Pastor Kyle McIver
You’ve all likely heard the saying, “actions speak louder than words.” What we do really is a form of communication, just like words. Actions also communicate something deeper - they aren’t merely a form of surface-level communication, but a window into our hearts - a demonstration of what we believe. I’ve seen this reality firsthand in my own heart and actions lately, particularly in the area of parenting.
If you were to ask me what it is that I believe about parenting, I’d say that at its core, parenting is about demonstrating God’s character to our children and shepherding them toward Jesus. But if you were to examine my actions over time, they often tell a different story. I’ve been convicted of my own sin lately seeing that my actions often communicate that I simply want my kids to obey. I want them to behave, to have themselves in order. And unsurprisingly when you’re talking about kids who are five, seven, and eight, I find myself frustrated by their disobedience and disorder.
Frustration is often insightful, however. When you’re frustrated or angry, try to trace it back to your heart - look for the root of what is setting you on edge. Feeling the strain of frustration toward my kids led me to talk this out with my wife and realize that my hyper-focus on their obedience was not only making me a grumpy dad but was completely missing the point in how I relate to them.
Parents - your kids are indeed commanded to obey you, and we are commanded to expect this from them. But how do we go about this? Is their obedience to our rules the end goal of raising them? Of course not! We’re looking for a much more substantive kind of obedience. We must resist the temptation to try to produce change and obedience in our children through demanding adherence to the rules, and instead play the long game for their hearts. We must show them Jesus! We need to be heralds of Good News, not auditors of their behavior.
Think of it like this - is it more important to you that your children obey? Or that you consistently show them kindness? Is it a higher priority that they put their toys away before bedtime? Or that you regularly expose them to the person and work of Jesus Christ? Rather than simply answering these questions with words in your head right now, let your actions answer them instead. Parents - what do your actions tell you? Let me be the first to confess that if my actions wrote a book about parenting, it would probably belong in the self-help section, along with thousands of other books that promise transformation but lack the power to deliver.
So, parents - I exhort you this morning to carefully examine your actions, attitudes, and emotions toward your children… follow your parenting frustrations back to your heart, and look for opportunities to repent. If what we want most from our kids is obedience, we’ll find ourselves frustrated. But if what we want most is their faith in Jesus, then we will show them Jesus, we will be heralds of the good news of great joy! Our children need to hear the good news in our words and see its fruit in our actions.