Quotes such as these abound:
“Be the change that you want to see!”
“It begins with you!”
“Walk the talk”
We are encouraged to take the lead in life. If anyone is going to start it off, might as well be you. We cannot just utter motivational stuff at the office. If you want your staff to take you seriously you need to do what you tell them to do. Be a good example, be a leader who gets his hands dirty. There are many major management gurus whom will give that advice. Many people follow these pieces of advice to get on in their careers. They do well.
But then, when it comes to matters of the faith, parents today don’t seem to be playing those roles for their children to follow.
We tell our children to love Jesus, believe in Him and you will be saved. We parents want our kids to be taught about God, but we send them to Sunday school in church to learn. When we want them to emulate good behaviour, we ask them to follow Bible superstars. We ask them to weep like Jeremiah, have faith like Abraham, be strong as Samson, listen like Samuel, repent like David, write like Paul, evangelise like Philip, follow Christ.
That is well and good. But those people are buried deep within the Bible, the details which many do not delve into, let alone understand.
How many parents actually tell their children, “follow me as I follow Christ”?
Very few do. I believe very few parents want their kids to follow in their footsteps. Many believe that it is better to point them to the ideal example, Christ himself rather than to a less then perfect example, themselves.
This usually reminds me of a funny example I heard when I was a young adult. “An old distinguished gentlemen sitting in his chair, smoking a pipe, puffing out smoke, sharing his wisdom to his 10 year old son and 8 year old daughter, “children, when you grow up, do not smoke. It is bad for your health”.
We may smile at the irony because we know in all areas of life, our children will follow what we do rather then obey what we merely say.
Yet in our Christian walks, we relegate role models to Christ himself, Bible greats, some pastors, other “good” Christians, but neglect to put ourselves as parents in the list of role models.
While we always point to Christ when sharing our faith with others, when sharing our faith to our children, we should not disengage ourselves from the process, because as parents, we are front and centre stage as role models. They are already looking at us on a daily basis. WE need to be the role models for our kids to emulate.
It is okay. We can be role models that are not perfect, prone to error and real. We will fail to live up to the standards yet we accept the fact that we are fallible, forgiven and given opportunity to try again. This is therefore realistic as while none of us can achieve Christlikeness in this lifetime, we can role model the journey of getting closer to Christ over time.
So are we supposed to tell our kids, “look at me”? No we don’t need to. They already do.
What we need to do is to strive to live our own lives and how we engage with our children as how we believe Christ would want us to.
How do we start to do this?
Generally, just strive to follow Christ yourselves. And as Christ shows us grace when we fail, be prepared to show grace to your children, when they fail. This is the ultimate test of integrity for us as parents, do unto them what we want to be done unto us.
You want the kids to obey you, you need to be obeying rules and laws generally in life. If you beat traffic lights and speed laws, and curse aloud when someone cuts you off, don’t expect the kids to genuinely obey you when you instruct them to study x hours a day and cut their screen time to y hours a day.
You want the kids to do their daily devotions, do it yourself. And they should see. Want them to pray regularly, you need to show too.
You want the kids to study the Bible more, do it with them if you can.
Want them to develop patience and control their emotions, you need to develop and show too.
When you accidentally curse aloud, and everyone at home heard you, apologise to everyone aloud and immediately. Then they know that you can fail, you are allowed to fail and what to do when you do.
Examples for this are unending so will have to stop here for now. But the general message is this: be the Christ follower you want to see in your children.
Difficult you say ? No not difficult, impossible. Impossible if we try to do it on our own. But with God, all things are possible. When Jesus asked us to be the salt and light to the world, he did not expect us to do so by our own strengths. He asked us to pray to the Heavenly Father and ask for that strength. And when we ask for anything that is in line with the Fathers will, we are promised to receive it.
So let’s get down on our knees and start asking and then get off our bums and start living, for Christ for the world and as Christ for our children.