Texts for the Week: Gen. 18:11; Jer. 31:25; Matt. 11:28; Psalm 127; Prov. 22:6; 1 Sam. 3:10–14; Phil. 3:13
Memory Text: “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3, NKJV).
Opening Question: “Is there a good recipe for parenting?”
So we come now to a lesson on the subject of parenting. In one way or another, we are all affected by parenting either in our growing up years or later when we are called on to be a parent. Further, the propagation of the human race is itself linked to parenting. Where parenting is done carefully and well, people thrive. Where it is neglected or done poorly, people suffer.
So what can be said about the Bible and parenting? What can we say about parenting today? First, that it is a significant challenge but one that can be very rewarding. And, certainly, the norm for all of history has been for people to become parents. But not all people become parents. Some do not become parents because they choose not to due to a host of reasons a common one being the nature of life, how complicated and even wicked it is. Others do not become parents because they are unable to for some reason or another. These reasons can range from not marrying to some medical or biological issue that prevents conception and pregnancy. Because of the dynamics that are found here, it is always a good idea to approach the subject of parenting with sensitivity. Some people do not want to parent; some would like to but are unable to; some have as many children as they like.
- Think about how you might approach and talk about parenting to people in each of the groups mentioned above – those who choose not to have children; those who cannot have children; those who have children.
- Might it be possible for those who want children but cannot have them to find a way to come alongside those who have children to enter their common experience? They could become childless parents, perhaps?
There are several aspects to parenting that we might explore. The first is that the way people go about the task of parenting is very much connected to their perceptions of human beings, what we are by nature. If humans are basically bad, then parenting tends to be authoritarian and sometimes harsh. If parents happen to think people are basically good, then they will let their children self-actualize on their own believing that love will lead the children aright. If they see humans as good but contaminated by sin, they will be inclined to give guidelines but not harsh ones. This latter zone is the best one for parenting. Children tend most readily to come out as well-balanced adults who have not much junk in their lives. The first category tends to produce rebellious children while the second one results in children who may turn out well but are likely to have a lot of misdoings along the way.
We might also note that the Bible gives examples of good parents as well as not-so-good ones. Can you think of some in each of these categories? To get you started, you might think of Abraham who became the father of three generations of liars because of his example.
Another aspect to give thought to is that of single parenting, likely one of the most challenging undertakings known to humans. Often those who parent alone face the assumption that they had their child out of wedlock when, in reality, there are many reasons that could have caused the situation of being a single parent – Hagar was driven out of her home due to jealousy; the woman Elijah was went to stay with was a widow; Bathsheba became pregnant because of the sexual advance of a powerful man; somewhere along the way while raising Jesus, Mary lost her husband Joseph making her a single parent. So give some thought to how a church family might be of significant assistance to people who, for one reason or another, end up being single parents.
One of the very difficult items associated with parenting has to do with children who decided to walk away from the belief systems their parents gave them, systems the parents hold dear. What then? The first thing to bring to mind is that humans have freedom of choice so it is quite possible that a child may decide to go his or her way even when a parent has done a very good job teaching them. Probably the best way to proceed with this is to manifestly love your wayward child, and also to pray for them continually and not lose hope. A key element is to refrain from antagonizing the child thereby making a permanent rift.
Parenting does provide many opportunities for a parent to disciple a child, teaching them the ways of God, showing them the ways of God. It is a good thing to keep in mind that actions speak far louder than words.