My boys fight with each other every day. In fact, the role I play the most in my home is as a referee. Recently, one of my sons was aggravating the other and he responded back by hitting. "Mom!" I heard from the kitchen. I came in to see what happened. My oldest was crying because he was hurt. The youngest was hiding under his covers.
I talked to them separately. "Do you love your brother?" "Of course!" my youngest exclaims, offended that I asked. "When you hit him, you are not showing him that you love him."
I talked to the oldest. I point out to him that he was provoking his brother. I tell him his behavior was not showing love toward his brother. "But he shouldn't have hit me!" he responded.
We've read in our devotional time the story of Saul being blinded on the road to Damascus. Saul had been persecuting Christians and while he was on his way to participate in more slaughter, he was struck blind. He heard the voice of Jesus saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" Jesus didn't say, "Why are you hurting my followers," rather "Why are you persecuting me?"
I have used this story several times to point out to my kids that when they mistreat one another, they are in fact hurting Jesus. I've also read to them the passage in Matthew where Jesus says that when he returns, God will separate the sheep from the goats saying, "whatever you did for the least of these, you did it unto me." (Matthew 25:40) When they are kind to one another, they are kind to Jesus and when they are unkind, they are unkind to Jesus.
Parenting usually reveals sin in my own heart. The Spirit spoke to me and pointed out that when I respond in sarcasm and frustration to my boys, I am doing it unto Him. When I am selfish and don't serve my family, I am not serving my Lord. When I am impatient and raise my voice, I am not loving my Savior.
When I don't extend the grace I've been given, I am in fact not living in love.
This truth began to load me down with guilt but then the Spirit brought me back to scripture again and to the grace of God. He knew I could not be a perfect parent and that I would fail in loving my family. With grace, Jesus took those sins and bore them for me; he took the weight of that guilt on the cross and died for them. Not only are those sins forgiven, but Jesus' perfect righteousness was given to me. Jesus' acts of kindness, his patience, his heart of service all became mine.
Every time I fail as a parent, I am drawn to the cross. I am overwhelmed by the grace of God and His love for me in that while I was yet a sinner, He died for me. When I wade in the calm waters of the grace of the gospel, it keeps me out of the rough storm waters of parenting in my own strength. The grace He's given me needs to be in the forefront of my mind each moment as I interact with my children. When I turn my eyes away from Him, I am guaranteed to fall. And as Jesus did with Peter, when I do fall and flail in the rocky waves apart from Him, He reaches for me and pulls me back up again.
When I share the story of Saul with my kids, I can't only point out how they are hurting Christ when they hurt one another. I can't only tell them the part of story where Saul was told he was persecuting Jesus, I also have to tell how Jesus forgave and transformed Saul through the gospel of grace. While Saul was his enemy, Jesus saved him from his sin, changed him and used him in a mighty way to spread the gospel.
Teaching my children how to love one another doesn't end at giving them the law of love. It begins and ends with the gospel of grace. I have to point my children to the cross and to the grace of God. He loved them and saved them when they did not deserve it. His love now frees them to love one another with the same grace they were given.
In my own sin, it is hard to love. Each time I am faced with someone in my life whom I struggle to love, I am reminded of how much I have been loved. With eyes focused on the cross, the grace of the gospel will empower me to love in grace. My prayer for my children is the same. I want them to know the grace that saved them. And I want that grace to empower them to extend the same love and grace to one another.
"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." 1 John 4:11 "The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life." 1 Timothy 1:14-16
Christina Fox is a homeschooling mom to two young boys, 7 and 4 years. She is also a licensed mental health counselor. Prior to having children, she worked as a child psychotherapist. She blogs transparently about her struggles with depression, her growth in faith, challenges in parenting, and her homeschooling journey at www.toshowthemjesus.com. When not homeschooling or writing, she can be found reading a good book with a mug of black coffee at her side.