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The Responsibilities of a Parent

Families are an amazing thing. They are joyous, chaotic, tender, boisterous, loving, safe, tight-nit, and warm, to name just a few qualities. Some families are the opposite of these expressions, but when we think on the healthy side of the coin, it is amazing to see all these characteristics (and more) wrapped up in one unit.

It is quite a shift for young couples when they begin to have kids. Life begins to change with new rhythms and priorities being formed. We have some examples to look at and the experience of our own childhood as a defining lens (good or bad) to help us choose what we want our family to look like. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could have things spelled out clearly as to what should define a family and the role we are to play as parents? The good news is that we have this in God’s Word. We might be tempted to think there are merely a few nuggets of truth in scripture that apply, but the truth is that it contains all the principles we need to lead a healthy family, fulfill God’s purpose for it, and to be the parents we were designed to be to our kids.

When we look to the Bible, we can boil down the responsibilities of a parent to three main things: to lead, to teach, and to discipline.

Lead

In Genesis 18:19, as God contemplates telling Abraham what He is about to do Sodom and Gomorrah, He says this about him: “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” God had chosen Abraham as the father to His chosen people. We see here that what God desired of him in this “parental” role: to lead his “children” to keep the way of the Lord through righteousness and justice. We are called to do the same! We are to lead our homes toward loving and honoring God in all that we do as well as to care for those who are in need.

Teach

Psalm 78:4 says: “We will not hide them [the things that had been heard and known from their fathers] from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” We need to teach our kids good manners, good hygiene, and how to read. But these things and everything else pale in comparison to the primary importance of teaching our kids about who God is, what He has done, and what He has promised to do. We must teach them the gospel and impart to them the truth of salvation by grace through faith.

Discipline

Proverbs 23:13 says: “Do not withhold discipline from a child;”. The responsibility of the parent is to do the necessary heart-shaping work that is required to build children who will honor and obey God. This isn’t always a negative thing (punishment), but is a proactive task of teaching healthy behavior, rhythms, and actions. Every child needs the transformative work of Jesus in their life to turn them from a life of sin to a life of faith and obedience. God has placed us as parents on the front lines of this work. It has the capability of changing lives, communities, and generations.

Parents, our job is not always easy. Let me encourage you to not be ensnared by the trap that says we simply need to be our child’s friend. The Bible gives us incredible wisdom and instruction on how to fulfill our role in line with God’s design.

Of these two actions, it is easiest for both us and our kids to understand what it means to believe. We have heard the good news of Jesus and what He has done, we have heard His claim that He is the only way to the Father, and therefore we understand what it means to believe He is who He says He is, He has done what He says He did, and that He will do what He promises. It isn’t easy to put our faith in trust in Him, but it is an easier concept to understand. Repentance is often harder to grasp.

Repentance is turning away from sin and back to God. It is understanding our sin and its consequences, grieving that sin, asking Jesus for forgiveness, and then placing Him as the Lord of our life. We put to death our life that is dominated and directed by sinful desire and place ourselves under the commands and desires of God. Repentance is change. We can’t just look at the gospel and agree with it, our response to it must be one of change. Author Rosaria Butterfield states that “true repentance involves a change of mind, a change of affections, and a change in your life.”

What does it mean for someone to have a change of mind? Psalm 51 provides a picture of what is required: David writes, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” When Nathan rebukes King David for his affair with Bathsheba and calls him to repentance, this is the beginning of his response. His first words show a change of mind. He is confronted with the egregiousness of his sin, and he grieves over it. He recognizes that what he has done is not good and is evil in the eyes of the Lord. He doesn’t make excuses for his sin but shows that he now sees it for exactly what it is. This leads to his confession: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (v.4).

As we lovingly disciple our children toward an initial and ongoing response to the gospel, we need to help them understand that what is required is more than just belief. Our response of repentance, to turn away from the very thing that has created enmity between us and God, is vital. This all starts with a change of mind. We need to help them see their sin for what it is, evil against God rather than just a mistake or something inconsequential. Without a change of mind, there will never be a change of heart.

Everyday for our kids (and us!) is a battle against sin. Rather than only getting them to stop a wrong action, we want to lead them toward the transformation of their minds toward their sin for the goal of true repentance.

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