This is a follow-up post, so make sure you read this first.
I really enjoyed reading the comments you made. Houkhouse has some great practical ideas and Revka said what I’ve been thinking lately — our focus cannot be soley on behavior. God desires relationship with us. That’s what Christianity is really all about — relationship. When Jesus named the greatest command, the thing that He desired most from us, He told us to love God with everything we’ve got and to love other people. He zeroed in on our relationship with God and our relationship with other people.
Though there are certainly passages of scripture explaining how we should behave, the focus is on our relationship with God. When we abide in Christ, we act like Christ. When we’re firmly grafted to Him, we bear His fruit. Apart from Him, we can do nothing good.
As Revka mentioned, the Pharisees focused on outward appearance and behavior. They wanted to appear good. The Pharisees obeyed rules for the sake of the rules and thought they could please God with their goodness. This is what we hope to avoid with our children. I do not want my children to obey and behave only because they want to stay out of trouble or because they want us to think they are good. I do not want my children to be good in public only to avoid embarrassment. I know that avoiding punishment and embarrassment is going to be the motivation sometimes. Sometimes that’s my motivation for doing the right thing — it would be terribly embarrassing for a grown woman with six small children to throw a full-blown temper tantrum in Wal-Mart. 🙂 But I don’t want that to be our true motivation all the time. I want my children to know God and love Him and live in Him so that they cannot help but bear His fruit.
I think the tendency to focus on our children’s behavior rather than their heart stems from the tendency we have to focus on our own behavior rather than our heart and our relationship with Christ. Often, I try to pull myself up by my bootstraps and make myself do what’s right. I try to turn over a new leaf, make a resolution, follow a 5-step plan — all the while forgetting that the Bible doesn’t tell me to make my own good fruits. The Bible tells me to abide in Christ and bear His fruit. The Bible tells me to be in Christ and the fruits of HIS Spirit will become evident in my life.
My focus should not be on my actions or behaviors. I can’t work up enough goodness in myself to ever amount to anything that will please God. My focus should be on my heart, on my relationship with Christ. As I draw close to Him, read the Bible, pray, worship Him, meditate on Him, I will begin to look like Him. As I purpose in my heart to decrease myself so that He might increase in me, He will increase. As I shift my focus to my relationship with Christ, my behaviors will fall into line.
And so it is with our children. As we spend time with them, pour ourselves into them, as we selflessly give our time and attention to our children, as we love them and laugh with them and play with them and work with them, we are building a relationship with them and winning their hearts. As we fill them up with scripture stories and verses, as we feed them principles of God’s Word, as we show them and tell them about God’s love for them and plans for them, they will begin their own relationship with God (we pray). And producing good fruit in our children isn’t really up to us. It’s up to the Holy Spirit as our children abide in Christ.
If I can’t work good in myself, I certainly can’t work good in my children. But if I spend time with Jesus and ask Him to fill me up with Himself, He will overflow from me. Then I will teach my children Jesus because I won’t be able to help it. And as my children love Him and abide in Him, He will also overflow from them.
There are other thoughts floating through my head, but I think I’ve said enough for now. I’d love to see your comments.