Earlier this week I attended a family funeral and enjoyed reconnecting with cousins I hadn’t seen in 13 years or so. In spite of the circumstances, it was nice to catch up a bit and to see the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, all of us connected by family ties if not genes.
During his message, one of the pastors admonished us to remember how fleeting life is and that, besides our walk with the Lord, building and nurturing relationships with others is more important than any other way we can spend our time. I felt myself wanting to shout “Amen!” from my folding chair. The man was speaking my language.
I couldn’t help but think of his words as I processed a story that a friend had recently shared with me, a tale of broken relationships, shattered dreams, and the typical bad lifestyle choices. What a tragedy it is to realize that a family, whose members profess to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, can so completely miss the absolute calling on their lives to build relationships with one another!
In Ephesians 6:4, Paul gives this instruction, “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The Greek word, “paideuo,” translated as “nurture,” is one of rich meaning and certain application, especially for those of us who have committed to homeschooling our children.
A particular type of instruction and training, “paideuo” emphasizes teaching children the truths of Scripture and the thought processes for logically applying Biblical truth to their own lives. It is instruction that seeks to influence the mind with the parent coming alongside and, most importantly, inspiring the child toward whatsoever things are good. Sometimes translated as “chastening,” as in Hebrews 12, it portrays the true picture of the Christian life, not the pursuit of holiness by browbeating or punishment, but rather, the “paideuo” that comes as we learn to endure the difficulties of life. It is the process of one anothering our children through exhortation; it is entering into a relationship with them that provides an organic environment for spiritual growth for all of us.
As parents, we really have three choices as we relate to our children and their “paideuo.” We can ignore them, which I believe occurs in many homes, including Christian ones. Instruction of spiritual truth is left up to Sunday School teachers and youth workers, bad behaviors and attitudes aren’t addressed out of laziness or because parents, themselves, don’t grasp the truths of a life lived for Christ. And it is sometimes the chosen method of relating to young adults in the name of “freedom” or “choice,” as though there is no right or wrong.
Our second choice is not much better, though it is certainly one approach that is taught in most Christian books on raising children and is assumed to be “biblical.” We can choose to use confrontation and punishment as our tools for training children to comply to acceptable behavior, though usually only out of fear, and its proponents are correct, it does work if a certain outward behavior is the goal. But, as many families will tell you, this system of “relationship building” in the home produces either bitter and angry children or ones who cannot rightly discern truth outside of some legalistic religious system. It is certain to provoke children to anger and does not address the truth that we are all sinners, in our hearts, and in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ every single day.
However, there is a third choice, the one Scripture admonishes us to make. I believe that what the Apostle Paul is telling parents is that “paideuo” is the way to relate to our children. We are to be hands-on parents, ones who come alongside our children and help them make good decisions at each stage of life. When they are toddlers, this means repeatedly helping them learn to live peaceably within the family, helping them sleep at night by reading to them and comforting their fears. It means showing them the right way to relate to siblings and to play safely. As they get older, we teach them that following the Lord Jesus will mean that there will be chastening, not punishment but natural consequences, that occurs as we make choices that are contrary to His will for us, and we assure them that we, too, experience such chastening as believers. It is get-up-off-your-butt parenting that requires endurance, patience, and a willingness to be transparent and vulnerable and it is hard work!
A New Year is here and as I look forward to all it has to bring in my life, I am most excited about the things the Lord will teach me, the “paideuo” that is down the road. Let’s commit to pray for each other as we purpose to raise and homeschool our precious children in 2011, being parents who give all we have to “paideuo,” to come alongside them and inspire them, for the glory of God!