Once Upon a Time there (around Matthew 21) there was an actual father who had to deal with two sons. And this family was so typical, Jesus decided to use them as a guide to life. In this family there were two sons who’s father told them to go and work on the vineyard. The first son refused. The second son agreed.
But in an ironic twist, the son who refused changed his mind and went and did the work anyway, the second son didn’t go at all….
Then Jesus asked, which son did what his father asked (not which was the better son, not who was more faithful, just who DID IT) and his disciples answered the first
This is classic teenage behavior: My father (a behavior psychologist and pastor) likes to point out that usually while teenagers are giving you mouth, they are doing exactly what you asked them to do. Hence my father advises parents to look at actions more than words.
You want your kid to do x, y and z and he/she is doing it, great!
They don’t have to be happy about it…that might be asking too much
I have a congregant who complains about every bit of work that has to get done–she is a veritable saint, showing up to everything, serving on boards, cleaning what needs to be cleaned, working when work needs to be done, and is dependable and loyal as anything. I’ll take an entire congregation of such people (even if it does wear me out).
With my eldest, we’ve learned not to give him the opportunity to argue–this is a child who thinks no=anopportunitytoargue, maybe=yes and if-you’ve-given-an-inch=everything-is -up -for-negotiation. I call him the negotiator. So often I don’t tell him what’s going on (against my extroverted nature!) and just start doing it–going upstairs to brush teeth without telling him, taking all the other kids out to the car (because they are too young to argue, at least verbally), or reading the stories whether or not he is present. When I do this, he often follows, because my actions as a parent speak louder than words! Putting things into action means that I REALLY mean that we are doing this now, I’m not just talking about it…
What does this say about parenthood (esp. on days like yesterday when I lose it?) What does it mean about us as Christians? Jesus ends the parable by pointing out that the prostitutes and tax collectors are getting in before the church people for they believed and acted first. A lot of the Spiritual not Religious data says that Christians do not follow through on what they believe. The practical aspect of faith is missing.
As parents, I think this means telling and ACTING on the fact that we love our children. If we do not act out love–if we don’t practice REAL forgiveness, if we are not open and accepting of EVERYBODY, if we curse people while we are driving or tell our children that dressing up in high heel shoes is a ridiculous thing for a boy to do (my son’s experience in nursery school), if we mock the weak, demean the different and blame the poor for their plight, what are we teaching them?
How can we enact love? How can we, on the days we don’t feel like it–go out and pick the fruit of God? How can we return to work in the Garden of the Kingdom of God again, and again in meaningful ways?
We might not always want to do it, but that’s ok, as long as we know that our actions speak louder than words, and its never too late (even after we’ve refused!) to go out and work the garden.