15 June 2008

The Golden Rule

I was checking my emails and rota of blogs I read before heading to bed and found this blog entry by Lots of Scotts. I found that I had quite a bit to say on the subject and left quite a long "comment". Upon reviewing it, I felt compelled to address the topic in my blog as well as it is something that I find to be a common dilemma amongst parents - how to reconcile the discipline and authority we have as parents with this very famous scripture which has been given, somewhere along the way, the title The Golden Rule. So indulge me as I share my reply with you on this topic. Because I believe that the development of a child's spirit should, as HGTV likes to tout in their advertising, "Start at home!"

The "golden rule" as we call it (Matt. 7:12) is part of a LONG sermon by Christ encompassing many topics, basically challenging the prevailing "party line" that had developed over many, many years by Jewish priests from the law. He was laying the foundation for the new kingdom, the church, which was soon to be established in Acts. This one particular scripture is commonly singled out and not seen in "the whole cloth" which give it more connotations that it would have singly.

I believe there is an assumption contained within the golden rule that the treatment WE wish to receive is based on a spirit of "what is best for my spiritual and mental well being" vs. "I'll do this so I'll get this". It's directing a proactive vs. reactive action. We are charged, as parents, with bringing up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Nurture - that's what we all want. It's what tomes are written about. It's what gets all the press.

But "admonition" - that's the one we don't want, don't seek and, as the Brits say, "get our knickers in a twist" when we receive. I do not believe that the Bible contradicts itself so, by taking the whole, and laying these commands within the context they are given, we can know what we are to do. We treat others with respect as we also wish to receive. And that admonition? We can lay it down carelessly or carefully which is where that golden rule comes into play.

Children are told to obey their parents. And parents, while told to discipline their children, are also warned against doing so in a manner that is counterproductive.

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

So the many "pieces" make up a whole. None can stand alone.

Hebrews 12 starting at vs. 9 sums it up well -
9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

The experience a child has within the family, respecting, loving, obeying, being cared for and disciplined by the parent is SO CRUCIAL to going to that NEXT step in adulthood of being part of God's family - respecting, loving, obeying and being cared for and disciplined by the Heavenly Father. I find it so marvelous this plan that He has.

This is a subject near and dear to my heart. And one that I think it very misunderstood and wrongly applied too often.


Emily said...

Hear hear!

Thanks for the thoughts! I always enjoy getting prospectives from "veteran" parents.

I've actually been thinking a lot about the golden rule lately, in it's context within a marriage. A friend of mine was talking to me about where you draw the line in what you say (in anger) to your spouse. At the time, I said 'Don't sin in your anger." But it's so much more than that. We're charged to love others MORE than we love ourselves, and treat them better than we want to be treated.

It's something to strive for in our Christian lives!

Cheri (aka "The Mom Lady") said...

Hi Em - I used to joke that if you're going to have an argument with your spouse, be sure to do it after sunset so you have a good 20 hours to hash it out ("do not let the sun go down on your anger"). There is obviously a different dynamic involved when you're talking about the marriage relationship vs. the parent-child relationship. In the parent-child relationship, there is the an inequality of sorts, if I can call it that, in that the parent (HOPEFULLY!) is more mature and experienced, charged with developing, leading, guiding the young, formable child into responsible adulthood. And the child is to learn from and look up to the parent for guidance and example as they mature and grow towards adulthood.

With marriages, the battle of wills may still be the same to some extent but the "playing ground" is level - and we get into trouble when we revert BACK to "being the child" in those situations. Anger is inevitable if you are FULLY invested in your marriage relationship - it is actually a "symptom" that you have passion and CARE about the relationship. But having said that, one of the greatest things you can do for your child growing up is to teach them conflict resolution. I think having unacknowledged conflict in a marriage is more dangerous than a full-waged war. Refusing to admit to your children that anything is wrong is a disservice. Now I'm not advocating burdening your children with intimate details of your conflict or inviting them to "weigh in" (especially, horrors!! to get them to side with one of the parents over the other - I've seen this done - awful, awful...) but if children KNOW that conflicts occur and witness a good example of how to resolve it, they have a skill that will help them in EVERY aspect of their life - marriage, employee, church relationships, etc.

Things are inevitably said in anger. And when that happens, especially if the children are witness to the same, heartfelt apologies must be made and loving resolution exhibited. It's important for kids to know that mistakes are going to be made but that we have a way back from them - they do NOT have to define us - and we can grow stronger and wiser from them.

Also, in the marriage relationship, our spouse IS us, and WE are they - according to scripture, even though we try to separate the two constantly - we are one flesh. We are one unit. Perhaps thinking of it in that way will help keep us from "self-flagulation" of angry words. Easier said than done though, easier said than done.