3. Parents want moral children.The fact that parents want moral children isn't surprising, nor (do I think) is it a bad thing to want. The problem, as Cole hints at in this segment, is they want results now. I struggle with this in my own parenting. I keep wanting to treat the symptoms instead of the disease. One of the things my wife and I remind ourselves and our Sunday School class on a regular basis is, we need to be more concerned about the long-term status of our children's faith than the short-term status of their behavior, without neglecting their behavior.
A gospel-centered youth pastor in South Carolina once told me that parents were his biggest opponents to him fully preaching the gospel. After several years of teaching the radical grace of the gospel, parents complained about a lack of concentration on drinking, sexual abstinence, obedience to parents, and "being nice." They viewed the message of grace as antinomian and as a license for kids to pursue hedonism. Parents rightly want moral children, as do youth pastors. Sometimes, families view the church exclusively as a vehicle for moral education, rather than spiritually forming them in Christ, and put pressure on youth and senior pastors to moralize their children. Many parents view the law alone as the catalyst for holy living, rather than law and grace, and want the youth ministry to embrace this same theology.
Here's how we put it: "Would you rather have a perfectly-behaved teenager who doesn't understand the gospel, or would you rather have a teenager who messes up on a regular basis, but has a great understanding of the gospel?" The question may seem rhetorical, but it isn't. We need to ask ourselves, and answer to ourselves, that question on a daily basis. In our daily discipline and instruction of our kids and how they should behave, are we consciously focused on the long-term, big-picture aspects of making sure they have heard the gospel in all that we do toward them?
This isn't an easy task. If any of you have any magic pills for this, I'll take a bottle at whatever price you ask. (This could be a better retirement plan than weight-loss pills. After all, not everybody is fat*, but everybody who has teens struggles to parent them!)
(teens not behaving badly)
The only solution I see is to make sure our imperatives to our kids are given in the light of the gospel's indicatives. We need to make sure we daily plan to purposely steer our kids toward the gospel whenever we also steer them towards the law. We won't get it right as much as we'd like, but the good news (pun intended) is, the power unto salvation is found in the gospel, not our ability as parents.
*OK, CDC says about 40% of Americans are fat. That's too many. The diet pill thing is still a good retirement plan, if you can find one that actually works.**
**This isn't medically possible, so quit wasting your time. Go for a walk instead.