When an individual is in Christ, Jesus will introduce him to the least likely friends. Join AMBrewster as he helps Christian parents understand the awkward neighbors that come as a result of being born again.
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TLP 373: The Counter-Intuitive Nature of Parenting in Christ
TLP 374: The Uncomfortable Neighbors of Parenting in Christ
TLP 375: The Reward of Parenting in Christ
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I’d like to take a moment to update you concerning how the Lord has recently extended TLP’s reach.
If you’re new to the show, I welcome you, and I thank you for being part of how God has introduced us to an ever-widening audience.
According to our podcast host, PodoMatic, Truth.Love.Parent. has been in the top 10 podcasts in the Christianity category for a number of weeks. But we’re also in the top 100 podcasts on their entire platform.
That means that many of you listening today may have recently found us. We’re so glad you’re here. The TLP Community is made up of dads and moms imperfectly trying to become the intentional, premeditated, disciple-making, Ambassador parents God called and created us to be.
Each of our episodes attempts to unpack the beauty of the Scriptures and apply it directly to our daily parenting experience.
We pray you find hope and encouragement here, but more than that we want you find a challenge here.
From my perspective, too many podcasts focus on low-hanging fruit. They share ideas and tips that most people are already doing or can achieve pretty easily within their own power. But God calls us to move mountains. Most people aren’t doing moving mountains in their families, and no one can do it in his own power. Therefore, TLP wants to be the place where we see God’s high and holy calling for our homes and are challenged to reach those expectations in the power of Christ.
It’s hard, it’s sometimes uncomfortable, but — as my friend Dr. Joe Martin says — I’d rather be an “irritational” speaker than an inspirational speaker.
When we’re inspired, it’s too easy to smile and feel good but not really endeavor great things.
However, when we’re irritated by how things are, we have all the motivation in the world to seek change.
Of course, if you’re new to the show, please know that I don’t really intend on annoying and frustrating you today. Our topic is the uncomfortable neighbors that result from parenting in Christ, but my hope is that we get a vision of the majesty of our parental calling and get excited about what God has for us today.
But before we do that, if you’ve been with us for a while, will you please take just a minute or two to leave us a review on iTunes and Facebook? Despite the fact that we’re on Google’s list of the best podcasts for Christian parents and that we’re currently the number 6 Christian podcast on PodOMatic, at the time of this recording, we don’t yet have 100 reviews on iTunes, and we have only a handful of reviews on Facebook.
Rating and reviewing a show on iTunes and Facebook is a great way of helping that show connect with new listeners.
If TLP has been a blessing to you, please take a few minutes to return the favor. Tell others what you love about the show and help Truth.Love.Parent. become the premier source of biblical parenting content on the internet.
Also, as you check out TruthLoveParent.com for all our parenting resources, don’t forget about the free episode notes and transcripts available with nearly every episode.
And now, let’s talk about your neighbors.
1. The Example of Jesus
If you lived in the Middle East in the first century, life would be very different, but if you also were a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, you would be in a very small group doing things never before done by man.
And though, looking back, we now revere and appreciate that group — back then — they were viewed as being on the wrong side of history.
Thankfully, God’s the author of history, and mankind doesn’t get a vote on what’s important.
Still, if you lived back then and chose to hang out with Jesus, you would be in very interesting, and — let’s be honest — often uncomfortable company.
Of course, this shouldn’t surprise you. I mean, you would have likely heard Jesus say something like “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
With teaching like that, if Jesus was the type of rabbi who actually meant what He said, you could expect to be put into situations where you actually had to love your enemy. And this Jesus was definitely not someone who said one thing and did another.
Jesus was frequently hanging around all the “wrong” people . . . at least, from the world’s perspective.
Instead of cloistering Himself in ivory towers, Jesus interacted with people, and He invited the outcasts and the unclean and the sinners to come to Him.
We recently finished up our “Spiritual Warfare in Your Home” series, and we detailed many of the overwhelming spiritual attacks we face on a daily basis. And — despite the destructive and damning reality that we carry our own worst enemy around with us every day in the form of our Sin Nature — most people are terrified when they think about demon possession.
But have you considered how many times Jesus found Himself surrounded by the demon possessed? In addition to that, how many times did Jesus interact with the sick and dying? How many times was He swarmed by the poor and destitute?
What most people would consider the dregs of society were the people Jesus sought out.
And when He wasn’t healing people from all sorts of gross maladies . . . both physical and demonic, He was associating with fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, and thieves.
