It is not often that I am asked to
speak on the responsibility of parents toward their children. So I welcome this privilege of reflecting on the subject.
While the Bible has passages in abundance that have to do with the relationship of parents and their children, I find one truth in at least three verses that makes parental love an analogy for God’s love for his children. This explains the title of my meditation today: “Like Divine Love Above, Like Parental Love Below”.
In Psalm 103, the Psalmist says: “As a father pities his children, so God pities those who fear him.” Jesus says: “If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly father give to those who ask him? (Matthew 7:11). “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 66:13).
If this be so, that God’s love for his children is mirrored in our human parental loving, what can I Corinthians 13 - the hymn of love - teach us in regard to “like divine love above, like parental love below”?
It is common knowledge in our Church circles that the word love in I Corinthians 13 is really the Greek word “Agape”- which is really no ordinary love but the love of God itself poured into us Christians, the love with which we have the power to love unfailingly, uncalculatingly, immeasurably. From the explicit lessons from 1 Corinthians 13 and from our experience as parents, I believe there are thoughts that have to do with ways of parental loving.
In the first place, the love of parents is considerate. For as St. Paul puts it, “Love is patient and kind… it is not arrogant or rude; it does not insist on it’s own way.”
We have known parents who use their love for their children as a way of fully controlling them even though they are already mature and grown up. They think they have the right to pry into their private affairs and to know everything about every step they take. This often leads to unhappy confrontations. And as often is the case, the father or the mother resents the resistance of the child concerned, and castigates the child for ingratitude.
It is of course true that when the children are very young, we have to be vigilant for them, guarding threats to their well being. But as they grow older, we cannot insist on our own way. We must draw back gradually commensurate with their maturing process and encourage them to think their own thoughts, to express themselves in their own way, to form their own opinions, and to make their own decisions. For love must be patient and kind; we must not insist on our own way.
I once sat with a family for dinner. Their son and daughter had come home from the university for the weekend. I found the young people to be intelligent, perceptive, articulate. But the father dominated the conversation, whatever be the subject, and treated the children’s views with some disdain. He made little of their views. Finally, as I recall, the young people became silent and, I’m sure, resentful.
Any parent who is a know-it-all cannot love considerately. Isn’t it our joy as parents to realize that sometimes our children’s insights are sharper and wiser than our own? At any rate, we are expected to love them considerately. (To be continued)