I believe that Jesus came to establish a relationship - a relationship between a living God and folks just like you and me. This relationship was founded and is maintained though His Son, Jesus Christ, and is marked by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In that relationship we find the utmost expression of human thought, creativity, and purpose. That relationship can best be summed up in the word faith.
When I talk about faith as the foundational principle for successful parenting I am speaking of faith as manifested in the following concepts:
Faith must be PERSONAL. A parent’s faith alone is not enough. A faith that molds character and influences life choices must be one’s own. There is no such thing as generational faith or secondhand faith. Our children must be led to establish their own faith relationship with Jesus that is vibrant and meaningful. I have serious doubts about any faith that is not personal or that results in no life change. Genuine faith creates change.
Faith must be CENTRAL. This aspect of faith, I feel, is rapidly being lost in our day. Faith cannot be secondary to anything else, not job, not family, not sports, not anything. Yet in today’s culture we discover that the centrality of faith is almost gone as almost everything has become more important that faith. Am I saying that church attendance must trump everything else? Yes and no. Yes, our relationship with Jesus (our faith) must become and remain the predominant principle of our lives. That relationship should inform every decision and every action. Everything should and must be judged in light of that relationship and of the mind of God as revealed in Scripture. When I say no I mean that our blessedness is not dependent upon some type of spiritual bean counting. God is not impressed with devotion by coercion or by just for show spirituality – what God wants is a relationship based on love and devotion given freely and obedience given in the same spirit.
Faith must be INTELLECTUAL. I just lost some of you with the world intellectual. I do not believe that faith is built on superstition and the setting aside of our minds. Yes, there will be times when God asks us to follow him to places that make no sense and asks us to do things that make no sense, but those things will be few and far between. The Scripture is filled with admonitions to study, to reason, to consider...in short, thinking. There are numerous examples of men and women whom God granted great wisdom and understanding, blessing the instruction that they had received. We must instruct our children to embrace the intellectual aspects of belief.
Faith must be MODELED. If you want your children to have a meaningful faith you must model that kind of faith for them. Biblical faith does not develop in a vacuum. Fathers, this is especially true in regards to you. Your sons will grow up to model your faith and daughters will marry men whose faith practice most closely mirrors yours. Genuine faith cannot be passed down, but it can be modeled and serve as a goal for our children to aim for.
Faith must be PRACTICED. This should go without saying, but our children must be taught to practice their own faith. A faith that is not practiced is a faith that is not life changing. Children can be taught the practice of our faith and should be encouraged to engage in those practices.
Why do I belabor the centrality of faith? Faith, a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ, gives each of us a proper perspective of life and our place in the world. Faith gives us an understanding of the concept of authority and a proper relationship to it. And lastly, faith helps us to understand what the nature of genuine love is.
As always, your comments and questions are welcomed both personally and on the Facebook page.