Walk the Walk, don’t just Talk the Talk
We all know that children are little sponges that soak up whatever we parents tell them and also whatever they see us do. Not surprisingly, when we have family devotionals with our children, they hear us teach them the Word of God, sometimes by using fun activities, oftentimes by memorizing pertinent verses, but always with the best of intentions. The questions every parents must ask her-/himself, however, is whether or not s/he undoes with actions what s/he just taught with words.
In other words, if you are teaching your child about the virtue of patience, yet your offspring sits in the backseat of the family sedan and hears you scream and yell at other drivers, what are you really teaching? In the same way, if you teach your child that God loves all people, yet s/he hears you make a racial slur or joke, what are you really teaching?
Are you “Christus Obnoxium”? (1)
Another area where the parental rubber meets the teaching road is the way a parent carries her-/himself when around other folks, whether they are Christians or not. Christ called us all to be His ambassadors, but are you taking it too far? Are you hitting perfect strangers over the head with your thumbed through version of the KJV? Has evangelism become a comfortable part of your every-day routine or has it become an unnatural-feeling part of the embarrassment your child feels s/he endures on the way to the bank or at the grocery store?
Children must be taught to be about God’s business, and part of that is to become His ambassadors; at the same time, if they think that your efforts at evangelism are an act put on for their benefit, they will not be able to attain the convictions that will later enable them to see Christianity as a lifestyle rather than a Sunday activity.
So...what’s a Parent to do?
I’m glad you asked (smile)! What your child needs from you, more than anything, is your example of loving God with all your heart, soul, and spirit. S/he does not need to see a perfectly executed rebuke of another person nor does s/he need to hear the same stale invitation to come to church that has lost all its joy and fire. Instead, s/he desperately needs to see your love for God expressed in all the big and little ways you can throughout the day. For example,
- When you are at the store, buy an extra bag of food and take it to someone you know is in need. If you don’t know anyone who is in need, get more involved within your church...there are always people in need.
- Make a little card to encourage the other parent...especially when there is not special occasion like a birthday or Valentine’s Day.
- Ask your child if there is anyone they would like to encourage, and then help your child make a card or little craft for that person.
- When you blow it (and you will) acknowledge it to your child and apologize. Don’t seek to justify yourself. It doesn’t fly with God, and it won’t fly with your child, either.
- And, last but certainly not least, be an example of the Golden Rule...treat others the way you would want to be treated. This means holding open doors, calling others just to encourage them, asking someone if you can run an errand for them or watch their children for an evening, playing Chutes & Ladders for the 13th time that night, just because your little one asks and remembers to say “please” without prompting, and it also means giving you child some pots, pans and spoons to make “a joyful noise” to the Lord and thereby teaching them that God wants them to have fun with Him...and then joining her/him in that music.
So go ahead, and make this one of your New Year’s resolutions; and while you’re at it, why not move it to the top of the list?
(1) Latin for “Obnoxious Christian”
This article was previously published at Suite101's Christian Parenting topic.