On Tuesday we talked about the challenge of developing Christ-honoring relationships while in a military community. Today I want to think about how my obedience to God in this area affects how I parent my children.
First, my children learn about friends by my example. They are listening to what I talk about with my friends, and whether the things of the Lord are shared with enthusiasm. They will see whether our commitment to others extends past our comfort zone, or stops when we are inconvenienced. In a way, our example defines normal to our children. My sister-in-law Rebecca naturally shares the gospel with others. She has a comfortable, gracious manner that I admire greatly, but I recognize in addition to obeying God’s Word she’s following an example that was normal in her home. In like manner, how I regularly interact with other believers (and even whether most of my friends are believers) sets a tone that is easy to follow, because that’s what families do.
If I stop at defining normal in this way, I’m little different than perpetuating a friendly, moral, but unsaved family. My children are listening to why I want them to be polite and friendly. Our motivation is everything, and that I must share explicitly. We teach biblical motivation with small children when we give them reasons while teaching them to reach out.
- “When you are friendly, you’re sharing God’s love with others” is much better than
- “If you’re not friendly, people will think you’re stuck up.”
We are showing them why we should forgive:
- Jesus knows what it is like to love and be rejected. He tells us to forgive others because He forgave us.
- That lady was very rude in the store, but mommy wants to be kind because God tells us to forgive people who are unkind to us.
We are showing them why we are helping others:
- When you are sharing your toys, you are obeying God and showing His love to our friends.
- Mommy wants to take this soup to Mrs. Smith because she is discouraged and we want to encourage her like God wants us to.
We explain why we should not despair when we’re saying goodbye.
- It’s hard to say goodbye to our friends, but we know that we will see other Christians in heaven someday.
- Mommy is praying because she misses our friends and wants to trust God.
- God lets us meet many different friends from all over. I wonder whom He will bring next.
Is the picture they receive when looking at my life a correct one? Or do I teach by my example something that the Bible condemns? Am I explicitly teaching a godly motivation for reaching out to others? I think I’ve got a lot of teaching to do.
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