Parenting, like marriage, is usually not characterized by substantial events but hundreds of smaller things that accumulate and shape the relationships between parents and their children.
Personally, it’s hard for me to believe that my wife and I have been parents now for nearly 25 years. We began as non-Christians, were graciously saved, and then began learning the Bible. This had a substantial effect on our parenting. Soon we started getting a better grasp on the gospel and its implications. We learned that the gospel isn’t only what saves us but also what shapes us as Christians. Now, after seeing two kids grow to be adults and move out on their own and with another four still in the home, I understand even more the importance of a simple phrase we’ve tried to communicate to our kids. And even more than saying it, we’ve been attempting to model its truthfulness and power. I commend it to you as the most important words I think you can consistently say to your kids.
Here it is: No matter what you do, I will never love you any less.
This summarizes our relationship. We are a family. And this relationship is not defined by what we do—either by doing good or bad. The kids did not earn their way in and they cannot do anything to change their status. They are fixed. My wife and I love them, no matter what.
To look into one of our kid’s teary eyes or upon their guilt-gripped posture and say, No matter what you do, I will never love you any less, is powerful. And it’s reflective of God’s love for his children.
If you’re a Christian, then I’m sure it’s transparent to you where this comes from. God’s love for his children through Christ is not based upon our merits. We didn’t love ourselves into Christ, and we can’t sin ourselves out of him. Love begins with God and extends out to helpless and hopeless rebels (Rom. 5:6-11; Eph. 2:1-10). Our standing in God is based upon our union with Christ. We are “in Christ” (Eph. 1). Therefore, God’s love for us is fixed. Indeed because of Christ, the Father says, no matter what you do, I will never love you any less. Because of the gracious plan of the Father, the work of the Son, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, being in God’s family is a fixed status and his love. This is good news, indeed.
Therefore, as a parent seeking to reflect the gospel and instruct our children, it is good to remind them and ourselves of this truth regularly. No matter what you do, I will never love you any less. As you can imagine, these words are so appropriate and life-giving amid times pain, confusion, hurt, sadness, and disappointment. To look into one of our kid’s teary eyes or upon their guilt-gripped posture and say, No matter what you do, I will never love you any less is powerful. It’s meaningful. It’s sincere. It’s love from another world. It’s reflective of God’s love for his children.
This phrase will not save you from the pain and disappointment that is common in this world. But the sentiments behind it will provide a framework and a power for properly dealing with it.
I’ve never regretted saying this. I only wish I could travel back in time and say it more often.