But it wasn’t just Jesus who interacted with this rabble. Think about it. If you were a fisherman who followed Christ, He took you with Him into the masses of people swarming with disease and demon possession. He lead you into Samaria and the Gadarenes — two places no self-respecting Jew would ever go. He associated you with those who had been enslaved to the most heinous of sins and whose reputations couldn’t have been sullied any more than they already were.
Jesus would have made His neighbors your neighbors.
Zack Eswine was recently quoted on Twitter as saying, “Jesus often leads his followers to people they would otherwise avoid.”
I don’t know Zack Eswine, and I have no idea what He believes about God and the Bible, but I can get behind this statement 100%.
“Jesus often leads his followers to people they would otherwise avoid.”
And, if you’re having a hard time swallowing that fact given the predominance of lies from the prosperity gospel movement, have you considered that most of the Bible was written by murderers?
Oh, the list of sins committed by some of the most famous biblical names would make your hair curl.
So, what’s the point of my observations? What does it matter that Jesus surrounded Himself with those whom the prestigious of this world would never associate? How should Jesus’ example instruct us?
I think we need to ask “why” Jesus did this.
2. The Motivation of Jesus
In Luke 5:30-32, when asked by the Pharisees, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?’ 31 . . . Jesus answered and said to them, ‘It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’”
Spending time with the broken was the very nature of His calling.
Let’s turn our attention to Luke 15. The passage opens with a similar scene: “1 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. 2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’”
And Jesus responded by telling them three parables. Each involves something that is lost, and each describes how a person did everything they could to find the lost object.
The first parable is the Lost Sheep. A man with 100 sheep loses one, so he leaves the remaining 99 in the fold and goes out in search of the one lost sheep. Who knows where he had to go and what he had to do to rescue the sheep, but he did it because the one sheep was worth risking everything to find. And when he returns home rejoicing, he calls his friends to rejoice with him.
Jesus ends the parable by saying, “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
The second parable is the Lost Coin. In this story, a woman loses a piece of money — likely from her dowry. She goes into full-on Spring Cleaning mode to find it. And when she finds it “she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’”
Jesus ends that parable by saying, “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
And the third parable should be very familiar to us. It involves a Lost Son and is often called The Prodigal Son.
A man loses a son to destructive self-worship, but the boy eventually returns to the father. He finally understands who he is and who his father is, and he’s happy to be back.
Jesus quotes the father in the parable when he proclaims, “We had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.”
And I think this resonates with us on many levels. One of the most obvious is that the greatest stories in history are the comeback stories.
No one wold be impressed if an NBA team trounced a local high school. But if — somehow — the high schoolers were able to play so well that they legitimately beat the NBA team . . . that would make international news. We’d all be cheering for teenagers whose names we don’t even know because they beat the celebrity athletes everyone knows.
In the same way, but in a much more divine and eternal sense, the angels in heaven rejoice when a sinner repents because they understand how impossible it is. Sinners don’t repent. Sinners sin. But when God gets involved, He makes it possible for supernatural things to happen. When Jesus steps into the picture sickness is healed, demons flee, and the most vile of sinners are made holy.
This is why Jesus had absolutely no problem putting His hands on lepers. He enjoyed saving the lost. He even went so far as to be tortured and die so that He could purchase the salvation of the very men who tortured and murdered Him.
Is there company any more repugnant? Can you imagine spending time with a less worthy group of sinners? Can we even comprehend how Jesus wants to spend eternity with the men who killed Him?!
And, lest we arrogantly think we’re any better than those who physically nailed Christ to the cross, God says that He loved us before we ever loved Him. And if we weren’t loving Him, we were hating Him. And if we hated Him, we were just as guilty as if we had murdered Him.
In Matthew 5:21 and 22 Jesus said, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.’”
And yet even though it was your sin and my sin that nailed Jesus to the cross just as tangibly as the Roman nails that pierced His flesh . . . He died for us.
So, we have seen the example of Jesus — He surrounded Himself with the mean and the lowly. And we’ve seen the motivation of Jesus — He did so because He loved them and they needed to be saved from their destruction.
Now, let’s consider . . .
3. The Call of Jesus
In episode 241 we started a 6 part series called “Parenting in Christ.” You can access that series by clicking the title in the description of this episode.
If you are a born again follower of Jesus, then you are said to be “in Christ.” It’s your current position.
