This is the next post in the series What do you think about? We tend to believe that discouragement comes from circumstances. The biblical reality is that discouragement comes most often from the way you think about the things that happen to you, not primarily from the situation itself. That is why Paul urges you, Christian, to focus your thoughts on things that are excellent and praiseworthy. Taken in this light, biblical love flows from biblical thinking. Love is not just a hit-or-miss reaction to someone else. Biblical love requires that you sacrificially commit your thoughts to God rather than indulge yourself in the flow of the moment. Romans 12:2 declares that minds must be transformed in order to break free of the world and love biblically. This is not true just for marriage; a transformed mind is equally needed for biblical parenting. God is very specific about how he wants you to love your children. Let’s take a few moments to look at the familiar words of I Corinthians 13:4-7 and see them in the context of loving your children. These observations are brief, but they should be enough to stimulate your thinking. The main idea is to consider how to conform your thinking so that your thoughts are in line with God’s call to love your children. I am sure that you will have plenty of items to add to each category. If you do, please leave a comment for others to consider as well.
Love is patient
Patience is the fruit of the Spirit. That is what Paul is getting at in Ephesians 6:4 when he calls upon fathers not to provoke their children to anger. This means, among other things, that love is not a knee-jerk reaction when things don’t go well. Loving your children means understanding and anticipating that obedience to your direction will be a challenge to them. The way of the Spirit is contrary to the way of the flesh. Being patient means that you are sensitive to reality of the spiritual warfare you are instigating for your children. Don’t be frustrated with their struggles–think carefully, and remember that love is patient. You are in the process of calling them from death to life.
Love is kind
If parents’ lives are to be dominated by love for their children, then it follows that kindness must also be dominant. Kind actions and pleasant words are the behavior of the gospel. Parents foolishly try to justify abrupt or harsh words because of busy, hectic schedules. They reason that all the busyness is a result of commitments born out of love for the children. However, kindness is often a casualty of a pragmatic commitment to love. As they grow older, children may not remember fondly all the schedules that were kept, but they will remember if they experienced kindness (see Ephesians 4:32).
Love does not envy
Envy can be subtle. A parent might be envious of someone else’s children, thinking that her life would be better if her own children behaved like those in other families. Or envy might be expressed by saying something like, “I sure wish I had it this easy when I was your age. You kids don’t know how lucky you are.” The biblical opposite of envy is contentment. As Paul says in Philippians 4:10-13, he learned to be content in all circumstances. God wants you to experience contentment with the family you have been given. Envy is an enemy of the gospel.
Love does not boast, it is not proud
Boasting and pride are two sides of the same coin. Boasting is the outward manifestation of pride. Arrogant statements like “I can’t believe you did that! You should know better!” demonstrate a prideful spirit. The implication of this statement is that obedience is simply a matter of wanting to do the right thing. It also implies that the speaker is able to handle things in his own strength. Love, however, expresses itself in humility. Love is sensitive to the struggles of sin. Love knows that children cannot obey in their own strength and desperately need the grace of God. Being exasperated with your children’s struggles may indicate a lack of appreciation and dependence upon the grace of God in your own life.
Love is not rude
Suppose you are talking with a friend at church. He is in the middle of telling you something that is important to him, and suddenly you see someone with whom you have been wanting to speak. So, you immediately walk off to speak to that person, even though your friend is in the middle of a sentence. Your friend is surprised by your quick departure and asks if anything is wrong. You answer that everything is fine, but there was just someone that you needed to speak with. Most of us would call that behavior rude. We wouldn’t think of acting like that with others. Yet, how often do you treat your children with exactly the same behavior? While we don’t want to be subservient to our children, the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12 applies to our actions towards them. We will look at the remaining portions of this passage in I Corinthians 13 in the next post. As you can see, God has much for us to think about in 2010.