There is nothing more important to do as a parent than loving your kids. The things you do for them, whether buying them toys, teaching them to read, feeding them, etc, are all nothing more than generic utilitarian practices when they are not rooted and shaped by a deep and abiding love.
But don't forget that beatings are essential as well. Not just beatings for punishment, but beatings for the pure sake of the importance of teaching kids that you are in charge. Nothing helps a child develop a healthy sense of authority than using your superior strength to push them around. In our house we actually schedule beatings by the clock. 10am....everyone line up for their beating....2pm...same thing.
If you haven't called child service yet, thanks for trusting in my unrelenting sarcasm.....
No matter how much you think you are loving your kids, throwing in a few random beatings(even if you think they are justified) has an odd way of derailing your whole showing them love philosophy. Beating your kids and loving your kids are really just not able to be mutually practiced.
Sadly we often practice a Christianity like this. God loves you, but can't wait to beat you! There He is, the cosmic score keeper, waiting for his chance to drop the hammer on you. We create endless rules and regulations that we use to justify our behavior towards others and to create a sense of moral superiority to those who don't live up to our standards. This develops an exhausting and painful Christianity that constantly tears down, but never builds up.
No matter how many times I say, "I love you son", it will not mitigate the beatings he receives. Either he will develop an unhealthy concept of love that he will one day give to others(becoming a beater of children himself), or, he will become so destroyed by this experience that he will never fully function as a healthy adult.
When we say, "God loves you", but then follow it up with telling someone how unlovable they are, we are creating either a fearful and beat up Christian, or, create not a Christian at all.
In Matthew 16:5-12 Jesus warns His disciples about the yeast of the Pharisees. Just a little bit of their influence can destroy anything else that is good that you may be trying to do. And what were the Pharisees all about? Rules, rules and more rules. And their "superior" ability to follow the rules made them prideful in themselves and abusive towards those who didn't live up to them.
Jesus is quite clear, and the New Testament reaffirms, that the abuses of legalism are incongruent with following Jesus. The message of Christ is that while we were still sinners, He died for us! It doesn't say, "You were pretty bad, but you got your act together and Jesus was like, ok, I can do this for you now". The radical nature of the Gospel is that God offers us not a list of rules to exhaustingly follow, but, instead to experience a love that transforms us.
Does this mean there is no place for rules? Anything goes? Of course not. I don't beat my kids up, but I also don't let them act inappropriately. While the Pharisee would want to beat up their kid who messes up, Jesus picks them up, out of their mess and says, "I love you, let me help you"
The Law of God is still valid, but how we apply it and how we practice it needs to radically change. The Law is not a hurdle that we must leap to justify ourselves, but a mountain that we can be carried over. In Love.
The other day my son said something rude to an employee at Walmart. As we were leaving she said, "Have a nice day!" To which he responded "Nah nah nah nah"(said as snottily as possible). I stopped in my tracks and explained to him that it was unacceptable and that he had to say he was sorry. He refused. After profusely apologizing for my sons behavior I had to leave(my ice cream was melting). When we got home I had a long talk with my son about how hurtful and rude it was and how sad I was that he would do that. He didn't have much to say at that time....but the next day the miracle occurred.
During breakfast he stopped eating and looked at me, "Dad, are you still sad about what I said to that worker yesterday? Because I am too, I am sorry that I did that, I won't do it again."
Only four years old and his little heart was learning to break over what his father's heart broke over. Not because I beat him, not because I yelled at him, but because I loved him and showed him in my words how much I cared about the person he "hurt". When we are loved deeply and experience that love consistently, it shapes our heart towards the agent of that love.
That is Christ in us and for us. His heart breaks over our sin, BECAUSE he loves us. And His love for us shapes us towards loving what He loves.
Where is the yeast of the Pharisees in your life?