Having A Christ-centered Parent-Child Relationship

by Rick Pidcock

I will never forget my last spanking ever. My dad was helping me on one of my dreaded school projects. I, of course, had procrastinated to the very last minute. And both of us were feeling very frustrated. He wanted me to get my work done. And I just wanted him to get off of my back about it.

Through the ensuing conversation, various uncharitable words were expressed on my part, which resulted in my last spanking ever.

My dad grabbed the wimpiest ping pong paddle that had ever been swung on planet earth. And as he made contact with my posterior, the paddle broke…and so did his finger on the corner of the door.

Years later, my mom told me that she told my dad that night, “That’s what you get for spanking out of anger.” Of course, I’m sure that I was at least partly to blame in the whole matter.

I can guess that we probably all have fond memories of our last spanking ever. Perhaps some of you parents are wondering when you will ever give out your last spanking ever. But whatever parent-child relationship you find yourself in, the fact remains that every parent-child relationship has been broken by sin.

Because of this brokenness, our relationships must be transformed by the power of the gospel. And as I shared in my original article entitled Living Worship, God transforms our lives by renewing our minds in the gospel.

In my article Having A Christ Centered Home, I said, “The parent and child relationship that is transformed by the gospel is not one of mere provision, guidance, and support. And again, while those benefits are all an important part of the family, they are not the main purposes of being a family. The parent-child relationship that is transformed by the gospel is also viewed as a model of the gospel in this world for magnifying the supremacy of God and for making disciples.”

I would now like to focus on how the parent-child relationship that is transformed by the gospel can be a model of the gospel for magnifying the supremacy of God and for making disciples.

Being A Christ-centered Parent

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” –Ephesians 6:4

One of my favorite movies is I Am Sam. It is about a mentally handicapped father who is trying to raise his daughter by himself. The movie points to the fact that all parents to some extent feel retarded at times. We are all handicapped by our own unique or common inabilities. And in one of the court scenes, the lawyer asks Sam, “Who do you look up to as a father?” After thinking about it for a few seconds, Sam says, “Myself. I look up to myself as a father.”

Every father must ask himself that same question. Who do you look up to as a father to model your parenting after? Perhaps it is your father, or whatever the opposite of your father would be. Or maybe it is that amazing preacher that you like so much.

A Christ-centered father must view himself as a model of the heavenly Father to his children. The first three chapters of Ephesians are packed full of the glories of who God is and what He does as our Father. Then Ephesians 4:1 says, “I…urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” And finally Ephesians 5:1 says, “Therefore be imitators of God.”

The rest of Ephesians shows us how we can live the gospel (being imitators of God) on a practical day-to-day level. And when it comes to parenting, Paul says in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Although our goal should be to be imitators of God, we must first admit that we cannot be complete imitators of God due to our sinful natures and the limitations of being the created, rather than the Creator. Because of this great inadequacy, division will naturally take place between every parent and child.

Therefore, a Christ-centered parent must understand how the Gospel transforms the way the he helps his children to grow. The first command is to not provoke your children to wrath. Overreacting or underreacting will both cause children to become angry with the parent. Also, focusing on the wrong thing in parenting will also influence the child to become angry.

That is why it is so important as a parent to understand what it means to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Sadly, most parents believe that this verse means that they must tell their kids what to do, and then discipline them strongly when they disagree. The main problem with that view, however, is that it is not the instruction of the parents that we are to pursue, but the instruction of the Lord.

This command goes to the heart of Christian growth. In order to “bring them up,” parents must know the essence of Christian growth. Colossians 2:6,7 say, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

The essence of Christian growth is faith. Just as we are rooted in Christ by faith, we are “built up” by faith. Thus, Christ-centered parenting must seek to “bring them up” by sharing the centrality of faith in Christ to every area of life to the children. In other words, parents must continually share with their children how we must respond to the gospel by faith in living worship.

Being A Christ-centered Child

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and your mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’” –Ephesians 6:1-3

Just as I mentioned in the first section of this article, we must begin with our view of the gospel. Paul begins Ephesians with the theology of the gospel. And then he transitions in chapter four by admonishing us to walk worthy of the calling to which we have been called. And finally, he tells us in chapter five to be “imitators of God.”

So how can children be imitators of God in how they respond to their parents? With the understanding that the parent-child relationship models the gospel, we can only conclude that being a Christ-centered child will model the role that Christ plays to His heavenly Father in the gospel.

Just as Christ obeyed His father, children must obey their parents. I often ask teenagers if their parents have ever told them to be nailed on a cross for the sins of mankind. And of course, they all laugh and say that their parents have never asked that of them. Yet, that is exactly what Christ was told to do by His Father. And Christ responded in Luke 22:42, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Children should sacrifice their will for the will of the parents because it is the right way to magnify God to be supreme by imitating Christ in response to the gospel.

In the same way that Christ obeyed His Father, he also enjoyed His Father. Christ’s obedience to His Father was not a drag. He is not eternally miserable under the royal law of His heavenly Father. But Christ’s obedience resulted in the great joy of magnifying the Father to be supreme by bringing His bride to Himself.

And in the same way, God promises to give an abundant, joyous life to children that magnify Him to be supreme by obeying their parents in response to the gospel through living worship.

Practical Advice

The ideas in this article may seem idealistic to most of you, especially since I do not happen to have any children. Isn’t it funny how many “experts” there are on parenting who have never had any children? Even though this may sound idealistic, I pray that you will have found it to be biblical and helpful.

For more thorough practical suggestions on how to flesh out this theology of having a Christ-centered parent-child relationship in everyday life, I would strongly recommend that you take a few moments to read a few articles written by my friend Rob Wilkerson. I will place the links to his articles at the bottom of this post.

I pray that God will continue to encourage you with the hope that you have in Christ. And I pray that you will respond by faith in living worship.

  • Don’t Live In Despair Because of Your Failures In Following Jesus
  • Thinking Through Evangelism To Kids
  • Preaching the Gospel To Our Kids-Pointing to Christ’s Obedience As Their Substitution
  • Preaching the Gospel To Our Kids-Dealing With Sinful Anger
  • On Parenting With the Gospel
  • How To Share the Gospel When You Discipline Your Kids
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    2 thoughts on “Having A Christ-centered Parent-Child Relationship

    1. Thank you very much for this article. I have been having issues lately with my children. And this article helped me to see that I need to keep Christ at the center of my relationship with my kids, rather than my own personal agenda.

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