Galatians 6:1-2 reads “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ “
The admonition is, first, that we must be spiritual ourselves, we must be walking the walk of a Christian in the presence of our children. Secondly, the verse tells us that we have to have a spirit of gentleness, which in the Greek means “with humility,” lest you also be tempted. If we look at this verse in terms of relating to our children, we have to ask how we can be tempted. I think it could be when we forget that we are sinners, too, and that we, ourselves, are daily overtaken in trespasses. When we reject a humble, gentle attitude toward our children, we are tempted to mistreat them, physically and verbally. We can either build up and restore a child by our words and actions or we can tear down and lord it over them showing no spirit of humility whatsoever.
One year when our sons were on a little league team, one of the coaches was also the father of one of the players. Week after week this man belittled his son and dressed him down in front of all his teammates and their parents. (If I could live those weeks over, and knowing then what I know now, I would have confronted the father myself.) The poor kid didn’t improve much during the season and always had the demeanor of a defeated little soul, sitting on the bench, shoulders stooped and head down. While we don’t remember much else about that year of baseball, we do remember the day the county sheriff had to come to the ball field and escort this father away because he was so out of control that the game could not continue. No matter how accomplished that little boy might be as an adult now, I am certain he bears the scars of his father’s words to this day.
Scripture is telling us that the same principle applies to correcting sin. We are to do so gently and compassionately, remembering that we, too, are sinners in need of a Savior, and are still a work in progess ourselves. How we respond to sin in the lives of our children will have lasting consequences and if we are harsh might even cause them to give up altogether.
Then this passage goes on to say “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. “
Do you bear your children’s burdens? Do you really listen to them, do you know what is causing them to struggle, to lack faith, to disobey you? Do you think of potty training as bearing another’s burdens? What about teething? Do you understand that to a child with some learning disabilities, even mild ones, the ordinary chores of life are heavy burdens? And what about our older children who are beginning to experience the many challenges that come just by living life?
Once I got a phone call from my college age son. He was frustrated and began relaying a story to me about the difficulties he had experienced with one professor. It seems that this teacher had requirements for the writing work he accepted and my son, after nearly an entire semester in his class, still didn’t understand exactly what the man was requiring. As a matter of fact, there were only a handful of students who did understand and many of my son’s friends and acquaintances were in the same quandary as my son found himself.
In retrospect, what I needed to pull out were all the “nurturing” commands. He was tired, he was overwhelmed with trying to finish papers and projects amid the frustration of having talked with this teacher. I should have purposed to bear his burdens, to have been patient, humble and gentle, to have been kind and compassionate. To my shame, I was not. Instead, I chose to admonish, strongly, to “teach” (the more appropriate word was lecture) and to be anything but encouraging. Had I paused and considered what the Bible says love looks like, I would not have yelled over his cell phone, loudly enough, I might add, to force him to have to leave the area so his friends wouldn’t hear me sharpening his iron!
You see, as is usually the case, the Lord used the truth of Scripture to convict me that not only had I chosen to employ the wrong commands, I had not bathed my use of the “iron sharpening iron” commands in love. We had been reading through 1 Corinthians that week in our family devotions and then we came to chapter 13 and this is what we read: “ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
My son, who is my precious brother in Christ, should have been treated with gentleness and encouragement. Thankfully, God is gracious and good and forgives our trespasses. And so did my son.
Next we will consider what it means to show hospitality to our children.