By / May 12

The following was written by a dear friend who is a medical practitioner living in Delhi, India. 

Unless you have been taking a break from all social media, online news, and television, you probably haven’t missed the devastating headlines from every major news outlet in the world. India, specifically Delhi, has become the latest COVID-19 epicenter. The trouble is, unlike her peers who were the most recent epicenters (U.S., U.K., and Brazil), the urban cities of Northern India are bursting at the seams with people, and now disease. Only a few know the luxury of living in a home big enough to allow social distancing, have access to clean water, soap, and masks, and are able to work from home. Couple that with a national belief that the pandemic was all but over and a medical infrastructure that can only truly flourish in the best of times, and here we are.

Like most Delhiites, for the past three weeks we have nervously checked our phones with each ring or ding, wondering who else has been infected or worse, who else has died. Sometimes the text has been expected — a friend’s uncle or neighbor or grandparent has succumbed, or there is another urgent request for a medical consultation. Sometimes it’s unexpected, and we grieve the loss of a dad in his 30s, a young pregnant woman, or a toddler.

As the numbers began to climb, it was suddenly no longer enough to have money or family members around. In fact, no amount of cash, status, or influence could have gotten you oxygen last week. And for whole families who were infected, the situation quickly became impossible to manage without help. How do you buy groceries or food, stand in line to get an oxygen cylinder filled, or go from hospital to hospital to see who has an open bed when everyone you know has COVID? 

Goodwill groups 

At nearly the same time I noticed the ship beginning to sink, I encountered a wave of creative, motivated strangers who began to show up with solutions. Overnight, it seemed that miniature “goodwill groups” were forming in every corner of the city. 

Three weeks ago, I was asked to join a telemedicine consultation crew that would treat patients over the phone. Thirty of us manned the medical side and over 300 began to organize into a small army that volunteered to do everything from finding medication to babysitting kids whose parents were both extremely ill.

Christians in particular began to organize meal and medication delivery services, buy pulse oximeters and thermometers to hand out to impoverished patients, and acquire e-passes to be able to run errands for those stuck at home. Over and over again, I watched as people offered their cars to be used as ambulances, learned how to don PPE to administer oxygen, and risked their own safety to donate blood (at a less-than-hygienic hospital) to perfect strangers. One brother from my local fellowship stood in line for six hours in 108 degree heat to buy an oxygen concentrator for a patient I was caring for — not because he knew the patient or because he would be rewarded monetarily, but because sitting at home in fear and frustration was not an option for him. And it hasn’t been for literally millions of others.

In the darkest cave, even the fire from a single match can create enough light to show a trapped explorer the way out. And if New Delhi is experiencing soul-crushing darkness right now, she is also ablaze with millions of good deeds.

What can you do? 

Perhaps you have been wondering what you can do for India during this most recent outbreak. Honestly, the options are as endless as your creativity, but here are a few things that will likely make the biggest impact.

1. Check in with your Indian friends. 

Eighteen million Indians live outside of India, so you likely have Indian friends, or at the very least, know where an Indian family lives or works. Your Indian friends very likely know someone who has died in the past month. Call them. Check on them. Grieve with them. Several years ago I was in India when a loved one in the United States was suddenly killed in a horrific car crash. I couldn’t get back to America, and it nearly crushed my soul. Indians can’t get back home right now to check on their family, to care for their aging parents, or to attend last rites after a family member or friend has died. If you don’t have a relationship with any Indians right now, go eat at an Indian restaurant and ask your server how they are doing (I guarantee you that they can use the extra business right now), send your Indian doctor a card or flowers, or ask the Indian grocer if you can pray for him.

2. Be careful how you give. 

Giving right now is fairly tricky. Many NGOs are no longer allowed to receive foreign funds. Though good deeds are found on every corner, so are corrupt practices. It is difficult to know if the money you are sending to an organization will even trickle down to the people who need it most. If you personally know someone living in India, I would start there. If your friends can’t use the money themselves, they certainly know someone who can. As Delhi goes into her fourth week of lockdown, COVID is no longer the scariest threat. Instead, it is not being able to feed children, pay rent, or buy monthly medication. 

3. Pray! 

I’m not offering a bandaid for cancer or simple platitudes when I ask you to pray.  I cannot pretend to know exactly how prayer works, but I have seen the presence of God with my own eyes over these past several weeks. I have watched people turn the corner when they shouldn’t have. I have seen oxygen last for hours longer than could have ever been possible. I’ve seen religious and social differences truly overlooked for the first time in my six years here in India. 

