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The Apostle Paul on Parenting

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  • Dr. James Boyd

    In 2 Corinthians 2:4, Paul tells the Corinthians why he did not come to visit them in person. He knew that if he went in person, he would have to be quite firm and it would be "painful" for them and for Paul. He asks them in verse 2 "who will cheer me up" when I come if not you who will be hurting from my rebuke? Paul knew how hurt he was, and he knew the Corinthians would be hurt as well, so in this context, he chose to confront the situation more indirectly. Seeing no need to set up the potential for an emotional fireball, Paul decided to write them. As he did this, Paul describes having an "extremely troubled and anguished heart." Have you ever been there as a parent, afraid that if you say a word face to face, there will be an emotional explosion by you, your child, or both? Yet you grieve the choices that your child is making. In this situation, Paul took the indirect approach to say what needed to be said.

    For I wrote to you with many tears out of an extremely troubled and anguished heart—not that you should be hurt, but that you should know the abundant love I have for you. 2 Corinthians 2:4 (HCSB)

    First, by stating that he wrote them in tears, he reveals that he is hurting over their sinful choices. His own heart is breaking. Our children need to understand that sin, by nature, hurts others too, not just the one sinning. This is because sin innately rejects the right way to relate with God which then leads to wrong ways of relating with others. Children must learn that they do not sin in a vacuum. This sharing of your broken heart must not be a manipulation appealing to the child’s desire to please you. Instead, it is admitting the weakness that accompanies sincere affection. We are hurt most by those we love most and to whom we are closest. When a child rebels, the fact is that the child is loving most what he ought to love less. To say it another way, the child risks hurting the parents he is loving less in order to protect the friends or fun that he is loving most.

    Second, Paul says that his purpose in writing is not to “grieve” them or cause them "hurt." In fact, as parents, we correct our children to protect them from more severe and lasting hurt. It may be beneficial to lead your child to investigate biblical stories in which the characters struggle with the same temptations with which he or she is struggling. Point them to the Bible to learn the potential consequences of their sinful choices, helping them count the costs of sin versus obedience, to help them understand that your motive is to protect them, not to hurt them.

    Third, Paul says that his goal is that they would "know the abundant love" that he has for them. When you are at the place where you cannot face your child face to face without having an emotional meltdown, take a step back. Do what Paul did. Write down what you want to say. Begin withyou’re your child’s actions break your heart, how much you want to work for their joy in Christ, and how much you love them and want to protect them from hurting themselves. Teach them what real love looks like. Real love seeks the truth. Real love speaks the truth. Real love works for the other’s true and lasting joy in Christ despite the cost to oneself. Real love is unmoved and consistent regardless of the situation since real love is grounded in the unchanging truth of God. Have you taught your kids about real love today?


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