Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Love and Manners Part 2

(A continuation of the Mothers Class on 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)

Click HERE for previous lesson

Love is not easily angered:Contrary to what many might think... anger is not necessarily sin. Ephesians 4:26,27 "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil. " Anger isn't the sin, but it is an open door that many of us are guilty of passing through to sin. Being angry over an injustice is not the same as being snippy impatient, or irritated. This chronic-type of anger is a strong symptom that our mind is out of alignment and we are in need of an adjustment. Look for the root of the problem. Is it improper planning on our part? What is the trigger? Do we enjoy being angry? Do we wear it like a battle scar or see it as our rightful attitude for all our hurt and pain we've had to endure? Or perhaps it is just what we have practiced for so long, we don't know anything different.
Maybe it was how we were raised and we think angry parents are normal parents.

Whatever the cause, the prescription is more time in God's word. His Word provides the mental adjustment we need. Someone once said to me, "A cup of sweet water, no matter how hard it is bumped, won't spill bitter water." When we have filled our mind with God's good word, it is what comes out in these trying moments.

We miss out on so much when we let resentment and bitterness steal our joy. Love is strong... it doesn't allow anger to rule our emotions or dictate our responses to trying situations. "Bite your tongue" has been around for a while, but seriously, it is good advice for someone who is just beginning to learn how to give up their sinful anger. Restrict the amount that you allow yourself to say. Don't allow yourself to say anything when you can feel your anger begin to bubble-up. Rarely do we regret being silent, but very often we feel great remorse over the things which we have said in a moment of anger.

When dealing with our kids, it's good to teach them that being angry isn't the sin. It is what we choose to do when we're angry that may cause us to sin. If we are so angry that we seek to harm someone, then we are sinning. Remaining calm yourself goes a long way with teaching your child how to deal with anger. Speak truth to them. "I saw what Shane did to your toy, and I see that it made you mad, didn't it?" Allowing your child to feel the anger without encouraging him to sin helps them get used to a pattern and allows them to learn how to deal with the anger. If they are in the wrong, we should correct using discernment. If the situation is still very emotional, you might choose to have your child sit away, alone for a few minutes to calm down. We want our kids to be receptive to what we have to say to them. Talking to them while they are blinded by an emotion like anger would be useless.  

If we simply push morality by emphasizing our child's right to justice, we miss a great opportunity to lead our kids to show compassion and grace where someone might not deserve it. Our example lies with how Christ deals with us. "...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:8 ESV) We don't wait until someone makes us happy to forgive... when you can, take the opportunity of an offense to teach your child about grace.  (Keep in mind that your first priority is to protect your child and keep them safe.  Sometimes an offense just needs to be handled by the adults.  Be discerning.)

Prov. 14:29      Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
Prov. 15:1        A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger
Prov. 15:18      A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention
Prov. 16:32     Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
Prov. 19:11    Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

Love keeps no record of wrongs:
From Dr. Lockwood's commentary on 1 Corinthians: "Love carries 'no chip on its shoulder.' It does not nurse a grudge. It forgives, even as Christ has forgiven (Eph. 4:32)." It is not God's way to remember our sins. He forgets, on purpose, and does not hold that, which he has every right to, against us.

In our role as parents, we must remember not to take our children's offenses personally or to keep track of them. Certainly, we want to be familiar with their weaknesses and areas of temptation, but this isn't the same as keeping a record of their wrongs. It isn't always pleasant to be the punching bag. As our kids grow, their capacity to offend grows as well. They can become proficient in "pushing our buttons". 

 When we offer immediate forgiveness to our child we are revealing God's love to them.  Let me say that again:   When we offer IMMEDIATE forgiveness (meaning we don't make our kids "pay" for our forgiveness... we give it freely), we are revealing God's love to them.  It is important not to confuse forgiveness with permissiveness.  A consequence for disobedience is not the same as keeping record of wrongs. 

Sibling relationships offer a wonderful arena for our kids to practice this act of forgiveness. I often quote these verses from the Proverbs for my kids as a reminder. Learning to sidestep an insult or an offense benefits not only the offender, but also the offended. Everyone wins and a relationship is strengthened.

