If you want to be a good parent, there are many virtues you can pass on to your kids: scholarship, sportsmanship, citizenship, friendship, ownership, leadership.
If you want to be a Christian parent, there’s only one thing that will do:
It’s easier to try to schedule kids into shape than it is to mold them — easier to manage and organize them than to live a life you can pour around them and form them by.
It’s easier to create citizens of earth than of the kingdom of heaven.
In his instructions to the Colossians families and ours, Paul writes Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged (Colossians 3:21).
And in these final strokes on the portrait of the gospel Paul’s been painting in this letter, we must see this command as we’ve seen all others so far — as a way for both parent and child to steady their footsteps in the way of Jesus. This warning to not provoke our kids is a caution, not for their self-esteem, but for their salvation:
Don’t exasperate — embitter — stir up anger in your children by not building your life on your beliefs — lest they become disheartened in the way of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
Don’t let the way you live out your faith become an obstacle to theirs.
And before this can become a crushing burden — before we can be dismayed by the thought of living up to the law so that our own children might not fall away — we flip back to the first pages of this letter, to the core of the gospel we are called to live and pass down:
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him (Colossians 1:21-22).
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14).
Jesus has been right so that we don’t have to be — not even here, on this holy ground of parenting. True Christian fathers and mothers are focused on His perfection, not ours.
If we build a life on our true beliefs, we won’t go to bed at night thinking about all we have done wrong, but all He has made right.
We’ll find rest from the fear of making mistakes — and watching our kids do the same — in the healing pattern of repentance and forgiveness, gratitude and worship.
We’ll find joy in our failures and those of our children because they shine light on our Savior, who covered them with His blood.
To be Christian parents, we don’t pass down a discipleship of duty and fear and self-sufficiency.
To be Christian parents, we pass down a discipleship of grace and hallelujah and joy.