I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.
–1 Corinthians 4:14
The first way Paul instructed his spiritual children was through his words. But if strong words were all it took to raise great children, we would all have great children, wouldn’t we? The fact is, it takes more than words. So, second, I want you to notice how Paul trained his spiritual children by his actions. Specifically, there are two characteristics of a godly parent Paul exhibited.
First of all, he demonstrated unconditional love. Look at 1 Corinthians 4:14: “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” Paul was saying, “I am not trying to shame you; I am trying to reclaim you.” Anytime we rebuke our children, it is not out of anger; it is out of a desire to help them experience what God wants for them.
Paul admonished the Corinthians because he loved them; in fact, he called them his “beloved children.” That term “beloved” comes from the Greek word “agape.” It is the highest form of love–the kind of unconditional love God has toward us. Remember, these Corinthian Christians were involved with fornication and incest; they were getting drunk at the Lord’s Supper. Yet in spite of their disobedience, Paul was saying, “I love you with all my heart.” If your children are going to receive your rebuke, they have to be convinced of your unconditional love for them.
Second, Paul provided a faithful example. He said in verse 16, “Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.” In other words, “Do you want to learn how to be humble? There is no better example than me.” Doesn’t that make you wince a little bit? But Paul knew it is not a question of whether our children are going to imitate us but what they are going to imitate in us.
When my daughter Julia was about five, our family was running late for something, and Julia stood at the door with her hands on her hips, saying, “Hurry up! Hurry up! Hurry up! Hurry up!” I thought, “Where did she learn that kind of obnoxious behavior?” Then it hit me: she had seen her dad do that to her mother far too many times. Never forget your children are watching you. You can fool people at work and at church about your Christlikeness, but you will never fool your children. As they look at your life, what are they seeing? What are they learning about how to deal with anger? About forgiveness? About trusting God when things look very dim?
As somebody has said, “More is caught than taught.” That is why it is so important to provide a godly example for your children and spiritual children.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Building a Legacy That Lasts” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.