The principles of IBLP [the Institute in Basic Life Principles] teach parents that they are responsible to make sure their children make good choices. This places a lot of pressure on the parents to control their children. But I have begun to ask, “Does God control us? Does he force us to make good choices?” I do not believe so.
When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, he put the Tree of Knowledge in the center of the Garden. He gave us free will, even before the Fall. God lets us fail and fall and learn of our need for him. If God had not put the Tree in the Garden, Adam and Eve might never have learned how desperately they needed God.
I am not advocating letting children run wild, with no training or direction. God gave parents the responsibility to protect and train children to grow into adults. However, I believe that this looks much different than we were led to believe.
My parents were wonderful parents, but they chose to over-protect me from sin. I am a people-pleaser, and I did a good job of following the rules. I thought I was a good Christian, because I was living up to the biblical standards. Then I got married and moved away, and no longer had my parents there to help me follow the rules. All of a sudden I learned that it had not been my strength or Jesus’ strength that helped me follow the high standards, but rather my parents. I quickly learned a much deeper need for Jesus and his strength in me.
My deepest desire for my son is that he learn to love God, and learn of his need to be saved. I want to have an eternal perspective for my son. When we get to heaven, our sin will be gone forever. I want my son to have a heart that loves God and has chosen to follow Him.
My biggest fear for my son is that he turn into a hard-working, law-abiding man with a good attitude, who is in church every time the doors are open yet still doesn’t realize he does not even know Jesus. The Pharisees believed they were the cream of the crop of the followers of God, yet Jesus condemned them. They were doing everything God had commanded. They were following the rules, yet Jesus condemned them! If I protect my son from sinning, his heart is still just as sinful; I have simply whitewashed the outside for him while the inside is still a tomb.
I want to teach my son to seek God for himself. When he comes to me asking if he is allowed to do X, I want to encourage him to ask God about X. If he makes a different choice than I would like, even if it is in defiance of God’s answer to him, then he has learned that his heart is in rebellion to God and needs to be rescued. Is that not where we all were at some point? Jesus has taken my rebellion on the cross—can he not take my son’s as well?
I am not advocating sinning more! I am suggesting we let God put Trees of Knowledge in our children’s lives. I am suggesting that we allow our children not to be hypocrites. If I force my son to lead a better life than he would choose on his own, am I not teaching him to be a Pharisee?