Something is wrong folks. Something is off. Can you sense it? See it? Smell it?
I’ve been writing and researching like mad over the last few days. I’ve thought about what I know and why it’s true…my experiences as a parent and our drive to help others. I’ve done my due diligence in researching other “parenting experts” and how they are perceived. And I am sad.
Yes, we must train up our children in the way they should go. Yes, that must be according to Biblical wisdom. But what does THAT mean? Tell them a long list of do’s and don’ts? If that is all you accomplish in your parenting, look out. You will either have a bunch of little legalists running about or equally as bad, your children will eventually rebel because NO ONE CAN KEEP THE LAW.
Forget how YOU feel about “the church” as a whole and let’s look at how we are perceived. Many will say the church is full of hypocrites. Only teaches intolerance. Only shakes its fingers at sinners and tells them “You’re goin’ ta Hell!” Only disdains or looks down on those who are struggling with addictions, divorce, or even just their past.
Listen. I am one of you. One of us. But I gotta look at the Lord and see how He handled two different groups of people…the religious leaders of the day, the Pharisees, and the sinners. His response to them was VERY different.
To the religious people of the day, who were trying to maintain their OWN righteousness, drawing up long lists of ways to obey the demands of the Old Testament laws, adding additional burdens to insure self-righteousness, He called them a brood of vipers. He disdained them, rebuked them, and confronted them.
To those caught in adultery, or the woman at the well living with a man after five different husbands, or to those who stole like Zaccheus, He showed love, grace and mercy…nothing but kindness. And they flocked to Him like mad.
Now there was a small third group, a few men like Nicodemus who knew the religious laws of the day but believed there was something to Jesus the rest of their colleagues were missing.
And then that rowdy bunch of boys— the disciples. To them, He opened up, taught, and continued to speak truth.
I don’t know what this speaks to you, but it means a lot to me.
It means that as a parent, I must teach my children right and wrong, but I must also teach them beyond that– to love and have mercy and empathy for others, not disdain. They shouldn’t mock someone for an alternative look, they should instead pray as they walk by, or reach out to encourage. They should understand that they can never know what it was like to grow up in that person’s shoes. And that through my child, love, joy and encouragement may spark hope and give an opportunity to evangelize.
But we’ll never evangelize people into another set of rules and laws. It’s the kindness of God that draws people to repentance. And we should be marked by speaking in love, kindness, and truth to everyone around us. The church needs to be a hospital for the hurting, a workout room for the weak. Then, as we heal and develop strength, we can go and bring back with us others who see our joy (not our rules!) and whet their appetite with a hunger for the things of God because we actually have something they want.
Reach out to someone unlikely this week, in front of your kids. Give them a compliment, and encouragement. Practice it often. Get your kids to practice too. I’ll even give you a quick example….
Hurting people are not hard to find. They mark themselves with all kinds of reminders, often painfully (think tattoos and big ear holes…for example). One such person we run into on a weekly basis is working at our favorite Chipolte’s. This dude is full of art, and uniquely wears a handlebar mustache. Now, my kids have seen me repeatedly encourage someone for a positive physical trait…I mean, if you don’t know someone personally, how else can you really encourage them? So often I will say something like, “Diggin’ that haircut! Only you could rock that style!” or “Love the jacket!” Seems small, but the return smiles I get are HUGE, and often lead to a conversation about our family which then opens wide the door for evangelism or at least an invitation to church. So, on our almost weekly jaunt to Chipolte’s for dinner, Mr. Handlebar is behind the counter. As she pays, Blissy says, “You know, you really look great with that mustache. Not many people could pull that off, but on you, it looks fantastic!” His usually somber face lit up. “Thanks!”
One simple compliment. Now every week, he looks forward to our visit. He compliments me on the kids and really enjoys our family. He hasn’t come to church yet, maybe he never will. But maybe over time I get the opportunity to share a Bible app with him, or direct him to some cool online sermons where his appetite is whet. He will know he is accepted. He didn’t immediately tune us out because of our stark differences in appearance to his personal choices, all because my kid reached out to compliment him.
Love, people. Teach your kids how to practice it. Reach out. Let’s not give the enemy a leg to stand on by allowing us to be perceived anymore as the self-righteous right-wing. Let’s instead show them the One who bought our righteousness with His blood, by spreading grace, mercy and love everywhere we go.