There is an old saying: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” It means, of course, that people find beauty in differing things. One person sees an antique table as lovely and whimsical while another sees it as old and rickety, fit only for a dump trip. Interestingly, Scripture mentions that our actions can “adorn” the gospel (Titus 2:9-10). We can offer glimpses of the matchless beauty of God and His Kingdom to those who watch us do life. When we forbear, when we show mercy or kindness, when we teach truth, when we are patient in trials, and when our marriages reflect the joy filled relationships between Christ and His Bride, we are displaying the beauty of the gospel to those around us.
Purposeful Parents Keep Aware
No one in your life watches you more often or more keenly than do your children. Do you live consistently aware that your reactions and responses to daily situations –godly or sinful– model for your child what is good, and acceptable, and perfect? In a young child’s eyes, you are always right (except when wanting him to eat peas or go to bed).
Children learn by watching and imitating adults and peers. From grammar to idioms to cussing, children speak as they are consistently spoken to. From anger to mercy, complaining to giving thanks, worrying to praying, children mimic what they witness in (or receive from) the adults with whom they interact.
And contrary to most movies you see, children revere their parents when young. They want to receive from them, and they tend to admire, forgive, and love their parents despite many mistakes and faults, unless or until driven off by abuse or neglect. This can work to the bad: parents can take in stride the forgiving nature of child adoration and persist unrepentant in sinful or harmful modeling for years on end.
But, for those of us who are seeking to teach our children the ways of the LORD, this is good news! God has so designed children that they are eager to learn what is good from their parents. This put the emphasis on us again: our days are filled with opportunities to purposefully and creatively display–not just speak of–Christian behaviors. And when we do fail to seize opportunities to properly display the gospel, children are willing to hear our confessions of wrongdoing and forgive us. They learn from that as well!
Here Are Some Scenarios
You are on the phone with customer support because your new stove’s oven just ceased operating. You picked up the phone feeling angry at the company whose product has failed you. You so want to vent: to take out your anger on the customer service rep who answers the phone. But then, you see little Sarah looking over to watch you, and you are enabled to change your tone, speaking reasonably and cheerfully to the rep instead. You are gracious and faith filled as you warm to the task of representing the gospel to both the rep and your child at the same time.
Your child comes in crying after playing with neighborhood children. He has been bullied and verbally abused. You sympathize with your son’s pain, and wash his face. Then, you go into the refrigerator and find some beautiful June strawberries that you and your son picked on Saturday. You help him to arrange them in a bowl, and then go out to the neighbor children with him and help him to give the bullies a sweet treat.
Your 7th grader is doing his homework and getting frustrated because he can’t find the answers to his worksheet. You don’t really know the answers either, but you sit down with him and ask if you can help. Before diving into the academics, you say, “Let’s pray. We don’t know how to do this work, but our Father does, and we can ask Him for wisdom.” Then, you lead your son in prayer. After that, you do your best to work through the material with him, giving verbal encouragement when he perseveres and prevails.
Your husband is late home from work. It’s been a long day with little ones and your nerves are frazzled. When he finally pulls into that garage, you’re battling impatience, fatigue and self pity–or you should be. Truth be told, you’re about to give into them fully just as soon as he steps through that door. But then the Holy Spirit reminds you that your husband is tired, too. He’s been working hard so that you can be home with the kids. You ask God for patience and love, and seek to welcome your husband. As you work to rebalance your emotions, you see your eldest daughter looking at you: studying you hard. You give her a big smile and say, “Let’s see if Dad is going to want something to eat.”
Your alarm clock goes off. It’s 6:00 AM on a Tuesday, and your husband needs to get up for work. You are dead tired from a long day yesterday, but you know that the kids will be up in about 30 minutes. You dray yourself out of bed and start the coffee for yourself and your husband. Then, while it’s brewing, you dish out the yogurt and granola and fruit that you and hubby eat daily and grab your Bible. When the kids come in all sleepy eyed and yawning, they see their mother sipping coffee and eating yogurt while reading her morning Bible selections. One of them slips onto your lap and asks, “What does it say?”
These scenarios portray the fact that we don’t just teach our kids with words, and Christian living is not most on display at weekly church meetings. Far more affective than what we tell them are what we show them, most often through our reactions and responses to the challenges that come to us every day.
Who wants to embrace something that is hard edged, or spikes, or cold? If we are to make the gospel attractive to our kids, we need to be purposefully making choices that model the beauty and delights of the gospel. We need to ask God for His help to have mercy when it’s hard, faith when things are scary, and patience when we are emotional. We need to purposefully work to live as disciples ourselves.
No one in your life watches you more often or more keenly than do your children. What are they seeing? Why not take some time to notice, today, how you are doing in seizing the small moments of your day to purposefully display the ways of the LORD to your children. Ask Him for help: we can’t do this well without it!
2 Corinthians 2:14
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world…
2 Corinthians 4:13-15
But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.