Prov. 10:12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses
Prov. 12:16 The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.
Prov. 17:9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.

Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth:
As children of God, the Holy Spirit makes us to recognize the Gospel as truth, and so we no longer tolerate unrighteousness. God's truth drives unrighteousness out. Not only does love reject evil, it doesn't even want to hear about it or be present around it. We should be nauseated at the sight of wickedness. Instead, we are to put our minds to thinking about things which are constructive and edifying. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  (Philippians 4:8 ESV)

Our children can be godly. We can expect godliness from our children. Praise them when you see correct behavior. Let it be known that you are delighted with their obedience. Rejoice when they speak God's Words of truth. Teach them to memorize His truths. Hiding God's words in our heart is storing up for future temptations. You can't expect to have the truth at a moment's notice if you haven't first stocked up. Spend time with your children; spend time together in God's Word.

Prov. 20:3 It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.
Prov. 21:21 Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.
Prov. 24:17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,

Love always protects:
Love puts the needs of others before their own. The ESV translation of the scriptures says, "Love bears all things..." Again we see how patient and long suffering Love is.

Sometimes love shows itself not in what we allow our children to do, but in what we don't allow them to do. As parents, we would put our life on the line for our children, but sometimes we hesitate at the small stuff when it means our kids might not like us very much. Being a parent is not for the faint of heart! Many times we will be loathed for the firm stands that we take. But we must remember who the parent is.

 It is pretty easy to tell a toddler, "NO!" when they are reaching for a hot pan on a hot stove. We SEE the danger, we know exactly what horrible outcome might occur. We parent boldly. But something seems to happen as our children grow and they learn the fine arts of back talk, sulking, and master manipulation. No one wants to be the "bad guy"; But Love protects. Loving your child means placing age appropriate boundaries around them and refusing to let them break through even when they are trying really, REALLY hard.

I remember a conversation I had with my daughter when she was about twelve. The actual situation doesn't matter, the point is that she wanted to tell me that my rules were too strict and that we treated her like a baby by not giving her room to wander as she would like. Instead of arguing with her I said something like this. "Emily, These boundaries are around you to keep you safe. As you grow, we will move some of the boundaries further out, but only when we know it is safe. You can trust me. No matter how much you struggle, I promise that I will never let go." She looked at me kind of dumbfounded and through her tears I recognized a sort of relief behind her eyes. Do not be fooled, children WANT you to protect them. They just don't always realize it.

Side note: In order for us to protect our children, we must be aware of dangers ahead. We should be thinking constantly, watching constantly, and listening constantly. I have found that this is nearly impossible. However, I have been blessed on several occasions with friends who have seen or heard something that I missed. They brought it to my attention and I have been so thankful for those friends. When someone you trust comes to you with information that can help you better protect your children, be careful not to resent it or let your ego become bruised. A friend who is courageous enough to show you your blind spots is a true friend indeed.

Prov. 12:23 A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly.
Prov. 15:22 Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.
Prov. 17:12 Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs rather than a fool in his folly.
Prov. 22:3 The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.

Love always trusts:
Love isn't gullible, but rather trusts in what is true. Not that we always believe other people, but we believe the faith, which has been given to us through Christ, endures all circumstances. We trust God to be God. Not some Disney version of what we want God to be, but the God of the Scriptures. How do we know what that is? I'm glad you asked. :) The answer is, read your Bible, attend Sunday School or at least one Bible Study during the week. If you're not in a Bible Study (especially if you attend St. John) ... start this week!! Learn to read the Bible and to know what you believe and to trust what you believe!

Teach these truths to your children. Read to them the stories from God's Word, so that they won't ever know of a time when they didn't know who Jonah, Noah, or Daniel were. Give them that rich culture that only life in the Scriptures can give. Teach them to trust in God's Word.

Prov. 3:3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Prov. 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding

Love always hopes:
This past week a young lady, from our congregation lost her battle with cancer. She was just 22 years old. As Christians, we have the blessed hope of our Lord and Savior to comfort us during our earthy sorrows. This hope is that we will be with our Savior, and that all sin, all sorrow, all heartache will end.

