There are thousands of books and millions of articles written to give you advice on how to be a parent, and in particular, a Christian parent.1Way too many of them come from single guys or newlywed couples, but that’s a point for another day.
Most of them tell you some of what not to do as a new mom or new dad. Many of them end up making you feel like a failure because you’ve already broken half the rules before you even realized they were rules.
Parenting is hard enough as it is. I’m not trying to heap more guilt on you or add something else to your to-do or to-not-do list. But I do wish someone would’ve told me how tempted I would be, even as a Christian parent who loves my kids and wants to see them know and love Jesus, to focus on something other than their spiritual growth.
The most dangerous part of this temptation is how simultaneously subtle and destructive it can be. We can be “doing all the right things” but be missing the most important thing.
This happens when we miss out on sanctification parenting by pursuing reputation parenting. The two may appear similar on the surface, but a life focused on the latter will have grave consequences in your heart and the hearts of your children.
Let me explain the two types of Christian parenting.
Reputation parenting is primarily concerned with the spiritual reputation of the parent. We do what we do as a parent with the goal of having others see us as a respectable Christian parent.
We seek compliments from others for how great a parent we are and how well behaved our children are. Those words can ensnare our hearts with pride and build pressure in the lives of our children to reach an impossible standard.
Because of that, we should work to recognize the insidious way it entangles our home life. Think through the way you interact with your children.
- Is your first reaction to disobedience, “What will people think of me?”
- Is your main concern that your children “do the right thing”?
- Is your greatest fear that they publicly rebel?
Whether we’d like to admit it or not, reputation parenting is our default mode of parenting. I recognize it my own heart. It remains a constant temptation.Reputation parenting ensnares parents' hearts with pride and builds pressure in the lives children to reach an impossible standard. Click To Tweet
Our parenting must be saturated in the gospel and that cannot and will not happen if we are concerned with our reputation. We must reorient ourselves toward sanctification parenting.
Sanctification parenting is primarily concerned with the spiritual growth of your children. You do what you do as a parent with the goal of seeing them become mature believers in Christ.
Every Christian parent desires to do that. It’s the mother or father we strive to be. But all too easily, our focus can subtly shift from their sanctification to our reputation.
Instead of reluctantly answering yes to the three questions above, we need to make these the statements that drive us.
- My first reaction will be, “How can I help them grow?”
- My main concern will be, “Is their heart pointed toward Christ?”
- My greatest fear is that they’ll end their life having never known Jesus.
Notice the move from what others think to what helps the child grow, the standard of others to the knowledge of Christ, avoiding embarrassment for you to avoiding a good, religious life apart from Jesus for your child.
To move away from reputation parenting and toward sanctification parenting, we must continually stress the gospel of grace—reminding our children that just as the love of Christ is given freely independent of our actions, they never need to earn our love.When we are consistently concerned with their sanctification instead of our reputation, we will not raise “the perfect kids,” but we will raise children who have experienced and can recognize sacrificial love. Click To Tweet
They are loved because they are ours and that fact will never change. We may not always be pleased with their actions, but we are always grateful God has entrusted them to us.
When we are consistently concerned with their sanctification instead of our reputation, we will not raise “the perfect kids,” but we will raise children who have experienced and can recognize sacrificial love.
By focusing on their sanctification and not our reputation, we value the direction and shape of their heart much more than the thoughts and opinions of others.