An elderly gentleman that I know spent the night on the steps outside of the hospital because he was “too far gone.” The family begged for prayer, and we prayed — with all of our heart and soul and guts, we cried out to the One who gives life and breath. And from a medical perspective, I cannot know how he survived. I cannot know why he is recovering and will be going home to his family soon. 

And after you are done praying that this country and her people will survive another night, pray that the seeds planted in the burning ground of Delhi this past month will burst into an uncountable gospel harvest in the weeks, months, and years to come.

By / Apr 30

Jimmy Carter once said, “I have one life and one chance to make it count for something . . . I’m free to choose what that something is, and the something I’ve chosen is my faith . . . My faith demands — this is not optional — my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”

Many Christians are doing their best to make a difference. We know our faith compels us to action, and we’re ready to get to work. But when we read the news, we’re confronted with stories of Christians who got it wrong. They wanted to help, but in their zeal they did more harm than good. The narratives related to charity can be equally confusing, and it’s hard to tell if our gifts are helping or hurting. 

Often these missteps come down to a lack of education combined with our impulse to “just do something.” We need a robust understanding of forms of aid in order to decipher which form is most appropriate in a given circumstance. 

Relief aid: Timing is everything

The two most common types of aid are relief aid and development aid. These two categories of assistance share the same overarching goal of helping people overcome difficult circumstances. However, relief aid tends to be reactionary as it is generally employed after a disaster. It often involves supplying materials needed to sustain life that have become inaccessible or limited. 

An example of relief aid is distributing medicine, food baskets, or clean water after a natural disaster. One tell-tale marker is a lack of long-term goals because relief aid focuses on doing the most immediate good in out-of-the-ordinary circumstances. It’s inherently bound by a time limit; when the emergency ends, so does the assistance.

Relief aid is necessary in many situations, but if implemented inappropriately it can lead to a host of problems, including dependence, unhealthy power dynamics, and the demeaning of vulnerable people. 

Giving away goods on a regular basis encourages dependence on the giver. When we choose to provide relief aid to communities for an extended time, particularly after the initial crisis has ceased, they eventually come to depend on donations to function at a normal level. This has been a chronic problem among evangelicals. In an effort to be generous, Christians have applied prolonged relief aid beyond when it is helpful. This can stifle local economies, circumvent slower upstream work in favor of quick-fixes, and overlook the assets a community already possesses. 

Additionally, inappropriately administered relief aid degrades those being served. When we insist on supplying temporary provisions rather than striving to educate and empower people to provide for themselves, we relay the message that they are not intelligent or capable enough to thrive independently.

As Christians who honor the imago Dei, we should prioritize teaching people to care for themselves and their family. Our aid must acknowledge God-given capability in every person.

Development aid: Commitment is key

For these reasons, it is vital to prioritize development aid over relief aid in noncrisis situations. Development aid seeks to attack the root problems causing vulnerabilities like fatherlessness and poverty. It aims to improve economic and social issues through education, reform, and asset-based empowerment. The goal of development aid is self-sufficient communities. Barring cases of disaster, they have the tools to depend on neighbors rather than outsiders for support.

Development aid is often considered “upstream” work because it is preventative in nature. It addresses the underlying issues of cultural and systemic brokenness. For instance, if parents bring their children to a children’s home because they can’t provide food and education, a root cause of the orphan crisis in that community is poverty. By helping to establish sustainable means of income, we can help prevent avoidable family fracturing.

A Ugandan example to follow

127 Worldwide’s aquaponics project seeks to address that very upstream issue in Nebbi, Uganda. Several years ago, 127 assisted Odongo Geoffrey, local pastor and partner to 127, with creating an aquaponics system on the property of Acres of Hope School and Children’s Home. We built ponds that house catfish, and the nutrient-rich water from the ponds fertilizes nearby crops. The fish and vegetables grown through this system feed children at the school, and the sale of these goods raises money for Acres of Hope to continue its ministry. 

But aquaponics has also equipped Geoffrey with the means to implement both relief and development aid himself. Today Geoffrey manages six fish ponds on the property, and each pond holds up to 1000 fish. Aquaponics is producing more fish than the school needs. Geoffrey plans to sell the fish to families in his community at wholesale price, allowing them to turn a profit at retail price in the market. He hopes to provide sustainable income to needy families through his ponds. He’s also developing personal mini-aquaponics systems the size of whiskey-barrels that families can use to harvest their own fish and water their crops. 

