The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition.
2 Timothy 2:24-25a (NASB, underlined for emphasis)
This verse in context is speaking of a minister’s–particularly Timothy’s, but extends to all–interaction with those with whom there is some sort of theological dispute–as seen from verse 23. Such disputation must not produce quarrels or harshness (the opposite of kindness and gentleness).
The reason for such an admonition is stated in the remainder of verse 25-26: if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
All of this to say, if I am to be kind to men with whom I disagree, even with wolves who come with doctrine that may damn the souls of men (this is not to say that I am not to correct such ones, it is only addressing how I am to address them), how much more am I to be gentle with my own children! My flesh and blood who are not my theological enemies but rather “trainees;” my, along with my wife, highest responsibilities; my little babies who I once held in my arms and cradled them so closely children.
I am not, by nature, a kind or gentle man. I am gruff. I am surly. I am a “gray crayon” (that is what Jenn has labeled my strange disposition of being inclined to be happy in Eeyore-esque somberness, being only happy in my dourness). I snip. I quibble. I micromanage. I scowl. I growl. I grumble. I huff. I puff. I think that being firm means being grouchy. I am Oscar the Grouch–minus the garbage can and pet worm.
As I reflect on Paul’s words to Timothy, I am struck by how far I fall short of this with my own children! As a father my highest calling is, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). It should be my aim to set Christ and His beauty and glory before them in all that I do, especially in how I speak to them and treat them.
At a fundamental level, I fail as a father when I am kind or gentle with theological opponents, but not with my own children! When I am unkind or harsh I provoke my children. I provoke them on several levels: 1) because if they are young they cannot do anything about it; 2) if they are respectful the hurt/anger only gets pushed down; 3) it provokes them to more than just anger–but to feelings of sadness and in a way being upset that is beyond their emotional capacity (depending on their age).
So, what can I do? What can you do if you are not kind or gentle? 1) Cry out to God in confession; and turn to Him for mercy and in repentance; 2) apologize to your children. Let them know that you know it’s sinful–they are not your enemy, they are joy to you; 3) keep a close watch on your tongue (words and tone). Make a thorough study and effort at memorizing passages about the tongue (cf. James, Proverbs, Matthew 12, etc.); 4) be careful with your mannerisms. No, I do not wish to come across as a moralist, pop-psychologist, but be open and welcoming with your children. Let them be happy to come to you and know that you are happy to see them. B-I-G hugs and smiles. There is a reason parents wanted Jesus to bless their children; I think it was more than just theological. He wasn’t a sour, dour grump.
I want to be known as a tender and affectionate father–kind to all and gentle when correcting–yes to theological opponents, but especially my children. I’m not there, but by God’s grace and fixing my eyes on Jesus through His provided means of grace, I will be.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. http://www.Lockman.org