Last weekend at Calvary we talked about the value of a father’s heart. A father’s heart is what every kid needs. If you missed the message, you can listen here (
See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse. Malachi 4:5-6 (NIV)
In John’s gospel, Jesus said that John the Baptist was this Elijah sent from God. John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus, which — think about it — which means that somewhere near the heart of Jesus’ mission…somewhere near the heart of the Gospel is the turning of the hearts of fathers to their children… and the turning of the hearts of children to their fathers. Guys this is our great calling. God calls us to make a great commitment for children. God calls us to a heart-turning adventure. God calls us to a great battle for the hearts of our kids. This is a Father’s Calling.
So what does it look like when the hearts of father’s and their children are turned toward each other? Well it looks like parenting that is filled with grace and truth. I think we could graph all of our parenting
styles along a spectrum of those two words. So if you look at the matrix with four quadrants…going up you are increasing in grace and going across you are increasing in truth.
So in the bottom left hand quadrant, you have a style of parenting that is low on grace and low on truth. In other words, it’s Indifferent. The child is growing up with very little love and very little discipline or instruction.
Right above that in the box, you have a style that is high on grace and low on truth. In other words it’s an Indulgent parenting style. It’s anything goes because we love you and even if you do wrong there is always grace. In fact truth isn’t all that important.
Then to the right of that — upper right hand corner is a style that is high on grace, but also high on truth. It is Inspiring. It’s a style that breathes life into a child. A love that gives grace in times of failure but doesn’t neglect to disciple or discipline.
Then finally there is a style in the bottom right hand corner that is high on truth and low on grace. That’s the Imposing style. It’s Marine-Style parenting, heavy on the rules, low on grace, brutally honest, and filled with commands. Low on physical and verbal expressions of love. High on discipline and instruction. A lot of telling, not much listening.
Now if you think about those four styles — which one do most of us dads gravitate towards? We are drill sargeant wanna-be’s. Why? We’re busy. We’re action figures. Don’t have time to open up our hearts. When we come home at the end of the day, tired worn out and beaten up, it takes more time to give love and grace than it does to give direction. If a dad really worked hard, there’s not a lot of attention being given on the personal side, the more intimate side, the heart side. But dads still care, they want to do the right thing so they issue commands from above.
Now, if you go back and look at the research, it tells you which of those four styles are most healthy, in order. Here’s what they are: 1. The Inspiring Style full of grace and truth…high love, high discipline. That is the best environment for a child. 2. Interestingly, the second best parenting style is the Indulgent style. High Grace, Low in Truth. Where there’s a lot of grace given with verbal and physical expressions of love, even when there’s not a lot of discipline and instruction, that’s second best. 4. The worst style of all, is the Imposing style — very authoritarian style. You know what’s interesting, you meet some one who is very anti-religious, anti-God, anti-Christianity, I mean they are vehemently angry toward religion. Did you ever meet somebody like that? Ask them, “Tell me the home you grew up in?” They will often describe a strict, religious home, where dad was constantly giving the authoritative, religious pronouncements. But they never saw his heart.
In fact the research tells us, that children raised high in grace based loving homes, in either the Inspiring or the Indulgent homes, were more likely to adopt the values of the families they grew up in. When they get to be adults, they are more likely to be responsive to authority figures. They have a greater sense of well being. Love creates that.
So guys how are your hearts towards your children? Are you full of grace and truth as you parent them?