In an area where the average monthly income is $50, these sustainable solutions are a step toward helping vulnerable communities flourish. When COVID-19 hit, Geoffrey leveraged his development project toward relief aid, distributing fish and vegetables to families affected by the virus and lockdowns. He has even more plans for how aquaponics can continue to serve his community, but just these examples show how investment in development aid can make a long-lasting impact on vulnerable communities.

It is important to note that the gradual movement from relief aid to development aid is not linear, and Geoffrey’s story illustrates that well. There will never be a point at which a community never needs relief aid again. Geographic location, government instability, and family fracturing make some communities uniquely vulnerable to continued crises. But in any new crisis situation, it is important to again provide relief aid, while still attempting to maintain previously-adopted development initiatives. A general pattern of intentional and sustained movement toward development-based aid remains the best tool for achieving community transformation.

Your part

The impulse to care for the vulnerable among us is evidence of authentic Christian faith (James 1:27). The gospel compels us to do something about the brokenness we see in the world around us. But gaining the knowledge to discern how to empower communities to thrive often requires more time and investment than we expect. As you consider what role you might have in serving vulnerable communities, let us make three suggestions.

  1. Do the research before you give. Ask good questions, read news articles, and try to find out as much about a given initiative as you can. If you determine that a project is perpetuating relief aid beyond its helpfulness, look for another organization that is doing development work in the same area. In true crisis situations, consider giving both to a relief cause and toward a development cause in order to meet immediate needs and help those who are preparing for long-term solutions.
  2. Look for organizations to invest in monthly. Sustainable solutions take time and require ongoing support. 127 Worldwide partners with four local leaders, including Geoffrey, in Uganda, Kenya, and Guatemala. The contributions of monthly donors allow 127 to support ongoing community development and contribute to relief causes in those places. Find an organization whose mission you believe in and invest your resources there.
  3. Consider how to best honor the imago Dei in your own relationships and ministry. It’s not just organizations asking you for donations that cause you to evaluate your charity. We all encounter people with financial needs whom we could help in a variety of ways. Next time you meet someone asking for a handout, consider what God has given you to utilize in loving your neighbor and how your actions either affirm or deny their God-given capabilities. 

We have all been given different gifts, capabilities, and callings to serve the Lord. Yet, we know we are all meant to minister to the vulnerable. Pray for wisdom and discernment as to how you can meet tangible needs in a way that promotes flourishing and carry the gospel to your neighbors near and far. 

By / Nov 25

As a married woman with two children, I have considered what I would do if my husband were to die. I pray that is not the case, but if it did happen, I have at least the framework of a plan to be able to provide for our family in his absence. As the sole breadwinner, many adjustments would need to be made. On top of the agony of losing the man I love, my life would be flipped around in several ways. Being a widow, whether young or old, is surely never easy.

Yet a recent report from BBC Travel revealed to me just how different my experience as a widow might be from thousands of women in India. Vrindavan, a city around 60 miles south of Delhi, has become the home of at least 20,000 widows, forced to live out the rest of their lives away from family and friends. In some Hindu communities it is believed that a man’s death is the fault of his wife–that she has brought misfortune to his family. Having lived with her in-laws, once a woman’s husband dies, she is cast out.

There is an immense degree of shame associated with being a widow in these communities. Up until the 1820s, widows were expected to commit suicide by burning themselves on their husband’s funeral pyres. In the eyes of her community, a widow’s life is not worth living. Even her own children often want nothing to do with her.

Once cast aside, Indian widows seek a new home in a city where they can disappear and not be the focal point of persecution. Vrindavan has become this home for thousands due in part to its significance to the Hindu religion. It is believed to be the childhood home of the god Krishna. In the city, many widows live together in homes provided by NGOs, Christian ministries and other nonprofit organizations. Some of these women receive training to generate income and begin earning a wage for the first time in their lives. They find solidarity with others who have experienced what they are suffering through.

Yet the Hindu religion can offer little hope to these women. Because their current status is seen as a reflection of their actions in a previous life, the stigma associated with being a widow is hard to overcome. Contrary to the teachings of Christianity—to care for the widow (see Ps. 68:5 and James 1:27)—this is a religious system that forces a widow to live in shame, trying desperately to earn a better outcome for the next life.

