I’ve got three kids: a five-year-old girl, three-year-old boy, and a one-year-old girl. They are in the sweet spot of life where they crave attention and affection. First thing in the morning or as soon as that front door opens at five o’clock in the afternoon, they flock to me. These moments give me delight and joy, and I know to make the most of them.
I served as a youth pastor for a number of years. During that time I heard a common refrain from teens: “I’m not sure my parents like me anymore or ever did.”
Upon exploring these doubts with students, I discovered that many felt like their parents chased after idols of career, comfort, and cash. Some had divorced parents and felt like those parent fought over who had to take the kids that week rather than who got to take them. These students were filled with pain because they never were filled with affection. Some chased after affection in the wrong places. Others were clearly heading off to the same chase after the same idols of their parents.
Now, giving your kids plentiful affection is no guarantee for their healthy, productive, or carefree life. Neither should that be the aim; that’s actually short changing them of something far better. Heaping affection has a much richer aim. That aim is to prepare them for God’s love.
When we smother our kids with the comforting blanket of love and affection, their hearts are being prepared for receiving God’s love and affection. We’re tilling the soil of their heart to prepare for the implanted Word of God. That’s the chief aim in our affection – to give them the gospel. So here are four ways to fill up your child with affection that leads them to the gospel.
Well, this is a surprising lead, isn’t it? When people think about giving their children affection, they don’t first think about giving them the gospel. But I’ve listed the gospel first because it is of first importance (1 Cor. 15:3). The grandest affection you may give to your kiddos is the gospel because the gospel is the greatest expression of love that God has given his children (Jn 15:13). So we want to put the gospel first and foremost in front of them.
Without regularly presenting the gospel to our children, regenerate or unregenerate, we are actually despising them, if at minimum, being neglectful of their greatest need. Have you ever thought of that? It’s sobering, right? If the point of our affection is to lead our children to the gospel, then we should lead our affection with the gospel!
So fill your children up with gospel affection by faithfully reminding them that they are sinners (Rom. 3:23), who need a savior to remove their sin and become their righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21), and put them in right standing before a holy-loving God (Rom. 3:24).
From birth your life is given to serve your children. The question isn’t whether you will serve them. The question is how will you serve them? What will your attitude be? Will you be gruff, despondent, or grouse? Or will you be cheerful, gentle, and patient? If your pose is the later you will communicate approval, acceptance, and affection. If it’s the former then they will see themselves as an obligation or duty. This falls far short of the precious and amazing gift that they are.
And don’t forget that your attitude determines their attitude. Your response to their behavior will turn their attitude from poor to pleasant. So when it is hard to serve your children because of whining, defiance, or laziness, recall that first aim above.
Christ lived and taught to welcome (Matt. 19:14), protect (Matt. 18:6), and serve children (Matt. 10:42). As Kingdom citizens, the gospel winsomely compels us to do likewise with our little ones. And we adults are called to be like little ones, too. This is grounds for entering the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 18:3).