“For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth” (Psalm 26:3).
There is a direct relationship between how God deals with His children and how we should parent our own children. This is illustrated by two great works that God has set out to accomplish in a person’s life.
First, God takes the life that is alienated from Him by sin, and by His grace and mercy, He establishes a relationship with that individual. He cares for that person, and provides a secure relationship with “round-the-clock” access into His presence. He demonstrates unconditional love; and He is so deeply interested and concerned about the well-being of that one individual that if he had been the only person who had ever sinned, God would still have sent His Son to die on the cross. Theologians call this great work “justification.”
The second great work in which God is involved is the process of changing our behavior from the ways of our old sin-nature to that of the new standards taught and demonstrated by Christ; the process by which God transforms a person into the image of His Son. Theologians call this process “sanctification.”
But the point that I want to emphasize is that before God begins to change our behavior, He first establishes a relationship with us. He does not begin the process of sanctification until He has first completed the work of justification. This, I believe, is of vital significance!
Many parents are quick to emphasize the importance of changing the child’s behavior and completely miss the essential prerequisite of first establishing and building a loving, unconditional relationship with the child. In God’s framework of redemption this must come first – justification, then sanctification. First, He establishes a relationship with that individual, then He begins His great work of lovingly changing that person’s behavior until it conforms to His own will and standards.
We completely miss this essential element in the parenting process today. Behavior modification is important but it cannot be successful unless a meaningful relationship is first established with the child. Quality of relationship is more significant than the quantity of time we invest.
One Christian leader has observed that the reason why our young people are turning their backs on the church is because they have been raised with programs and events, not with a process-driven ministry where the Word of God was internalized into their lives. They have a lack of relationship with Mom and Dad, with leaders in the church, and with other significant adults in their lives.
Truth without relationship leads to rejection. Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.
Morris Hull, Home Life Ministries