Thursday, July 8, 2010

Judgementalism

I have been thinking a lot lately about my heart attitude as a Christian. It is because I am reading yet another Donald Miller book, and it really has me thinking about how haughty I tend to be. In this book, he points out that people seem to find their value by comparing themselves to others. They feel good about themselves as long as there is someone "beneath" them, whether it be socially, economically, physically, or in any other way. He also points out that we were designed to find our worth outside of ourselves, from God and who He says we are and how He loves us, but in our fallen state, we look to others to define us instead of to God. And that is why we so often find someone to condemn or look down on; it helps us to feel like we are "ok".

I started thinking about Christian teens that I have worked with through the years. There is always a very small minority who seem to care less what others think of them, but most Christian teens act just like non-Christian teens: they worry about what others think of them; no matter how "liberal" they are, they always find someone who "sins" or does stuff that they would never do.

That being said, we need to think long and hard about what we are teaching our children. Are we teaching them to be good, moral, and kind in their own strength? Are we communicating to them that in our eyes they don't, and will never, measure up? That they are a disappointment to us? Are we comparing our children, holding the "better behaved" ones up as "examples" for others to follow? As long as our goal as parents is to have "good" Christian kids, we will hang onto all sorts of behavior modification techniques to get them to behave the way we want them to. They will learn early on that to be acceptable, they just need to do what we tell them, when we tell them to. They will, I can guarantee, then becomes very outwardly good, or they will rebel. Either way, they will also be very judgmental, seeking their affirmation in the fact that they are better than at least some of their peers (yes, even the rebellious ones).

What we fail to do as parents is to look at the big picture of Scripture. It is the story of a perfect God who wanted people who could be in relationship with Him. These people betrayed His love in the garden. Ever since then, they have tried to find out "who they are" apart from him, from those around them. Then this wonderful, perfect God, filled with love for his runaway bride, died so that that relationship could be restored. And he wants those who have been redeemed to find their wholeness, their meaning, in Him. Are we presenting a portrait to our children of this incredible love and grace that God has given us? Or are we raising them to find their acceptance in good behavior? God knew something that we fail to realize: genuine love invites people, including children, into relationship where they are perfectly accepted based on no merit of their own.

Donald Miller aptly states: "It makes you feel that as a parent the most important thing you can do is love your kids, hold them and tell them you love them because, until we get to heaven, all we can do is hold our palms over the wounds. I mean, if a kid doesn't feel he is loved, he is going to go looking for it in all kinds of ways...Give a kid the feeling of being loved early, and they will be better at negotiating that other stuff when they get older. They won't fall for anything stupid, and they won't feel a kind of desperation all the time in their souls. It is no coincidence that Jesus talks endlessly about love. Free love. Unconditional love." (Searching For God Knows What).  I would add that we should invite them to walk in a love relationship with their Heavenly Father, who knows all their needs, and loves them.

When I look into the loving eyes of my Father, when I cling to His unconditional grace towards me, all haughtiness melts away. I am defined by Him, found in Him. Nothing can separate me from His love. Our children should grow up with the security of unconditional love. We need to invite them to partake of a relationship with God together with us.

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