Summary: Part 2 of series, "Succeeding Where Success Matters Most," this series offers a tongue-in-cheek list of seven ways to make sure children lose interest in spiritual things as they grow up.
Succeeding Where Success Matters Most, prt. 2
Wildwind Community Church
June 19, 2005
You may recall that last week I said that of all areas where it’s important for us to “succeed,” one of the most important is with our spouses. So I placed it first in this series. Our first commitment must be not to our children but to our spouses. Let’s face it, our kids are easier to love sometimes, aren’t they? I mean really, biology dictates that we love our children. We almost can’t help ourselves! But we must CHOOSE to love our spouse, and that’s not always an easy choice, is it? That’s the reason why commitment to spouse must come before commitment to our children. Remember how we discussed last week that only the things that are difficult really build character in us? Remember Jesus words that if we only love those who love us, that’s no credit to us? Well our children always love us, don’t they? Our children, no matter what we do, are there with forgiveness, with a desire to put problems in the past and move on with just loving us and being loved. Do you know what that means? It means that our children already do almost perfectly what the rest of us adults are struggling to learn to do even a little bit – love someone else with unconditional love.
Thus the marriage relationship (if you are married) is the crucible for the formation of God’s character in you. You must choose to love your spouse, you must LEARN to love him/her with perfect love, and from those efforts come the spiritual fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
But I do not want to minimize the parent-child relationship. In a marriage relationship, God is forming each partner as they submit to one another.
Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
But in the parent-child relationship, formation works primarily in one direction – you are forming your child as your child submits to you. Certainly God continues to teach us all kinds of amazing lessons about His love and mercy and grace and forgiveness through our children so I am not saying that there is no formation of the parent – what I’m saying is that the primary formation in this relationship is that of the child. Parents are nothing if not an instrument of formation in the lives of their children. At every level we influence who our children will be, and they will bear the marks of our influence, for good or for ill, for the rest of their lives.
Object lesson here in the form of a question: In what way do you continue to bear the marks of the influence of your parents even to this day? Have you ever fully been able to escape the long shadow cast by your parents? Even the attempts we make to be independent bear the marks of the influence of our parents, for it is their influence we are sometimes struggling to shake off.
I say out loud here what all parents know in the back of our minds –the thing we have learned from experience with our own parents – the thing that if we think about it long enough becomes frightening. Your children will never escape your influence. We pray they will overcome the mistakes we have made. We hope they will surpass our highest achievements. We hope they do not have to spend too much money in therapy dropping some of the baggage we might leave them with despite our best intentions. But ultimately we hope that in some key ways, they carry on in their lives the most essential things we have struggled to pass on to them. In fact that is our exact duty as parents – to pass on to our children the basic attitudes and skills they will need to live life on their own in this world.
Last week we saw that a Christian is a citizen of two worlds – this physical world we live in that surrounds us and so thoroughly overwhelms our senses that it is difficult to pay attention to anything else – and the spiritual world that Christianity teaches is actually MORE real than this all-encompassing physical reality. I leave it to the schools and to experts who have written greats books on the subject of parenting to teach you how to make sure your children grow into good citizens of this world – people who pay their taxes and vote and contribute to society. This morning I want to talk to you about what it means to make sure our children grow into good citizens of the world that is far more important – the spiritual world.