This hope sustains us and encourages us. We know that we will be with Christ for all eternity. Give this hope to your children as well. Remind them each night as they lay their heads on their pillows that they are a child of God. That He loves them and one day they will be with him for all eternity. Let them get excited about being God's child. The line "If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." is often changed or omitted from the familiar nighttime prayer for children. What a shame. There is so much comfort in those words. In the Hymn, "I am Jesus Little Lamb." the last verse proclaims a similar hope:

Who so happy as I am,
Even now the Shepherd's lamb?
And when my short life is ended,
By His angel host attended,
He shall fold me to His breast,
There within His arms to rest.

The reality is that we will all pass from this earthly life, so ignoring it to save a child's feelings is missing an opportunity to proclaim the truth of the hope we have in Christ. Live boldly knowing that your hope lies in Christ your Savior. The best is yet to come!

Prov. 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.
Prov. 8: 35 For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord.

Love always perseveres:
Love doesn't flee, doesn't leave. Love is committed and it follows through. Unfortunately, we don't see enough of this characteristic of Love. Instead we see... Love sticks around until something better comes along... or Love sometimes tries, but if it gets too difficult, it will leave. Not so with God's love. God's love is triumphant and brave.

Have you ever had a battle of wills with a two year old? So, now you get a good idea of what "persevere" means. Holding fast to what you know to be true. How tempting it is at times to want to throw in the towel, give in...

I had a conversation with my mom the other night. She mentioned how some kids are just "easy". I thought it was quite ironic that she put me in that category. (I think love might be a little forgetful too!) My memory of my childhood is that I was a bit of a problem child, especially during my preteen years. I remember my mother making difficult decisions about my punishments... which usually meant she would be punished as well. I was pretty blatant about my disobedience. Okay, I was truly a smart mouth, but my mom held her ground. She was like a pit bull who refused to let me get away with anything. It's THAT tenacity, that perseverance, that we must have with our children. I don't think I was easy... I just think my mom persevered early in my life and reaped the benefits as I got older.

It was through the tenacity of our savior, Jesus Christ, and His death on the cross that we were brought to Love. His is a love that will not let us go.
Romans 8:38,39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Prov. 16:6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.

Love never fails:
Love is strength. It fortifies us and pushes us closer to God. Love is not weak, or puny. It will never collapse. It holds us forever.

Love is faithful and confident. It is dependable and trustworthy. God's love doesn't waver and doesn't shift. All through history from creation to this present age we see God's faithfulness. What He says He will do, He does. Emphasis on the "He does."

I know I beat this over and over again, but it is so important to grasp that the work God does, HE does.. in us and through us. Even for a moment, when we slip into the mindset that we are responsible for doing anything good, we are relying on ourselves. YOU are not strong. YOU are not faithful. YOU are not confident. Your strength, confidence and faithfulness are found ONLY in the Love of God; the Word of God; Christ Jesus.

This is wonderful news for parents. I don't think any of us would claim to know it all, have it all, or be it all... We are all too aware of our shortcomings when it pertains to parenting. Take heart, because Love never fails. Love's promises stand firm and hold you up. You don't need to be puny, or weak. When you fail, return to the one who doesn't. Repent, ask for forgiveness and take what He promises to give you. His Love; His Grace; His forgiveness.

Prov. 14:27 In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.
Prov. 18:10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
Christ is our model for all that love is, does, and accomplishes. Yep, that is the summary. Like I tell my 7th and 8th grade Sunday school students... It all points to Jesus, always.
A reminder for us that in Christ we can do all that He asks of us. It is through the victory of the cross that we can Love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
(1 John 4:7-12 ESV)
Can I just say... John rocks :)

Read daily and insert your own name (or the name of your child as you read it to him/her) into the blanks

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

_________ is patient, __________is kind. _________ does not envy, __________ does not boast,

_________ is not easily angered, __________ keeps no record of wrongs. __________ does not

delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. ________always protects, always trusts, always hopes,

always persevere. _________ never fails

Feel free to email me with private questions, comments or clarifications. :)

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