Now, if you are in Christ, then His neighbors are your neighbors; His traveling companions are your traveling companions.
And if you think that you can be a follower of Christ and yet perpetually surround yourself with the beautiful and the blessed and the “clean” and those who don’t need anything . . . you don’t even make any sense. If Jesus is over there with the needy and the broken and the spiritually destitute, then you’re not following Him when you hang out with the other group.
But, instead of judging the people with whom you choose to associate. Let’s consider the neighbors over which you had no choice.
Let’s consider your children.
Now, it’s not my intention to paint our kids in the worst possible light. I understand that some of you think your kids can do no wrong, and there are others who believe your children are incapable of doing anything right. Some of you yearn to hang out with your children, and others dread it.
My point is not to argue that your children are the dregs of society with whom no high class individual would want to associate. I simply desire us all to understand one physical reality and one spiritual reality.
A. The Physical Insanity of Parenting
No parent-child pairing makes sense from a human perspective.
Typically, people prefer to associate with those who are on their socio-economic level or higher. Most people prefer to be around those they perceive are a few rungs up on the social ladder — people who are richer, more popular, and more powerful.
And yet our kids are the exact opposite of us. Thirteen days ago I turned 40. My oldest is 13 and my youngest of 10. What on earth do we have in common? I mean, other than the fact that they’re my kids, if you found out a 40 year old spent all of his free time with little kids who were not his own children, you’d have a lot of reason to be concerned. Such a person either has nefarious plans or she herself is functioning on a lower cognitive level.
And though competent adults may volunteer to work with children or choose to do it as a profession, pragmatically speaking, it doesn’t make sense for adults to want to hang out with kids when they have nothing else better to be doing.
Can we all at least agree that — from a human perspective — the vast majority of adults would prefer to spend their time with other adults.
Not only that, but if your children were your age, they would probably not be your favorite people. Their immaturity is tolerable to a certain degree because of their age, but if they inhabited older bodies and still acted that immaturely, which of us would have any patience with them?
And yet God has created a world where adults are required to produce and care for individuals they would otherwise ignore.
Now, before I move to the next point, I can tell that some of you are struggling with my description. And that’s good. It should make you uncomfortable, and — if you’re a born again follower of Christ — it shouldn’t be your reality.
But, from the world’s perspective, people have no problem being explicitly open concerning what they think about kids. Our world is facing a dilemma of epic proportions because we’re not having enough children to replace our dying adults. We’re looking down the barrel of population collapse.
And it’s due to the fact that people are have fewer children and/or murdering the ones they have.
The abortion industry would have us believe that children only have value when we want them to have value. Otherwise, they do nothing but get in the way, colonize our wombs, and destroy our chances of having an enriching life.
This is the mentality being absolutely forced down our throats from every angle because this is what honest, godless people really think.
So, kids don’t make sense from a physical perspective, but now let’s consider . . .
B. The Spiritual Insanity of Parenting
Once again, our children have nothing to offer us. They are completely dependent and needy. Some may even say they’re a drain on our physical and spiritual resources.
And — before you get all pompous with me — be honest. Parenting is hard. It’s taxing. It requires more than we possess to do well.
And yet God — Who has hidden spiritual majesty in earthen vessels — enjoys empowering incapable people to do things they cannot do.
Whether our kids come to us biologically or we choose them through foster and adoption, we are inviting into our homes very uncomfortable neighbors.
They represent all of the worst things about the people with whom Jesus surrounded Himself — they are foolish, weak, sick, and broken. But they bring additional struggles with them. They’re not otherwise capable adults struggling with sin and sickness, they’re helpless little kids who don’t even understand their situation let alone are able to address it.
Now, before I wrap all this up in an encouraging way, I want to just remind you that I’m not down on kids. I’m not explaining them in such menial ways because I believe them to have no value. I recognize that Jesus wanted the little children to come to Him.
And that’s the point. Until we get a biblically accurate view of God, ourselves, and those around us, we will never truly appreciate what He’s doing.
His salvation won’t be miraculous if I think I’m good enough that I don’t need to be saved. And we won’t ever accept His grace in parenting if we don’t see ourselves and our kids for exactly what we are . . . undeserving neighbors. In fact, in our Flesh, we’re not merely annoying neighbors, we’re vicious enemies willing to sacrifice you on the altar of our self-worship.
That’s the Truth of our spiritual plight.
