I’m just gonna go ahead and say it – I don’t want my kids to be good. I want them to love and follow Jesus. That distinction changes the way I parent.
Morality won’t get your kids into heaven any more than good grades or a batting average that makes scouts come calling. Morality is part of loving and following Jesus, but it’s not the definition of it. After all, the Pharisees were moral, and we know what Jesus said about them.
As a parent, that’s a hard thing to remember. When we hear, “You should be happy I’m not out having sex and drinking like a lot of kids my age,” we agree. If it’s true, we are happy. But that’s not the goal.
When we choose to set goodness up as the apex of child-rearing, it’s like we’re saying, “Set your expectations for your kids by all the other kids their age. Compare and shoot for better than average.”
Jesus never did that. God’s Word is the standard; always has been, always will be. So it’s important for me to let my kids know that it’s not my expectations that matter, it’s God’s.
Matthew 5 records a series of, “You have heard it said” verses that Jesus taught. The short version is this: You have heard it said do not murder, commit adultery, divorce without first putting it in writing, or break your promises. You have also heard it said that “an eye for an eye” is a good life philosophy, and so is “love your friends and hate your enemies.” But my standard is higher than that. Don’t hate people or call them a moron, lust, get a divorce, or make empty promises. And while you’re at it, don’t take revenge on anyone and love your enemies.
Then He followed it up with this: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matt. 5:48
I don’t know too many people who like that verse. I don’t expect my kids to be perfect. I don’t want them to live under the weight of insanely unrealistic expectations that so many parents put on their kids. But I do want them to follow Jesus, and He is perfect. Not because He lived a moral life, but because He loved God and people and He lived according to God’s purposes instead of His own comfort or desires.
So then what does God want us to do? How do we teach our kids that morality isn’t the goal? How do we parent according to the standards in His Word without putting the expectation and burden of “perfection” on their shoulders?
Recognize that Jesus has the same standard for you. Teenagers pay attention to authentic people and they can recognize hypocrisy a mile away.
Cover the standard with grace. You know, like Jesus always did. He said, “Be perfect,” but He always offers grace when we’re not.
Don’t major on minor things. And by “minor,” I mean earthly stuff that, in view of eternity, doesn’t matter one bit.
Pray. You might be able to make your kids be “good,” but you can’t draw your kids into a love relationship with Jesus that will last. Only He can do that. Pray that He does.