Stress and the holidays: 5 ways to remember the gospel in your parenting

December 17, 2015

Holidays are often the few days a year when we go home and spend the night with our parents. During college, we longed for the serenity and familiarity of home. But, in recent years, a lot of us have been pulling a family of our own in to our parents’ driveway, and home doesn’t have quite the luster it used to have.

The holidays are often the few days of the year that wreck the sleep and attitude cycles of our kids that will leave us spending weeks, if not months, rebuilding.

Our kids may learn new words and new levels of disrespect for their authorities, and our relatives might disregard all rules, social and familial, all in the name of loving our kids. What’s more, they will probably get more Christmas presents than we’d like them to get. Yet, as I consider how stressed out these situations make me and how I often react, I am convicted. In Christ, there’s a better, more grace-filled way to respond. Here are five suggestions to prepare you and reshape your thinking before you take off for that holiday vacation.

1. Rethink your legalism. When things don’t function exactly like they do in our home, we can react with snide little comments that are meant to show our moral superiority as a parent—comments like: We don’t let them watch tv when they first get up. We don’t let them eat junk food indiscriminately. We have a bedtime of 8:00.

Reacting like that is indicative of the sneaky sin of legalism: passively aggressively claiming your morality as superior to anyone else. When we react this way, no one in our family will call us on it because they’re usually trying to figure out how to walk on eggshells around us. In addition, legalism won’t win a single soul to our perspective. Instead, like me, there will be a still small voice in your heart that will be crying out: you white-washed tomb.

As believers, we ought to respond in light of the gospel. Soul-satisfied, gospel-contentment is the better testimony to all that there is a King who rules our hearts and who helps us walk in patience toward one another.

2. It won’t kill your kids. A few grams of sugar or a few hours of television won’t hurt our children in the long run. I know it seems like they’re more apt to be disrespectful because our parental authority is undermined, but three days at Grandmother’s house isn’t going to be the thing we think about if we have to bail them out of jail when they’re 17.

And we need to remember that they’re children.They’re not perfect, and it’s about how we respond to their sin that makes a difference at this point in their lives. Sure, try to set them up for success, but don’t rush to panic and frustration when they fail. The few hectic days of vacation may actually be some of your kids’ best memories.

3. Take the opportunity to shepherd your children. This is actually what we want as parents. We will be able to see what influence is being exerted, undo it, turn it by interpreting it for them, and train them how to handle it. Isn’t this a better place for them to learn these things than in places where we don’t know the parents and environments that are influencing our children?

Anticipating these training moments, we have what we call a pep talk—the standard “who you are and whose you are” speech—before we head out on vacation. We remind our kids there are things that relatives will do that we don’t do in our home, but that we respect the wishes of others when we share their home. We remind them to be positive influences on their cousins and other family members. We remind them about the chain of command. Then, after it’s all said and done, we strive to help our kids interpret how they’ve been influenced.

4. You’ve been training them well, give your kids the space to influence others. While we’re there to shelter and protect our kids from the world, our families might be the only gospel-centered presence our extended family encounters until next year. Strive to make that gospel-centered exposure less about a begrudging lists of do’s and don’t’s and more about something that stands out to your family members as the only time of the year that they were able to tangibly see another world—one that made their heart skip a beat because they saw it’s power and joy and peace.

5. Play offense. All the things that usually annoy us, like too much TV time or too much junk food, is usually a defensive measure, designed to pacify and buy time. Instead of sitting back and letting our dissatisfaction stew, we ought to step up and play offense.

Take the initiative to maximize your influence on the little (and big) people around you. Show your kids and the adults with you that you don’t have to be uptight to be a good parent—or a Christian. You can have fun, enjoy the moment and still be an intentional shepherd of your child’s heart.

So, whether or not you donate all of your kids’ new Christmas presents to the church nursery this week or wait a month, and whether or not your kids find a few new words for their vocabulary, remember whose you are.  And remember who you are.

It shouldn’t surprise us that our parents and grandparents and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles aren’t fully on board with our parenting methodologies. And in a world of sin, there will be some muddying of the waters and confusion in children’s hearts. We’re there to make sense of the chaos, not prevent it; we’re there to undo the curse, not micro-manage it. The gospel-believing parent knows the curse is everywhere and is sometimes most evident in those we love. And there’s no room in gospel-centered parenting for a gospel-centered scrooge.

John Powell

John Powell is the senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in New Caney, Texas. Previously, he served as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Hamlin, Texas, director of admissions at Southern Seminary, and discipleship pastor at Carlisle Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. After graduating from Southwest Baptist University, … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24