Andy Peck believes ‘go compare’ is not a good approach for Christian parents
OK, So here’s my ready reckoner for you to see how you are doing as a Christian parent. Ready?
1. Has your child shown signs of following Jesus. If yes, give yourself 2; if possibly,1 and if not, 0.
2. Has your child participated in some way in a church service? If yes more than once: 2; once, 1; not, 0.
3. Does your child do their own Bible reading? Yes 2; when prompted by you, 1; no: 0.
4. Does your child pray? Yes 2; when prompted by you 1;not at all, 0.
5. Does your child participate in charitable activities? Yes 2; have done occasionally, 1; not at all, 0.
6. Does your child share their faith with their friends? Yes regularly, 2: once or twice, 1; not at all, 0.
Add up your scores. How do you feel about how you did?
If you felt at all uncomfortable with that exercise let me assure that it was based purely on what many Christian parents think are judgments that they need to make.
But comparison is not a good idea, nor is it a God idea and if you are at all tempted, it is time to stop right now. Here’s why.
Comparisons are arbitrary.
For starters you may be comparing your child with someone else of the same age in your church. But almost certainly that’s where the similarities will end. There will be different genetics, they will have certain characteristics which they could do nothing about. They will have a different wider family influence (I had a grandad living with us growing up who taught me to tell the time giving me a head start when I went to school). They will have different temperaments they will have different experiences of the world of church of school and of life in general.
Your son may be quiet, reserved in a family of raging extraverts and have different interests to his peer group and attend a school that he finds challenging. Compare him to a lad who has some great mates, seems to be the life and soul of any gathering and has a great relationship with his dad who he attends football matches with every Saturday. Comparing the two may make you wonder why your lad is less outward going. But this really isn’t fair on him.
And all this is certainly true within families and even between twins!
Of course God is able to weave his own purposes hidden through the challenges and blessings of our interaction with our world. In any given season of life we may seem to be faring better in our family or indeed worse than another.
Differences are a given
You may recall the passage in 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul imagines parts of the body talking to one another with the more prominent parts dismissing the less apparently valuable.
So we have to accept that our gifting and spiritual capacities are to some extent determined by the Lord. I say to some extent because there is evidence in scripture that seeking gifts is also possible and we are reassured that all can be filled with the Holy Spirit and there’s no indication off this being limited.
We can say that some have a greater influence than others in the course of their Christian life and to some extent we leave that to the sovereign Lord. So our goal is to be faithful in prayer, providing opportunities for engagement with God’s people and supporting all evidence of energy to be about God’s business. Whether he or she becomes the next Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, Jackie Pullinger or Rick Warren has little or nothing to do with us.
They are always a snapshot
A woman’s lad grows up with a lad called Judas, who is selected to be a follower of Jesus. How does the mother feel when she hears stories of how Judas is seeing miracles in and through Jesus’ ministry. ‘My boy hasn’t even left the village!’. But talk to her after the events of the last week and Judas Iscariot’s suicide…
Great times and tough times are but a snap shot in life and you may be tempted towards envy. No one wants to wish ill on another family’s child. But if your polaroid of your wayward youngster doesn’t looks so good with the worship leading offspring of your mate, well don’t panic. Be faithful in prayer and care and keep your eyes on Jesus whose Prodigal Son parable has given hope to millions.
You won’t have the full picture
Social media – don’t you love it? Mmm. You only know what you are told and what you see. Who posts bedrooms knee deep in washing, images of their daughter throwing up the bathroom after attending a nighclub, or records the latest aggressive interaction with a teen on Instagram. Well my mates certainly don’t…
You will know the nitty gritty and why even a good day doesn’t give hope because you have had so many bad ones, and why is she being nice – does she want something?!
And even if you are pretty convinced that your daughter has inherited both you and your partner’s nasty characteristics and none of the good, and so will always lose out in a character contest with anyone in the Youthgroup you care to name, and on any metric, there is God to think about.
The English translation of many of Paul’s letters includes verses with the words ‘But God…(eg. Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 1:27; 1 Cor 3:6; Eph. 2:4)
His great speciality is taking people as fallen as us and making them special and somehow our prayers and tears and modelling of love and consistency become part of his work in them and by His Spirit He makes dry bones live and breathes new life into the ones we love and pray for. And he compares them and us to the only metric that really matters: Jesus Christ and even as we fall short of the glory of God, promises a welcome and through grace a clothing in Christ who makes us His son or daughter.
And once we see ourselves and by God’s grace please, our children too, in Christ. comparison games really don’t seem necessary.