As a grandparent, I have had now opportunity to look back on my own parenting to see how my kids turned out. And I am also somewhat of an outside observer of my kid’s parenting styles as they parent our grandkids. Reflecting on what I learned as a dad, I have learned some insights into how God sees his children and his family, that is, those who are following Christ.
I remember learning the difference between childish behavior, such as an accidental spilling of milk, or forgetting to feed the dog, and defiant behavior, such as outright disobedience. I learned not to punish childish behavior, but rather use them as learning opportunities, like how not to put your glass of milk on the edge of the table where it can easily be knocked over.
Sometimes that reminder turned into several reminders until they learned a different behavior. But I learned “childish behavior” was not malicious disobedience or defiance. They were just too young to figure things out so quickly.
But there were times of defiant behavior. Things like temper tantrums when they were not getting their own way, or telling me “No,” when I asked them to do something; or, continuing to do something they were told to stop doing. That is defiant behavior, rebelling against parental authority. For that there were different levels of punishment, from time-out to extra chores or even corporal punishment. The purpose of punishment for defiance was to change behavior lest it turn into something worse. Discipline when children are young essentially protects them from more severe consequences when they are older.
Because I loved my kids very much and would do anything for them, it always pained my heart to dole out any form of punishment. I would rather they have obeyed the rules or honored the authority of their parents. Though not a perfect parent, I always sought to be fair and just; but also to be merciful and gracious parenting our three children. And they all turned out very well. Two of them are parents to our four grandchildren.
Being a dad taught me a lot about God’s role in my life. First, I realized how much God loves me and that he always has my best interests at heart. It may not seem so at the moment, but in God’s perfect love and endless wisdom, he knows best. I can trust his leading and guiding in my life. I can trust when I am tested in life’s trials that God will be there for me.
Second, I learned that God places rules, boundaries and expectations in my life because it is good for me. Sometimes I don’t like the rules. Sometimes I don’t like the boundaries. But when I see them in the “big picture” of my life, I know they are there for a reason. God wants what is best for me because he loves me.
When I don’t follow the rules or when I cross the boundaries, I expect consequences. Breaking God’s rules or laws, or crossing boundaries he has set up for us, is called sin. Sin has consequences. The Bible goes so far to say that “The wages of sin is death.” God punishes sin, but there are also unintended consequences for sin. Sin hurts us and it hurts others.
Of course, I was willing to forgive my kids when they disobeyed, but sometimes there were consequences they had to endure because of breaking rules. If one of my kids got a speeding ticket, I would forgive them and teach them a life lesson. But they would also have the consequence of paying the fine. God loves us the same as hard as it is to let your children face consequences, it is for their benefit.
God is a God of love, but he is also a God who is just. He forgives and restores us. But he will also hold us accountable for our sins. He doesn’t just look the other way when we sin, when we disobey, when we are defiant, he has to deal with our sin. And he did through his Son, Jesus dying on the cross bearing the punishment for our sin. We can put our faith in Jesus and receive what he did for us or we can choose to ignore it and take the punishment on ourselves. Justice will prevail, but God prefers mercy and grace for us when we seek His forgiveness. For God so loved the world he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Faith in God? Or faith in our own way of living our life? Trust God and his love for you!
• Dan Wiese is the pastor of the Church of the Nazarene. “Living Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.