Socrates is quoted saying “the unexamined life is not worth living”. The Greek philosopher was doggedly committed to understanding and living a life of virtue. As parents we might try our own variety of Socratic questioning with our children: “What were you thinking?!”. Admittedly, when asking those kind of questions, I am usually asking from a self-understanding of superiority, of having “arrived”. More often than not, I am less concerned with my beloved child’s thought process than with the violation of my “perfected” preferences and standards. In God’s kindness, the gospel gives us power to address the unexamined assumption of our own moral superiority.
We first encounter the gospel through a revelation of the self. In John 16, Jesus promised that when he returned to the Father, he would send the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin, specifically of our unbelief in Jesus as the Father’s rescuing provision. (vv. 8-9) Right out of the gate we are shown that it is not moral failure that keeps us in sin, but the unwillingness to recognize our need and God’s kindness in the Cross.
The examining continues. Once we are brought into the Family of God, we continue to gravitate toward our old self-defining, self-centered patterns. This is why the Holy Spirit continues to bring to our attention our sinful actions and attitudes so that:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
It is even possible for us to be deceived into thinking that our way of living is perfectly consistent with that of Jesus. So Paul urged the Corinthian church:
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 2 Corinthians 13:5
The gospel tells us that we are recipients of the Father’s unearned love which He has proved in the life, death and resurrection of the Son applied to our lives by the Holy Spirit. It tells us that we have a present, permanent status: children of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17) But it also says that we are in a process of transformation and have not yet arrived at the end of that process. (1 John 1:8, Romans 12:2) This gives us gospel power to stand in confidence because of what God has accomplished yet at the same time with great humility because of our continual and unending need for grace. We will best point our children to the “Magnificent Three” when first , we accept them as God has accepted us — by grace, not on merit, and when we come alongside them as fellow participants of that grace.
- Jesus said to take out the log in your own eye so you can see clearly to take the speck out of your brothers eye. (Matthew 7:4-5). Do you ever consider this passage before acting to discipline your children?
- How might inviting the Holy Spirit to examine your heart transform your relationship with your spouse and children?
- Some attitudes and behaviors require varying degrees of disciplinary action. How is your heavenly Father kind to you when you are in need of correction? How might remembering that your acceptance by God comes not from your own merit but because of Jesus’ perfect life and the realization that you (and your children) constantly need that grace affect how you approach discipline?
- Do you often pray for God to examine you and for God’s counsel before disciplining your children? How could you start a pattern that you can implement even in the heat of the moment?
- In Romans 12:2 Paul writes:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
In what ways have you grown in your understanding and application of God’s will in the area of training your children?