I can’t think of a better place to for us to start our conversation about the significant role we play in our children’s lives than with Deuteronomy 6:4–7. If we want to know what God has called us to do, we can find the answer here. This is one of the linchpin scriptures of the whole Bible—a scripture that, according to Jesus, is the summation of all the law and all the prophets. And it holds great guidance for us as parents.
In this passage we find Moses instructing the Israelite people on what to do with the Ten Commandments he’s just given them. He says:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:4–7 NIV)
Seeking to raise a child who loves the Lord with all his heart, soul, and mind is our highest calling as parents.
Now, if you’re thinking, “This is no small task! This is a lot of pressure!” I get it. But with the commission comes the grace. His grace is the motivating and empowering fuel. God’s love for us stimulates our love for Him, and our love for God stimulates obedience.
We see this truth reinforced in countless passages in Scripture, but I love how simply—but profoundly—John frames this in 1 John 4:19 (NIV). He writes: “We love because He first loved us.”
Our love for God is our grateful response to the love God has given us in the sacrifice of His Son. God’s love inspires ours.
What does this Gospel message have to do with our parenting? Everything! Because herein we discover how to fulfill our calling: we impress on our kids a whole-being love for God by first impressing on our kids God’s indescribable love for them.
See, our kids need to know God’s heart for them before they will ever desire to seek His heart above all else! They need to know the extent to which God went to rescue them and demonstrate His love for them in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
If we try to raise kids who love God only by giving them the commandments of God and telling them they should love God, we will more likely raise rule followers than God lovers. We’ll more likely raise kids who flee the faith because rules don’t breed gratitude and melt our hearts. Love does.
Think about it. We know this to be true in our own lives. We want to follow God to the extent that we have experienced— personally tasted—the extravagance of His grace for us. The real us. The sinful, flawed, broken, imperfect us. It’s not the “shoulds” and “oughts” that build love for God. It’s that He loved us enough to rescue us, even while we were running and rebelling and refusing to love Him in return.
When we are personally “impressed” with the extent of God’s love, then we will want to—not have to—love God. And this is what we most need to remember when leading our kids in loving and serving God and one another—we love because He first loved us.
This is the Gospel—the Good News of Jesus Christ that transforms hearts and homes!
A recent article published by The Gospel Coalition affirmed this Gospel-centered approach to parenting. It concludes:
“The common thread that binds together almost every ministry-minded twenty-something that I know is abundantly clear: a home where the gospel was not peripheral but absolutely central.
The twenty-somethings who are serving, leading, and driving the ministries at our church were kids whose parents . . . ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another.
This is not a formula! Kids from wonderful gospel-centered homes leave the church; people from messed- up family backgrounds find eternal life in Jesus and have beautiful marriages and families. But it’s also not a crap- shoot. In general, children who are led in their faith during their growing-up years by parents who love Jesus vibrantly, serve their church actively, and saturate their home with the gospel completely, grow up to love Jesus and the church.”
We, as moms, have the great privilege of—and responsibility to— impress upon our kids the heart-melting, life-giving news that “immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ” (Ephesians 2:4–5 MSG).
Indeed it is both a privilege and a responsibility. And trust me when I tell you, I’m talking to myself here because I am often convicted about how I prioritize nurturing my child’s faith. I have to continually re-evaluate what I prioritize in my kid’s lives and whether I am parenting with eternity in the forefront of my mind.
You see, our culture tells us that our ultimate goal should be to launch kids who will have big bank accounts and big résumés and big awards and big toys. But Scripture paints a very different picture. Our ultimate goal should be to launch kids who have a big faith anchored in the big grace of God. Of all the things we can give our kids in this world, God has called us to give them Him above all else. Because only in Him will they find the fulfillment their hearts crave, and only in Him will they find the purpose-filled future He designed for them. This world is not their permanent home, and it’s our job to help them live in light of eternity. Living in the grace of God for the glory of God!
But, as we do, let it bring us great relief to remember that God longs for our children to know the fullness of His love even more than we do. So we are free to give them the Good News in God’s Word, show them with our own lives what it means to live by grace, pray that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes to their true selves—radically loved, forgiven, and treasured children of God—and then rest in God’s sovereignty and grace.
This post is an excerpt from Mom Set Free and was republished with permission.
Jeannie Cunnion is the author of Parenting the Wholehearted Child and Mom Set Free, and a frequent speaker at women’s conferences and parenting events around the country. Her passion is encouraging women to live in the freedom for which Christ has set us free – a message her own heart needs to be reminded of daily. Jeannie and her husband Mike have four boys who range from teenager to toddler.