We have many episodes that detail the nature of sin; I hope you’ll avail yourself of those as you seek to better understand what God has to say about the human condition.
And yet, despite the fact that — from a human perspective — the parent/child relationship makes absolutely no physical or spiritual sense, it’s easy to see from the Scriptures how miraculous and marvelous it is. It’s clear that the all-wise God deliberately introduces the most uncomfortable neighbors into our lives for the exact same reason He welcomed them into His.
God wants to use us as an instrument of His love.
He’s not physically here to call the broken to Him, but our kids are broken, and He wants to use us to call our kids to Him.
And — let’s be honest — the real miracle here is not that God calls perfect humans to minister to imperfect humans; He enables broken humans to minister to equally broken humans.
If we’re going to parent in Christ, then we have to be prepared to do the following:
1. We must love those who are physically impotent. Jesus, the Creator and Sustainer of all life, loves us all even though we’re completely incapable of keeping ourselves alive. Our children’s inability to take care of themselves is not an excuse to resent them.
2. We must love those that are spiritually dead. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost — of whom we are the chief. Our children’s spiritual deadness or immaturity shouldn’t push us away, it should be the thing that draws us to them.
3. We must love those who are unlike us. I don’t even need to explain how unlike us Jesus is, and yet He became like us to win us. The fact that you and your child don’t see eye-to-eye is no excuse. The fact that you may be a man and she’s a girl doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to talk to her about important topics. The reality that your child doesn’t think like you or like the same things as you isn’t a relationship-stunting problem.
And 4. We must love those who hate us. Even though they are so needy, and even though we’ve sacrificed to provide for them in every possible way, they are going to often love themselves more than they love us. In those moments, they hate us (biblically speaking), and yet in those moments — if we’re in Christ — the most obvious thing we should do is love those who hate us and do good to those who persecute us (Matthew 5:11).
Now, if you have a wonderful relationship with your kids and can’t get enough of them and absolutely love spending all of your time with them and embrace the challenges of parenting in Christ, that’s fantastic. That’s how it should be. Praise God because it’s only possible through Him!
Please don’t misunderstand the point of today’s episode. I’m calling all of us to embrace our uncomfortable neighbors as we parent in Christ. I’m calling us to love everyone the way Christ loves us.
This episode was created primarily for the parents who are struggling to love their kids because they’re a burden. They’re weak, broken, hard, or whatever their unique struggle may be. Those parents may not be comfortable admitting it, but their kids have made themselves onerous. Those kids are rebelling and actively terrorizing the household, and everything in the parent wants to escape.
Today’s episode was for you.
I know your kids are uncomfortable. I know — even if you chose them through foster care or adoption — you probably didn’t choose how they’re currently acting. You didn’t choose neighbors like that. And — like we saw before — even when they’re not actively trying to dismantle the house, it doesn’t make any worldly sense to have a relationship with a needy child.
And yet, that’s the very beauty of parenting. God has given our families the opportunity to mirror the relationship God has with us. The all-powerful, all-knowing, all-perfect God of the universe who has received nothing but sin and hate and vitriol from us, has done everything imaginable to redeem us, to save us, to empower us to do what we could never do.
That is the beauty of parenting uncomfortable children.
We get to be Christ to them.
And that’s the joy and wonder of being an Ambassador Parent.
But before we end today, we have to make one huge, honest, and ugly admission: our kids have uncomfortable neighbors too.
If we didn’t have much of a choice in who our kids are . . . they had even less of a choice. That goes not only for their siblings, but also for their parents.
Part of being an Ambassador Parent in Christ is leading our kids in how to interact with and love their uncomfortable neighbors.
Part of being that kind of parent is helping them respond to your brokenness.
God didn’t just give them the best parent for them, God gave you the best kids for you — not best as in better behaved than all the others — best as in they are exactly what God wants to use to mature you and grow in your sanctification.
I know, this parenting the way God parents us is a huge job, and it’s totally counter-cultural and counter-intuitive, but it’s guaranteed to glorify God when we submit to Him because the only way we can love is to love the way He first loved us.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets and be sure to follow TLP wherever you socialize on the interweb.
And, listen, if the neighbors in your home are so incredibly uncomfortable that you don’t even know anymore how to love them like Christ loves you, please reach out to us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com or call us at (828) 423-0894.
Remember, if we want our children to grow up into Christ, we must parent in truth and love.
To that end, join us next time as we wrap up this three part episode by discussing “The Reward of Parenting in Christ.”
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