Is God a Good Parent Part 4-Does God follow the guidelines of good parental guidance?

There are Consequences

We have looked at what experts and the Bible say about effective parenting, but the question remains, does God’s parental guidance follow the guidelines of good parental guidance. There are several attributes of God’s guidance that parallel what we learned about effective parenting. First, God permits our freedom to result in consequences. He guides us by allowing our choices to play out in consequences.  Oden argues that “Freedom has no meaning if there is no risk of going astray.”[1]  As Cline and Fay point out, “If there had been no forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden, humanity would have had no opportunity to make responsible or irresponsible choices.”[2] While God could easily take control like the Helicopter Parent who swoops in to remove any chance of consequence, doing so would prevent us from learning the essential lessons of our mistakes.  Instead, God permits us to choose whether to yield to temptation or not. Just like the parent providing proper parental guidance, God informs us of the consequences of our choice. Adam and Eve, for example, knew they were forbidden to eat the fruit of the tree and why.  God told them they would die. He allowed them to choose between the known consequence and the promises voiced by the Serpent.  He did not swoop down like the Helicopter Parent, stand in front of Satan and shout, “Remember what I said about this?” Nor did He send angels to destroy Satan or rip the fruit from Eve’s hand.  He allowed his creation to choose. Then like a good parent, He followed through with the consequence and banished them from Paradise.  However, He still loved them and ultimately provided a way back to Him through Jesus Christ.

Fencing us in

Secondly, God guides us by hindering our freedom by putting obstacles in our way to protect us from “ill-motivated actions.”[3]  Like the parent who puts the fence around the yard to keep the child from entering the street, God places obstacles in our path to keep us from harm.  The obstacles only hinder us.  Like the child who discovers how to climb over the fence and enter the street, we may find a “workaround” for the obstacle, but not without encountering some difficulty.  Satan challenged God to remove His protection from Job saying, “Have you not hedged him round on every side with your protection?”[4]  By such actions, God demonstrates that He is not the Laissez-Faire Parent, who allows the child to roam freely without guidance. However, if we discover how to overcome the obstacle, God does not become the Drill Sergeant or Helicopter Parent when we get into trouble. Instead, He allows us to grow from the SLO of our decision to climb the fence He placed around the yard to protect us. However, God will keep us from harm at times when we ask for his intervention or when the situation is beyond our ability to comprehend. God’s protection is not overprotection, but He does intervene for our safety by hedging us in or holding us back, “from committing a sin against” Him.  The psalmist prayed for such protection and hindrance of his freedom to harm himself[5], much like prayers of those struggling with addiction who pray for the hindrance of their choice to use drugs.

Overruling our freedom when we are completely out of line

Thirdly, God guides us by overruling our freedom when we are completely out of line.[6] Most parents accept that good parental guidance includes discipline such as removal of privileges, grounding and parental control of online activity. Some of these activities protect a child from predators, but most are put in place when a child’s behavior is “out of line.”  Similarly, as a good parent, God overrules our freedom when we act outside of God’s plan for us.  When the result is harm to ourselves or others, God guides us toward an outcome that turns the evil around for good, just as Joseph, whose brother sold him into slavery, became the means of redemption for them.[7] When a child hurts another person, the parent can intervene by expecting the child to learn about bullying, guiding them toward a better outcome for the child and others.  Community service for first offenders serves a similar purpose, especially when the person serves the community they offended.  God puts us into “community service” to guide us toward the plan He has for us. God’s community service may not be apparent to us because as Oden reflects, He guides us through “hidden routes” to “turn our misdeeds into potentially redeemed relationships.”[8]  Again, God acts as a responsible parent instituting logical consequences to teach us something and direct us toward His ultimate plan for us. He does not shout at us like a Drill Sergeant Parent nor does He hover over us ready to attack anyone who tries to impose consequences for our misdeed like a Helicopter Parent. Instead, He guides us toward activities which ultimately lead to restoration and growth if we listen to His guidance.

He goes before us and prepares the way

Finally, of all God’s providential governance, perhaps the idea that He goes before us and prepares the way is the most difficult for some to accept. To some, going before us may mean that God makes everything perfect, and therefore we should never struggle or suffer.   What if God acted as the Drill Sergeant Parent, barking orders to us about what direction we should go? While we may reach the goal, would we grow? Would we learn how to make difficult choices under pressure? Most likely, our reaction would resemble the response of children raised by any of the ineffective parenting styles, anger, rebellion, and inability to choose the correct path for fear of failing.  If God acted as the Laissez-Faire Parent, how would we know the options available? We would not know; we would wander aimlessly, making choices based on our limited knowledge with potentially disastrous consequences.   By guiding us instead of actively directing or demanding that we behave in a particular manner, God demonstrates the ultimate goal of good parenting which is encouraging growth, and maturity. By guiding our path, God directs us by opening some doors and closing others, thus guiding us away from disaster or inordinate temptation.[9]

Next: God is a Good Parent-Even In Our Darkest Hour

Related Posts:

Is God a Good Parent?-Why Did He Let this Happen?

Is God a Good Parent-Part 2 What Makes Someone a Good Parent?

Is God a Good Parent? Part 3-What Does the Bible Tell Us About Parenting?

The View from the Foot of the Bed

[1] Thomas C. Oden, Classic Christianity, A Systematic Theology (New York: HarperCollins, 1992),159.

[2] Foster Cline; Jim Fay, Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility (NavPress Publishing. Kindle Edition: 2014-02-01), Kindle Locations 392-393.

[3] Oden, 158.

[4] Oden, 158.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 159.

[9] Ibid.

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