Parenting under the curse of sin is hard work, but our Lord has poured out his grace on parents with the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures. We can trust his parenting principles to actually work. I’d like to share some quick thoughts about parenting from Ephesians 6:4, a verse common to many of us: “Parents, do not exasperate your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Above all else, your child needs a parent with a sincere faith in Jesus Christ. The macro-level context of the verse is Ephesians 4:1, where parents are called to “walk worthy of the calling to which we have been called.” This refers to a parent’s personal walk with Christ in response to the glorious truths of chapters 1-3. There is simply no substitute in the spiritual formation of a child for a parent who genuinely walks with the Lord across all environments—the home, workplace, community and church. Children know a compartmentalized relationship with the Lord is an insincere relationship with the Lord. A sincere faith doesn’t mean a perfect faith; in fact, sincerity is often more clearly seen in failure. The number one way to become a more effective parent is to work on your personal relationship with Christ.
Next, if you are married, your child needs you to sincerely love your spouse and pursue marriage by God’s design. The immediate context of Ephesians 6:4 is God’s design for marriage in chapter 5:22-33. The parents’ marriage is the foundation for stability and security in a child’s life. So, the second most important way to improve your parenting is to strengthen your marriage.
If you are a single parent or married to an unbeliever, please know God’s grace is for you … you are still in the running for effective parenting! One of the most encouraging verses for single parents is 2 Timothy 1:5, where there is no mention of any spiritual influence from Pastor Timothy’s father, only his mother. It seems he either had an unbelieving father or grew up in a single-parent home. Yet Timothy grew up to love Christ and even became a pastor.
Finally, your child needs a whole lot of you and the Bible. Ephesians 6:4 tells parents to be present in their child’s life and to raise them in the training of the Scriptures. First, be physically and mentally present in your child’s life. Show them lots and lots of affection—hug, kiss and cuddle. Tell them every day that you love them and your life is so much better with them in it. Find ways to have fun with them. And be patient with them—they don’t know everything you know. Just because something is minor in the grand scheme of things doesn’t mean it isn’t a mountain to them when they are 8 or 13. Their world is tiny, and in a tiny world, even the tiny things are big. Be fair. Show grace. And take on the responsibility of exposing them to the Bible. There are so many fantastic resources today for exposing children to the Bible. Don’t think you have to deliver complex Bible teaching to your child; throughout the week you can discuss the Sunday morning sermon with them, read and discuss key Bible stories with them, or share with them what the Lord is teaching you in your personal walk with him.
These are three big keys to parenting. And the good news is, any parent can decide at any time to start doing these three things. You can choose to follow Christ, love your spouse Christ’s way, be present in your child’s life, and open the Scriptures to them. None of this requires a certain level of spiritual maturity or Bible knowledge as a prerequisite. Literally, these three big keys to parenting are readily available to any parent who wants them. Isn’t the Lord good to us? If you need mentoring in any of these arenas, turn to your local church—another gift of Christ’s grace for your growth in godliness. “Parents, do not exasperate your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”