Many mothers feel like their work is relatively insignificant. Their husbands, too, would rather invest their time at the workplace than the home. It seems that both roles have fallen on hard times.
Easter is around the corner. Perhaps we wouldn’t have thought to look there for fresh motivation for parenthood. Yet the New Testament text that gives the most extensive treatment of the resurrection of Jesus Christ provides the resources mothers need to regain an eternally significant vision of motherhood. Same for fathers. The reality of Jesus’ resurrection means that parenthood can be infused with significance.
The Mission of Parenthood
The final statement in this extended resurrection chapter gives the rich implication for all of life: “therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). “The work of the Lord” is most likely the central Christian task of making disciples of Jesus Christ. The work of the Lord is sharing Christ with those who don’t know him and strengthening those who do. And, as commentators on this note, it is perhaps anything that a Christian does, especially that which requires particular effort, for the sake of Christ.
This is not something limited to one vocation or sphere of life. It is an intentionally comprehensive statement. And within this life-encompassing implication, we have the task of drawing out the specific implications for vocations like parenthood.
So, what does this look like for motherhood and fatherhood? This means that at the heart of the mission of parenthood is discipleship; raising children in the hope that they might come to know and live for Jesus Christ.
This is difficult. Quite often the chaos of the moment, the hurry of the schedule, and the fatigue of the day conspire to make discipling our children a challenge. Sometimes it is delightful to teach children about Christ, read the Bible, talk to them about their hearts, and discipline with love and patience. Many times, however, we would rather just survive the day. It should be encouraging that the Apostle Paul affirms the difficulty of any “work of the Lord.” He calls it a “work” and “labor.” But it is for the Lord. And what is to be done for the Lord will always have a motivation from the Lord.
The Motivating Power of the Resurrection
The great motivation for doing “the work of the Lord” is the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The “work of the Lord” is what people do in all of life, including parenthood, when they believe that Jesus is alive. The “therefore” at the beginning of this great statement looks backward at what Paul said earlier in 1 Corinthians 15. The resurrection can fill the mission of motherhood and fatherhood with purpose and meaning.
Here are five aspects of “the work of the Lord” in parenthood that are uniquely motivated by the resurrection of Jesus.
- Evangelism In the Home Matters
If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, all the time we take to share the gospel with our children is a waste of time. Nothing ultimately good and lasting comes of it. Jesus would be no more real or significant than Batman.
Paul says, “if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then our preaching is in vain” (15:14). Simply put, if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, evangelism in the home doesn’t matter. However, if he did rise, it couldn’t matter more. Telling our children about Jesus’ dying love and his willing heart to forgive is eternally significant.
It is infinitely more significant than any other superhero story that grips their hearts. Jesus is the true Superhero. He rescued his damsel in distress. The church was under the distress of the condemnation for hers sins, but Jesus came to her rescue with a self-sacrificing love. This theme is woven through many of children’s stories, of course. But in the case of Jesus, it is not merely a fairy tale. It is, as C.S. Lewis put it, the myth that became fact. The reason why childrens stories have variations on this epic plot is because they are written by those who are made in God’s image and who inhabit this greater story. Jesus is the true and better superhero. And telling our children about him is not in vain.
- Inviting Your Children to Trust Jesus Matters
If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, “your faith is in vain” (v. 14). Without the resurrection, believing the gospel is wishful thinking. With the resurrection, it is wise beyond measure.
True faith trusts in the living Christ. We trust Jesus for all he promises to be do for us. We trust him to forgive all of our sins. We trust him to be with us in our suffering. We trust him to work our afflictions for our good. We trust him to restore all that is broken. We trust him to welcome us into his presence to live with him in a new creation forever.
This is not faith in a system or set of ideas; it is faith in a person. Because Jesus rose from the dead, he is a living savior. We put our faith directly and personally in him. And we invite our children to do the same. We don’t invite them to just believe that certain ideas are true; we invite them to trust in a living Savior and walk with a faithful Friend. Jesus is worthy of our children’s trust, and it matters for eternity that we tell them that.
- Reading the Bible to Your Children Matters
The central message of the Bible is God’s grace for God’s people through God’s Son. It is about his heart of love for us, shown most clearly in the cross. That’s what we want our children to know as we read the Bible. This is why we seek to abound in the work of reading this book together every day.
But what if the New Testament writers were wrong about the resurrection? The Bible, then, is not trustworthy. According to Paul, “We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised” (v. 15).
Implication? Since Jesus did rise from the dead, family Bible reading is eternally significant. It’s a “work of the Lord” worthy of our disciplined and diligent efforts.
I recently heard of a young woman who spoke of how she came to Christ as a younger child. When she was eleven years old, she was greatly discouraged. Then she remembered that when her parents were discouraged, they turned to the Bible. So she, as a child, opened up her Bible and found the hope she needed. This was her testimony of how she became a Christian.
When we open the Bible and read it, our children hear God’s voice. And when God speaks, things happen. Like salvation.
- Helping Your Children Seek Forgiveness Matters
If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, “your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (v17). This is interesting language. He says that apart from Christ, we are still “in our sins.”
We may think of sin as bad things we do. Perhaps we think of them as things that are external to our true, inner selves. We may think, “Yes I did that, but that’s not really who I am.” But sins are not merely actions that we do in the past and then leave behind. They flow out of our hearts and they leave us with a guilt that is objectively real and subjectively felt.
We need to know that this dynamic is also at work in our children. We don’t help them if we treat their sins lightly. We won’t help them if we don’t tell them that their actions flow from their hearts. They may not be able to articulate it, but they will eventually sense that they are somehow “in their sins.” We don’t want to leave them unequipped with the wonderful love of God that takes even little ones out of their sins and places them in Christ. In some sense, we gave them that sin-nature. We owe it to them to give them Christ.
I recently heard of one man who dumped food on his brother’s head when he was a child. Typical for most homes. In situations like this we might excuse the sin: he missed his nap, her diet is off, and so forth. That, or we excuse ourselves for talking it through: we’re running late as it is, etc. In this case, however, his mother took the time to talk about it. He sensed his guilt, so his mom used the opportunity to share the gospel with him. She explained that he feels guilty because of his sin and that he needs God’s forgiveness through Jesus. He said it was then that he believes he was saved. Because of the resurrection divine forgiveness is real, and these moments matter.
- Giving Your Children Hope Matters
Our children will ask about death. What do we say? We start talking about Easter. The message of Easter is that death is defeated and hope is alive. If Christ didn’t rise from the dead, “then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (v. 18). Death is an intruder. It is here because Adam and Eve sinned against God. But since Jesus did rise, death is dead for those who trust in him.
I recently heard of a child who was afraid as she went into a minor, relatively risk-free surgery. She asked her mom what would happen if she died. At this moment, the easy response is, “You’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.” But her mom believed that there is the “work of the Lord” to be done in these kinds of situations. So she said, “If you believe in Jesus, you don’t have to be afraid.” The child, now grown up, says that is when she savingly trusted in Christ.
The mission of parenthood is to bring the gospel to our children, and to love them as Christ as loved us. This is hard work. And it is the Easter story – the resurrection of Jesus – that gives the motivation.
The resurrection means that the mission of parenthood is an eternally significant work. It isn’t just teaching religion. It isn’t just teaching morals. It isn’t just teaching “faith.” It is leading our sons and daughters to the living Christ.