Son of a Preacher Man

From mikael altemark. 

One of the gifts my mother has received from the Holy Spirit is that of lecturing. My children call her Mamaw, and when a grandchild or child for that matter is out of line she gives one of her famous “Mamaw Lectures.” I don’t remember if she did it as much when I was growing up, but she’s real good at it now.

Well, it’s a skill that I inherited from her. The difference is, she’s discerning about when to use it. My philosophy: when I don’t know what to do, I talk. The outcome of this is that every time one of my children gets in trouble they get a sermon. Sometimes they’ll be in trouble with their mom and she’ll have it in perfect control and I’ll jump in with a lecture. I like the idea of teachable moments; I think that’s more of what Deuteronomy 6:6-7 has in mind than your typical family devotion. However, the truth is, not every moment is a teachable moment. Maybe that’s not even true–maybe it’s just that sometimes you can teach your kids more by keeping your mouth shut.

Constant sermonizing can ruin our children. The parent that is always preaching to their child is helping them become exasperated. Sometimes, it’s not the preaching that ruins the child but the timing. Not all discipline is corrective–you teach your children as you share your lives with them. The sermons don’t always have to fall after the child has done wrong.

Sometimes the content of the sermon is what we get wrong. We love to hear grace for ourselves, but we love to preach law to our children. I’m usually well intentioned, but kids need some slack. They need to hear that they’re wrong and they need to hear that that stems from their flawed heart. They need to hear that Jesus wants to give them a new heart. My heart is still badly in need of God and His grace all of the time. I’m really hard on my sons because I see so much of me in them. I lecture my oldest about his constant quest for attention, the whole time knowing that he’s just like me: I always try to find my identity in what other think of me. The truth is, it’s always easier for us to spot sin in somebody else than in ourselves. You’ve been given much grace and you should learn to give grace. You need to confess your sins to them so that they can see you’re human and how amazing grace really is.

The delivery of the sermon can adversely affect the child as well. With your child, you have the wonderful advantage of holding your son or daughter as you tell them about God’s promises. They can be crying on your shoulder as you tell them about our Savior’s love. If you grab your Bible and start wagging your finger? They’ll pick up the signs. Children are smart and know exactly when to start tuning you out.

The motive of the sermon needs to be the love that you have for them, not the love of your own voice. You don’t preach to build yourself up and tear others down. If you have to tear your children down, it should only be because you’re going to build them back up with the grace of Jesus. There are times your children need lectures, but more than that they need your unconditional love. The greater your love for them, the better the sermon preaches.

Father, with all of my heart, I don’t want to raise a Pharisee. I don’t want my children to be good around me because they’re afraid of what I might say or do. I want my children to obey because they’re grateful for your love poured out on the cross. I want them to do right because they’re your slaves, not mine. God, remind me of how badly I need your grace and teach me to give grace to my children. Help me to not be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Help me to love. Amen.

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