Isaiah 9:7 declares: “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace...” (NASB). Peace is a fruit of the Kingdom of God. But how does this fruit manifest itself in our families? Do your family relationships display the fruit of peace? Specifically as a parent, how do you establish this attribute of the government of Heaven in your home? In order to answer this question, you will have to examine your “bottom line.” What is the most important issue for you as a parent when you are interacting with your children? Does the motivating factor in your parenting match up with what drives the Father’s heart toward His children?
I would submit that for most of us parents, the goal of raising children is to teach them to obey. From the time we meet them at birth, our efforts are directed toward shaping the wills and wants of our children. We show them what is “good” and “bad” and then teach them to choose “good.” With all our might, we try to ensure that they turn out “good,” and the obvious method for accomplishing this goal is to teach them to do as we say.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus what the most important commandment was, He startled them with His response. They were trying to trap him with His answer, but instead of painting Himself into a corner, He opened up a revelation to them. His response was, in essence, “Love God, love your neighbor, and love yourself” (Luke 10:27). The greatest commandment is love. These Pharisees had hoped that He was going to say, “Obey this commandment,” because their culture was steeped in the priority of obedience and compliance to “the rules.” In one fell swoop, Jesus promotedrelationship above the rules. Love and relationship are the bottom line of the Kingdom, and they must be ours if we wish to establish a Kingdom culture in our homes.
There is a huge difference between a culture where obedience and compliance are the bottom line and a culture where relationship is the bottom line. The contrast is perhaps seen most clearly when people fail. Many parents believe that when their children present failure, rebellion, disrespect, irresponsibility, or other willful or sinful actions, they must gain control by intimidating their children into changing their minds.
As Christians, we need to understand that fear is our enemy. Many of us admit this to be true but find fear much harder to get rid of. So many of us have had our paradigms shaped by a fear of punishment to the degree that we actually believe we need the threat of punishment to stay on course. We believe that we need to be controlled from the outside. I imagine that Timothy laughed when he first read the letter in which Paul said, “You have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind [self-control]” (2 Tim. 1:7 BBE). Paul’s direct exhortation that Timothy had not been given a spirit of fear implies that Timothy was afraid. He needed to leave behind the fear that he most likely learned at home. So he said, “You have not received a spirit of fear. Timothy, what God has given to you does not produce fear. God is not trying to intimidate you, and neither am I.”
When I talk about training your children from the inside out, in freedom, I am talking about removing fear—specifically, the fear of punishment. Removing the training instrument of punishment is not a new concept. First John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (NIV). It means that all the fear leaves your life when love comes in. There is no fear of punishment in love!
In order to train our children in love, our behavior as parents must reduce fear, not increase fear. What happens when you go toe-to-toe with one of your kids? What happens when one of your kids does not want to obey? What do you do when your child lies to your face? What is your response when your child gives you something ugly like disrespect? What manifests when your child resists allowing you to control him or her? As much as love casts out the fear, fear will cast out the love. Love and fear are enemies. They have completely different sources. Love is from God, and His enemy produces fear. We need some methods, tools, and skills to respond to our child’s sin in such a way that we create love, not fear.
- Danny Silk, author of Loving Our Kids on Purpose