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As a parent, pledges and promises are effortless. Words flow with ease.
I can say that I want to parent biblically. That requires nothing but the breath I breathe in. But how do I do it?
Even more problematic, how do I do it when things go wrong? How can I discipline my child in a Gospel-centered way?
I think we have to look at a contrast of two ways to discipline: one that mirrors the Gospel, the other that mimics the world.
We can either punish punitively or discipline redemptively.
It may be difficult for us to tell the difference between the two on the surface, but often the attitudes we have or the words we say betray our true intentions.
When we punish punitively, we may tell our child or think to ourselves:
- You’ve hurt me.
- You need to feel pain because of this.
- You should see what you’ve done.
- This punishment is so you’ll think twice next time.
- I don’t want you to ever forget this mistake.
The focus is on our feelings, our reputation. The only role for the child is to be there while we rub their face in their mistake.
But if we are honest, this is our default mode. Disrespect and disobedience from our children does hurt and it becomes easy to lash out at them to show them how it feels.
But God is completely absent from this process. There is no grace, no redemption. There is only law and regret. Biblical parenting is different. Gospel-centered discipline changes the perspective.
When we discipline redemptively, we may tell our child or think to ourselves:
- You’ve sinned against God
- You need to remember grace.
- You should see what Jesus did.
- This discipline is so you’ll think of Christ.
- I want you to move beyond this mistake.
The focus is on the relationship to God being restored. Our role is minimized as we serve as ministers on behalf of our children.
This does not come easy. In fact, it will never happen at all unless we are intentional about infusing our own lives with the Gospel.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7 HCSB)
Just as we received Christ, by grace through faith, continue to live in Him, by grace through faith. But not just live – love, work, run, play, breathe, parent in Him, by grace through faith.
Gospel-centered parenting is just like a Gospel-centered life. It is living in acknowledgment of what Christ did on the cross and recognition of what He is still doing in our lives.
If you want to discipline your child with the Gospel in mind, think of how the Gospel is applied to your own life and live that out in your parenting.