This story from the BBC opened my eyes to a problem that was never on my radar. And here are four ways I’m inspired to respond—here and beyond our borders—to what I’ve learned:

  1. Pray for widows in India. These women need the true hope only Christ can provide—the hope that tells us that our future eternal life has already been earned for us by Jesus. I pray for systems to change and human dignity to be valued. I pray for the emptiness of the false promises of religions like Hinduism to be seen and exposed, and for the truth of the gospel to shine in India.
  2. Pray for workers in India. There are Christians who are working with widows in Vrindavan and other cities. Pray for boldness, love and the power of the Holy Spirit. And pray that God would send more workers—that laborers would be willing to go, that they would be sent and empowered by the Spirit and that compassion would compel many to see how we can serve these widows. It’s uncomfortable to read about these women and ask what our response should be. But it’s a discomfort that I think is right and good, and one that God will use for the spread of the good news.
  3. Spend time with widows in my community.  I immediately thought of three names of women I can reach out to when I was writing this. One is young and two are older, but I’m sure they all need to hear the affirmation that their lives have meaning and worth even after their marriages are over. This should be a given, but even in our western culture I imagine it’s easy to feel part of your identity has left when your spouse passes away. It’s simple to send a card or stop in for a visit as a means of letting these women know they are loved and important.
  4. Care for the practical needs of widows. I know several women who need help with yard work, house upkeep and financial planning. I also know they struggle to ask for the help they need. I have no doubt I would be the same way. So why not save them the struggle? We can easily reach out, ask specific questions and find ways to meet those needs.

Caring for widows in our culture may be completely different from other parts of the world, but fundamentally, the issues are the same. Widows need to know they are made in the image of God, given value and purpose as his creation and that this purpose does not end when their husbands die. I’m thankful for the widows in my life who continue to reflect their Creator to the world around them. And I pray for widows the world over to be given the same freedom in Christ.

By / Jun 15

I have never missed a meal due to lack of access or finances. My almost perfect American childhood was full of hot suppers at the kitchen table, banana pudding at Grandma’s and Happy Meals. In my seven years of marriage, my husband and I have never even known unemployment. And judging by my baby’s chunk feet, no one is hungry in this house. It’s so easy to think this is the life experienced by everyone else. Most of us are pretty good at surrounding ourselves with people who are just like us and, honestly, are happy to keep it that way.

Yet, when I get glimpses into the realities for most people around the world and many in the United States—into their poverty, their hardships, their lostness—I am overwhelmed. Lately, the images and stories coming out of Nepal, where 2.8 million people have been displaced after the recent catastrophic earthquakes, cause me to feel helpless, saddened, guilty, but also thankful. Not thankful for my possessions and lack of suffering, although I am, but thankful because it snaps me out of my self-focused, small, middle-class American life for just a minute.

I am thankful for the stories shared by places like Baptist Global Response (BGR), IMB and NAMB. These stories show the devastation following crises, but more importantly, they show the hope of Jesus provided by those who serve faithfully in difficult times. South Asian people hear “with their eyes” the love of Christ during earthquake recovery. BGR workers delivered bags of rice to a forgotten village.

These stories call me to see the world as it is, to see with God’s eyes and God’s heart, and ask how I can help. If God is the giver of all of my good gifts, how can I honor him in how I use them? How can he use me to meet the needs of someone so different and so far away? While I spend my days feeding little people, how can I feed someone who is truly hungry?

For over four decades, Southern Baptists agencies have partnered together to feed the hungry around the world through an initiative now known as Global Hunger Relief (GHR). Because this ministry is done by our missionaries and church planters, every GHR project shares the gospel in both word and deed. One-hundred percent of every gift given to GHR goes directly to meeting hunger needs with no administrative or promotional costs.

Even though, today, God has called me to raise my babies and make disciples in East Tennessee, I am thankful I can partner with my brothers and sisters and make an impact around the world. Even when my world is small, and I’m talking a 3-year-old and a 6-month-old small, God can use my dollars to do amazing, life-changing work through Global Hunger Relief.

Watch this video for an update on GHR’s work in Nepal: 

By / Jun 8

Facing mental illness is not an easy process. Regardless of how informed we are, this process is not easy. Trying to walk this difficult journey by yourself only makes it harder. Often, in the arena of mental illness, what the church has to offer are not superior answers—if the problem is biological or environmental, the church should provide very similar advice as our secular friends in the mental health field.

While the initial guidance the church provides would, in many cases, be the same, the church should always provide a superior context of living out those answers—a sphere of relationships where everyone acknowledges we are broken people in need of redemption, thereby, negating the stigma that makes overcoming these struggles so painfully isolating. Counseling is never merely principles and suggestions; it is also a context that facilitates a journey.

