Authority and Friendship

Grace based parenting is about finding the balance between love and control, celebration and responsibility, relationship and instruction, truth and grace.  It is about developing a well-rounded relationship with your children as both their authority figure and their friend.  It strikes a balance between well-meaning, but old covenant, advice that emphasizes your authority role at the expense of any friendship expectation and the experience of parents who error in the other direction.  These parents, desiring a friendship relationship with their children, have abdicated their authority and, not wanting to rock the boat, have lowered the standards at home driven by the desire to fit in better with the world.

God has given us a beautiful picture of an authority and friend relationship in none other than our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Jesus said to His disciples in the upper room, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (Jn 15:15).  Did you catch that?  Jesus Christ, Lord and Master, is calling you His friend if indeed you are a disciple, a Christ follower.

We imitate Christ when we parent with a balance of authority and friendship.  Somehow, Christ is my Master and Friend at the same time.  In the same way, you can lead your family from a combination of authority and friendship.

In To Love as God Loves, Roberta Bondi identifies a three step process whereby the early church learned obedience to Christ.  Step one is obeying Christ as a slave out of fear.  Step two is obeying Christ as a hired hand to receive a payment (reward).  Step three, as we progress in Christian maturity, is obeying Christ as a friend in a love relationship such that we want to please Him in all things.

Our parenting follows a similar pattern.  In the early years, we teach our children to obey out of fear of discipline.  As they grow older, we turn more to rewards to motivate good behavior and leave physical discipline behind.  Finally, if we have developed a relationship along the way, we expect obedience based on our love relationship as we approach the teenage years.  I had the joy of being raised in this kind of home and have the distinct memory of staying on the straight and narrow in my young adult years out of a desire to not disappoint my parents.  I gradually transferred my love relationship allegiance to my Master and Friend; Jesus Christ.

Parenting.  It’s all about balance.  Not just because I have seen it work, but because I believe bringing a new balance to all of life is one of the million beautiful things that happened to us when Jesus rescued us.  Praise to our Lord, Savior, and Friend; Jesus Christ.