Parenting isn’t just for parents

Sitting in church a few weeks ago listening to a sermon on praying parents from the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1 I started to do what I often do with sermons on parenting -switch off and think about something else. But then I stopped and realised that this affected me too not just for when I might have a few little sams but much more generally.  Parenting is also for those of us who don’t have physical offspring.

In the Old Testament children were seen as a sign of blessing, and were important for more than just the obvious reasons. God had chosen Israel to be his people and to demonstrate to the nations what life with Yahweh at the centre was like.  They had been instructed to multiply, and because theirs was a physical people with a geographic land the primary way the people of God grew was by having children. Things changed when Jesus (who never did get married) arrived.  After the death, burial, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, all of a sudden membership of God’s covenant community was open to anyone, from any nation or ethnic group. From the time of Jesus on God’s people grew primarily not through childbirth but by new birth – by making disciples. This is what lies behind Paul talking about it being ‘better not to marry’ in 1 Corinthians 7. Paul also talks about Timothy being his son in the faith.

So it seems to me if we add all this up together then we need to hear more sermons in church about parenting, and those of us who don’t have kids, or who are single are also involved. Each one of us can ‘parent’ or disciple those who are younger than us in age and in the faith (or who have no faith). In an era when so many family units are broken, the younger generation need older role models, older people who will believe in them, encourage them, help them grow up, pass on their life experience, wisdom and story of following Jesus. That doesn’t just mean grandparents but all of us who are capable of investing in others. Imagine the sort of community where ‘parenting’ is a responsibility assumed by everyone and where each of us is surrounded by mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children we can call our own…

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2 thoughts on “Parenting isn’t just for parents”

  1. Very true. One thing I love in church is on Mothers’ Day, when all the women of the congregation get a gift (usually a flower), to remind everyone that we can all parent, even if we don’t have children of our own. Would be nice to have something similar for the men, but Fathers’ Day usually clashes with the Sunday School service, and therefore gets sidelined…

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