That is the ideal; a stigma-free, redemptive community. But the question remains, “How do we produce more of that reality in our churches?” Unfortunately, as Amy Simpson says in her book Troubled Minds, mental illness is often the “no-casserole illness” in Christian circles; a form of suffering from which the church, uncharacteristically, moves away from suffering people instead of towards them.

One of the reasons we move away instead of towards people is confusion and uncertainty about what we should do. When we don't have good answers, it is often easier to just avoid the people who generate the questions. It is unlikely the church will offer the unique care of a redemptive community if its people are uninformed about and intimidated by mental illness.

A particular individual or church does not have to be able to do everything in order to do some very significant things powerfully well. Consider the example of someone in need of knee surgery. There is a surgeon who repairs the ligament; a physical therapist who helps the individual regain a full range of motion; family and friends who care for day-to-day needs and provide encouragement; and a physician who oversees the pain medicine management. A similar set of roles can exist in the struggle with mental illness.

This metaphor is not meant to imply that the church only plays the “friends and family” role. A given church, pastor or friend may be well-equipped to provide various levels of intensive soul care. But it is their responsibility to know the limits of their ability to help and be willing to invite other members on the care team with needed, supplemental expertise.

With that in mind, let’s consider many things that the church—as a corporate entity or through its personal relationships—is uniquely equipped to do. Many of these functions have little-to-no secular alternative; ongoing gatherings of adults for mutual encouragement and instruction are rare in our culture.

The church, corporately or through individuals, can:

1. Teach a balanced view of mental illness as a part of an ongoing education process. A church has many venues through which this education can occur. Mental health does not need to be the “focal point of the church” in order for the church to effectively disciple people in the care of their interconnected mind, soul, and body.

  • Sermon Illustrations: Speaking of depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, and other struggles in an informed, unstigmatized way will go a long way toward giving people the emotional freedom to talk about their struggle with friends and seek the help they need.
  • Testimonies: Someone sharing their story has a powerful influence on any group’s culture. As someone tells their story of wrestling with mental illness they should (a) speak of how personal faith, a community of care, wise care of their body, and counseling played a role in their recovery; and (b) clarify that this is their personal story and not necessarily the map of how God guides every person with a similar struggle in their pursuit of hope and wholeness.
  • Follow Up Blogs: A blog that follows up on a sermon or testimony can be a great way to connect people who still prefer to remain anonymous with helpful resources. The ultimate goal is to create an open community of care, but the process may involve facilitating many smaller steps in that direction. Here’s an example.
  • Adult Education Classes or Conferences: There are a growing number of excellent Christian books on various types of mental illness. These classes or events can simultaneously comfort and equip. Having classes like this communicates that your church is a “safe place” for these conversations and that these topics are a relevant part of living a God-honoring life.
  • Support Groups: While a class or event is educational (over-viewing a subject), a support group is therapeutic (taking someone on a journey). While support groups can create cliques within a church, they can also provide a context for a greater transparency as a next step toward more general authenticity. When starting these groups, a church would want to think through how to prevent a support group from becoming someone’s long-term community and, thereby, inadvertently reinforcing their struggle as their identity.

As you can see in the examples above, a church is a unique context for allowing people to become progressively known, instructed, and loved. Where else in our culture could each of these levels of education and connection be provided within a context of ongoing community?

2. Befriend those who are struggling with mental illness with multiple people so no one person carries the full weight of responsibility. We often fail to realize that no professional qualifications are required to be a friend. As Amy Simpson in Trouble Minds wrote, “When churches have antibiotic-like expectations for mental health treatment, they communicate, ‘go get treated, then you can come back and you can be a growing Christian with us.’”

3. Have a relationship that includes but transcends the struggle with mental illness. In a purely professional setting, a struggle with mental illness is why an individual is known and cared for. This adds to the stigma and results in a mindset that says I have to be “all better” to be known authentically. With a professional counselor or recovery group if you get better, you “graduate” from having people who know and care for you.

4. Help people sort their struggles into categories of sin, suffering, and identity which can be caused by biology, environment, or choice. Emotional unrest and embarrassment make it difficult to sort out how to best categorize struggles. One of the main goals for this presentation is to equip people for these conversations. The more these conversations can be had effectively in natural relationships the earlier people will receive care, the longer they will stick with their care, and less ashamed they will be to embrace the care God wants for them.

