Leadership is a subjective skill because the base definition of it leaves it as an open-ended trait. Men can posses the ability to lead people in different ways. God has a way of raising up people to lead that others simply never expected. Every married man has a command from God to be leading his family spiritually. We must love them well and show them compassion. We are to be a vicar of Christ and we can see how the parent-child relationship is simply summed up in Ephesians 6:1-2.
To summarize it children honor their parents through obedience and fathers are called to rear their children in the Lord and to not provoke them to anger. Anger does not inspire obedience so the onus is on you, me, us to teach children how God wants us to live, to act and react to life and it’s trials.
Loving and leading means we should not set out to antagonize our children and frustrate them. I’ll be honest, sometimes I find this hard. These little humans find the best ways to get at our nerves and sometimes we retaliate in an ineffective and selfishly satisfying manner. Mimicking your child in a fussy type voice after they’ve done everything but what you asked of them serves no purpose but I’m fairly certain I did it on a whim a few nights ago with Ella. It is literally arguing with a smaller version of yourself.
Jesus did not do that with his disciples when they disobeyed. He reacted in love, chastised in patience and commanded them in kindness. Those three parts are what makes up a person that is leading their family in love.
Leading in Love
Let’s count the ways that Jesus could lead us out of anger, can you? I can’t. Humanity has done some terrible things from the disobedience in the garden, killing God’s son and the atrocities we see play out in history over things from skin color to a certain toy that our children want for Christmas. It is easy to forget that behavior like that is learned behavior. Anger, rage, hate and other negative emotions are all things we have learned and passed on to our children via our actions, the things they see and hear and how we respond to their questions about those things. Each time we allow that to continue we are saying that those emotions while unavoidable are completely okay to express in negative behavior.
Instead we should be teaching them that emotions are uncontrollable parts of ourselves but how we express those emotions we have complete control over. That starts with us controlling our own reactions and we should not look to a child for authentication that our parenting of behaviors is working if our own behavior does not emulate how we want them to react.
Chastise in Patience
Discipline is something that must be proportionate to an offense. Discipline out of anger is in fact not discipline at all but abuse. How that discipline occurs is completely up to the parents. Some parents spank their children among other methods of discipline and some do not. The Bible does not say it is required or that it is a sin. Please do not use Proverbs 13:24 as a reason to relentlessly wail on your children in the misguided attempt to say corporal punishment is okay. The ‘Rod’ referred to is discipline in general and a warning that without firm and decisive discipline a child will become accustom to getting their way. This can lead to behavior related issues that in common speech today equates to a child being referred to as a “spoiled brat.”
Consider Jesus’ reaction when Peter walked on water with him and faltered (Matthew 14:29). What was Jesus response? A rebuke made in love. Peter should have had faith in Christ and when the wind distracted him and he took his eye off of Jesus he began to waver. When he cried out for saving Jesus did so. He surely could have let Peter drown or angrily demanded his obedience and belittled him but he did not.
It is really easy to just retaliate in a physical manner when you have a stubborn child but there are non-corporal means of discipline. These non-physical methods take more time, more commitment and more patience than a swift whack on the rear end but they are effective. We should devote time to understanding which is best and when/if we should use one or the other. Jesus did not need save humanity. He did not need to be beaten and murdered and yet he offered himself up as a permanent sacrifice for our sinful nature. He bore ridicule with integrity and was leading his disciples in love. When they stumbled he chastised them in patience and when the time came his commands to spread the gospel were done in kindness.
Command in Kindness
Our children have natural feelings for us such as love and fear. They love us because of all the goodness we pour in to them and there is fear for the wrath they drum up when disobedient. That fear does not need to be paralyzing and in fact it shouldn’t. They are our children, even when they know they are in trouble we want them to have comfort in the fact that our commands, our discipline, or reactions are done out of love for them.
When you discipline do you take the time to tell them why it was wrong? Do you explain better was of going about things? These talks are important because they allow our children to know that they are loved and being cared for. It allows them to understand that a goal can be accomplished in many ways and very likely within the confines of what is acceptable. When you take the time to show them these things you are leading them in a positive way without fear but with kindness.
The greatest leaders are the most humble. You can get things done through sheer will and brute force but we have to consider the effects of those kind of actions. You have to consider the legacy you leave. Will your children think that dad was a hard man or will they think that even though I did lots of stuff he was patient and loved me and supported me. I fall somewhere in the middle, we are a work in progress as long as we want to be. What I want is my children to know that I love them, I expect them to behave in a manner consistent with the Bible and that my dreams are that their dreams become a reality.
All of the stuff we have talked about today cannot happen unless we are men of integrity. Integrity is the living of your internal life and external life in parity with one another. It is easy to put on a Christian front and pretend you are leading a righteous family for God. Living that life at home, away from the eyes of the public is the harder of the two. If you can manage to do that you can lead your family in love, you will be capable of chastising your children in patience and commanding your family in kindness. Stay focused on God, what He is and the work Christ commanded of you. The moment you do not your leadership falters like Peter on the water. Hold fast the confessions of your faith and make disciples through that faith.