Friday, July 13, 2012

Rights or Responsibilities?

As a parent, I sometimes hear other parents say things like: "It's my right to raise my children whatever way I see fit." Or "no one has the right to tell me how to raise my kids."

Hmmm.  If I put myself in the children's shoes, I find these statements disturbing.  Really?  Do I have the right to fill "my" children up with several litres of coke per day?  Do I have the right to drag "my" sick children through the shopping centres with me because I need to do things for myself?  Do I have the right to farm "my" children out to the maximum possible of extracurricular activities until they are ready to keel over from exhaustion?  Do I have the right to scream at "my" children or refuse to talk to them because I am overwhelmed by life?

Legally, probably yes.  I've never heard of children being removed from their parents for any of the above reasons.

But what makes them "my" children anyway?  Do I own them as I do my car?  Did I earn the right to them as I did my driver's license?  Are they really "mine" to do with as I will?  Short of physical or emotional abuse, by law I guess I could say they are "my" children... But what can we expect for the future of our country and our world if we see children as objects that we own?

Isn't being a parent more about our responsibility than our rights?  God certainly says so.

Unfortunately, the only bit about parenting that some people read in the Bible is: "children, obey your parents" or "honour your father and mother".  But there are a lot of instructions to parents.  And a lot of instructions about life and love that apply as much to parents as to anyone else.  Unfortunately, instructions like:
He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
are sometimes read as a license to beat our children, but notice the mention of love.  The point is that if we love our children, we will take responsibility to teach them what is right.  That may involve inflicting temporary pain, but true love (see 1 Corinthians 13 for an explanation of love) would never, ever allow us to injure our children.  If we love our children, we will be concerned about our responsibilties, not our rights.  Nowhere does the Bible tell us that we own our children to do with them as we will - including before birth.  

The Bible speaks of God's fury when children were passed through fire. (2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 17:31; 2 Chronicles 28:3; Ezekiel 16:21)  Such a practice seems barbaric today... and yet how many children are "passed through the fire" when they are sent out into a hostile world ill-equipped and unprepared for coping where they are not welcomed, but seen as a burden?  How many unborn children are "passed through the fire" because their existence is seen as being in some way "inconvenient" due to financial strain or career pressures, or disability.

Find me a  place where the Bible speaks about our rights as parents.  I haven't found one.

However, I have found this after a summary of God's commandments in Deuteronomy 6:6-7:
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

God's way - the only way to true happiness and fullfilment - is a way of give.  As parents, our mission is to give to our children in a way that will prepare and equip them for that hostile world we will eventually throw them out into.  That's a tough love to give - it doesn't mean giving what they want, but what they need.  There is no easy way - you need try it only for a few days to know that with all of your being.

None of us are perfect - we will all make mistakes and let our children down.  I know that I do, and it's been really hard for me to swallow my pride and say "sorry" to my kids on those many occasions when I've been overcome by my own humanity.  But that's no excuse to give up and stop trying.

As parents, we have no "rights", only the responsibility to nurture our children and teach them what is Right - God's way.

If you are interested in what God has to say about parenting and marriage, you may be interested in the free booklet, Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension.

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