Parenting issues by God’s people. Especially in the Old Testament, the Bible shares stories both of parenting and of being childless as well as the agony of losing children through death or never having children due to circumstances. Still, in some sense, aren’t we all parents? Don’t we all sense a spirit of love and obligation for all of the children we come to know in this tangled world? God said to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply,” but did that mean “I can bless you only if you become parents and raise a family?” Shouldn’t we just try not to take a dogmatic stand about the obligation of having children in the family and focus instead on the opportunities we do have to provide love and support for all children that come within our circle of caring?
- Single parenting.
Our lesson author points out the likelihood that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a single parent during her Son’s ministry. It’s hard to imagine the suffering she endured without her husband by her side. How do you think she was able to endure her role as a single parent during the tumultuous years of Jesus’ ministry and sacrifice? What a challenge! What do you think sustained her? Do you know any single parents in your church or neighborhood? Are you able to support the church in its ministry to these troubled people? What do single parents need most from fellow Christians? How can you and I help to meet their needs? What about the wife of an unbelieving husband? In what ways does that situation resemble single parenting? How can we reach out to people with needs that can threaten their spiritual unity in Christ?
- The joy and responsibility of parenting. Even normal energy-driven youngsters can drive parents to the brink of sanity, but what about children with special needs? You probably thank the Lord every day for children who are within the bounds of “normal,” but can challenges erupt even in the most sensible homes? How can parents introduce Jesus to their children? How young can a child be when he or she begins to understand the story of Jesus? Can songs and stories even before a level of true understanding develops help prepare the youngster just two or three years old for a life with Jesus? What other ways should a Christian parent follow to present to their children as they begin to learn more about Jesus? Think about your early childhood and how events and feelings developed within the family setting that set the stage for your life in Jesus as a grownup. How much should we pray for God to guide our thinking as we deal with youngsters in the home?
- Parenting as disciple-making. Physical punishment–is that the most effective way to instill discipline in a child? What is the biggest risk when we apply physical pain and suffering on a child in the hopes it will make him or her a helpful Christian? Of course children will disappoint us at times. How should we respond so that the child absorbs a sense of continuing love even though his or her behavior has disappointed us as a parent? Horrible stories from the Bible are mentioned in passing in this lesson, including those telling about how Kings Manasseh and Ahaz sacrificed their children to demons. What does the Bible say about reflecting God’s love even when punishment is necessary? Can we be loving and still require respectful obedience from our children? How?
- Your prodigal child. You may know of a modern-day child who escaped all parental guidance to make it on his or her own and ended up in horrible circumstances. Let’s think about the story in the New Testament of the young son who was so eager to get out on his own that he demanded his inheritance in advance and left. Put yourself in that father’s place years later when his son, broke and broken, stumbled back into his father’s arms. Could you have been as loving and forgiving as that father was to his wayward child? Do you think that son ever harbored a jealous or angry thought toward his father again? How did the events of the story affect his brother? How often are Christians like you and I tempted to feel jealousy when a wayward son or daughter comes back to a home and receives full acceptance in spite of his or her behavior? What is the cure for that kind of a judgmental attitude?