5. Attend a counseling session with your friend, take notes, gain an understanding of their struggle, and serve as an echo of key truths or practices recommended by the counselor. This would require the permission of your friend and the cooperation of the counselor. But many counselors are willing to cooperate with this kind of counseling-advocate model, and it can greatly enhance both the short-term and long-term effectiveness of counseling.

This list is not exhaustive. Instead, it is meant to be the beginning of a brainstorming exercise. But there is a danger in thinking through what the church could do: our personal initiative gets lost in the corporate possibilities. For instance, we think “the church ought to mentor underprivileged students,” but we don’t take the step of volunteering at the nearest school.

As you brainstorm possibilities, I would encourage you not to begin with programs your church could run or staff position that could be filled. Instead, begin with, “What conversations could I have about this material with someone I care about?” It may be as simple as following up on something they shared with you or seeking their help in sorting through a struggle you’ve not talked about.

Undoubtedly, mental illness is a difficult subject to address because of its complexity and highly personal nature. Everyone is affected by mental illness; either personally or someone they love. As a result, it is a subject that must be discussed and addressed in the church. Let’s not let our silence hurt people by leaving them to struggle in isolation.

This post is an edited excerpt from “Towards a Christian Perspective of Mental Illness,” which available for free in its entirety in both video presentation and PDF article formats.

By / Sep 3

A while back, Judi and I had one of those “aha moments.” It was something we should have realized earlier but for some reason we had missed it. We suddenly recognized that we had been responding to our children’s sin in a way that rendered them Pharisees-in-training. We were reflexively parroting familiar language that was pushing our children in the opposite direction of where we said we wanted them to go.

It was very common for us to respond to their sin by saying, “We cannot believe that you would do that! We are not people who do those kinds of things.” While we have an evangelical understanding of sin and the universality of human depravity in a fallen world the language we were using was betraying our stated conviction. Our verbal training was communicating that we expected good kids and that we were stunned at any behavior that showed they were not good kids. The implication is that they are expected to be good kids because we were a good family.

We knew Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and quoted it often when sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. But functionally, the culture we were creating in our home by our words, proceeded as if we were exempt from depravity and the struggle with sin. I am not sure exactly when it happened, but Judi and I decided we needed to change our language so we could be faithful gospel witnesses in our own home.

We sought to banish the language, “We cannot believe you would do that! We are not people who do those kinds of things!” We replaced it with, “I am not at all surprised you would sin in this way. I have sinned in similar ways. This is a good opportunity to remember that you do not simply sin but that you are a sinner.” The first approach was gospel-less. The second approach is “in step with the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:14).

The way we had been responding to sin focused on how the child was letting us down and failing to live up to the family standard of righteousness. The new approach puts the focus on God and his standard of righteousness and paves the way for clarity about the good news of salvation. It presents the Christian parent a strategic opportunity to say something like, “I am a sinner too but I have been forgiven of my sins by faith in Jesus Christ and I am praying that the discipline you receive will remind you that sin has consequences and that you too will seek forgiveness in Jesus Christ.”

We now tell our children we do not want them to grow up to be a good man or woman according to our cultures arbitrary standards. We tell them we want them to be a gospel man or woman. It is dangerous thing for your children to think you as a parent are inherently morally superior and that they should attempt to become like you so they do not let down the family name. It places them on the performance treadmill of your expectations. When they frame the world in an anti-gospel performance way—the only outcome is defeat and despair. Conviction of sin will bring no joy. It will bring shame because they will reason, “I have failed my parents. If I were a good person I would have repented sooner. A godly person would never have these thoughts or act this way. The fact I struggle in this way shows that I am worthless.”

Christ-centered discipline provides a unique parental opportunity for gospel proclamation and clarity. It is liberating when parents stop trying to raise good kids by being good parents. We are not good, not one of us, and that is why we all desperately need Jesus and his gospel of the kingdom. Telling our children, “We cannot believe that you would do that,” trains them to create a good image and try to live up to it. But they cannot live up to it, because it is a mirage, so they live in fear of being exposed. Constant accusation without the gospel is hellish not holy.

Christian parents need to make sure our words match our doctrine when we discipline our children. Every parental discipline encounter is a strategic opportunity to expose our children’s true identity (and ours too)—sinners who need a Savior. That is what is so powerful about gospel-focused discipline. When a parent clarifies the sin, points to the gospel, administers the discipline, and the embraces the child joyfully and forgivingly by declaring, “I love you no matter what!” the child gets a small taste of the glorious and absolute freedom offered in the gospel (Gal. 5:1).

A previous version of this article was published here.