Our children learn a lot from us by listening in on our conversations. May we be ever-vigilant in guarding what we say.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building [your kids] up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
When we rant about something at home or in the car with our children (and/or grandchildren) present, we teach them through our words, our tone, and energy. What do we teach them? If we are not careful, we can teach them to fear, to hate, to take up our offense, to see things and people from a negative perspective, and to not respect authority. This truth goes for talking about your boss, your co-workers, your friends, your church, (and if applicable a church building project). Is it our job to monitor what younger generations are hearing and learning from us? You bet it is!
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9
God sets great store by obedience because He knows obedience is what will keep our relationship with Him and our relationships with each other healthy, full of peace and joy rather than full of the bondage that comes with disobedience. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commands” John 14:15. In fact, nearly all of His parables were about loving God through obedience; the parable of two sons (Matthew 21:28-32), and the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) are two examples. This passage from Deuteronomy is a classic example of how we are to teach our children. The symbols on their hands and the binding of them on their foreheads were real, physical reminders. For us today, we might put a scripture on the lock screen on our phones or computer screens to remind us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind* and strength. Where was the emphasis in the Deuteronomy passage? On the children. For the sake of the next generation. What we say matters. How we say it matters, too.
Let’s make sure that we are leaving a godly legacy for our children, our grandchildren, and the younger generations of our church family. What stories do we want them to tell about us when we are gone? What stories will they tell of how we handled conflict whether at home, work, or at church? I pray that it is one of kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and taking the lower seat at the banquet table. May we love each other as Christ loves us: with a cruciform, self-sacrificing love. By the way, “cruciform” means “shaped like a cross” (I looked it up). It’s what happens to us when we take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23); we take on a cross-shaped life.
Abba, may we all strive to live a cruciform life. Your way is the best way for everyone, especially our children, for the sake of the generations to come. May we impress on them their need to love You with all their heart, soul and strength. May we never cease to love you ourselves by being careful about what we say. Amen.
*Mark 12:30 includes “mind” in the list.