Children are a blessing, they give us so much joy. But let’s be honest, there are days when they can stretch a parent’s patience. Raising a child is no easy task. As parenting author Paul Tripp says, sometimes it’s just mission impossible.
It’s thus with mixed feelings that I’ve been reading recent reports in the newspapers about children being injured—or worse—when their parents lost their temper. In one recent case, a five-year-old boy died from injuries allegedly inflicted by his parents, who are now on trial for the murder of their child.
As imperfect beings, we will surely stumble and fall. Often, we will not respond to situations in the best way. We need God’s grace to redeem our mistakes and prevent us from continuing down the path of destruction—for ourselves and for others.
In 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul outlines what perfect love looks like. Putting it into practice, however, can be daunting.
Thankfully, we have Jesus as our example. As He interacted with people with different needs and issues, He showed us what perfect love looks like in action. As we walk with Him, keeping ourselves in His love and immersing our mind in His Word, we’ll reflect more and more of His likeness.
We’ll still make mistakes, but God is able to redeem them and cause good to come out of every situation, for His love “always protects” and “never fails” (vv. 7–8). We can read 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 this way:
Jesus is patient and kind. Jesus is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Jesus does not demand His own way. Jesus is not irritable, and He keeps no record of being wronged. Jesus does not rejoice about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Jesus never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
How can we follow Jesus’ example? Consider these ways in which we can practise love.
“Love is patient and kind”.
The word “patient” literally means “long-tempered”, or “patient endurance under provocation”. A patient person has a long fuse. This is not too difficult when things are going smoothly, but when life is stressful, patience becomes hard. When we are worried over bringing bread to the table and a child is throwing a tantrum, we can quickly lose our patience. That’s when we need God’s grace.
But love does not mean simply enduring everything silently. The Bible stresses that “love is patient and kind”.
The word “kind” refers to “active goodness that goes forth on behalf of others”. Bible scholar J. B. Philip translates it as to “look for a way of being constructive”.
So how can we be patient and kind in disciplining our children? Perhaps it might help to remember that we are all work in progress. God is not done with our children, just as He is not done with us too. He is still at work in them and in us.
In its original Greek text, Paul’s description of love is in the form of verbs. It emphasises not so much what love is, but what loves does. This reminds us that love is something we actually have to practise.
What has helped me is seeing 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 not just as instructions, but also as the result of transformation. The descriptions will become true of us when we put them into action.
That’s why Paul’s instructions are in present tense: they denote actions and attitudes that need to become habitual in our lives. And just as we build our muscles by exercising regularly, we can build these characteristics of love when we practise them every day.
If all this seems difficult, however, I am encouraged by this powerful fact: We are not on our own.
God wants to work in us so that we may bear the fruit of the Spirit, which includes love (Galatians 5:22). He will change us from the inside out, allowing us to bear fruit of the Spirit.
Heavenly Father, we are imperfect parents.
Grant us the grace to be patient
when we are weary and tired.
Help us to discipline our children
with Your love.
God can redeem our mistakes and change us from the inside out.
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