“They let their child do what?!” If your child spends any time with other children outside your family, you have said this statement. If you have not said this statement aloud, you have thought it. And I am no different. Together, we have entered one of the most intimate of relationships – schooling our children together.
Either in class, on the playground, at the lunch table, or while changing classes, our children will no doubt become aware of different perspectives among the homes of their classmates about rules, preferences, possessions, or permissible behavior. Smart phones, sugar, pierced ears, sarcasm, Sperry shoes, gaming, tablet time limits, dating, and junk food, you name it and ACS families have varying opinions regarding these things. One time, I remember my daughter sharing with me about how she and a friend spent the entire recess walking and talking about the issue of Baptism and how our families disagreed about one core aspect of this important doctrine. And, of course, I also had to respond to the complaint oft levied by my 12–15-year-olds, “Everyone has a cell phone. May I please have one? Why must I wait until I am sixteen?”
I imagine that you feel as anxious reading about this topic as I feel writing about it. Why? I believe most of us fear the inevitable conflict that will occur with another ACS family. One might just have to ask questions to explore why a parent does or does not do something that your family does. You might have to explore with a parent what his/her rules are at home about technology and movie watching before your child goes over to their home. But why must this be feared as “conflict”? Why do we not think the best of the other family that would likely expect you to ask? Or be relieved to know you cared to ask?
Thankfully, 99% of these issues are not sin issues, but liberty issues. Liberty in the Christian worldview is considered a privilege given to us by God; thus, all liberty would be carried out in reference to Him and his law. Liberty is not liberty when it is law breaking. Thus, God, expects us to be wise when exercising liberty because there are many areas within God’s law in which believers disagree among themselves. For example, God commands us to keep the Sabbath holy (Exod. 20:8), and Christ tells us, “The sabbath was made for man…” (Mark 2:27). All believers believe that both verses are about God’s desire for man to rest from his work. How man rests and when he rests (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown or Sunday from 8am-5pm?) have been debated for centuries by believers. Thus, liberty issues require wisdom and charity. Therefore, what I can do is be vigilant to build a real relationship with my child’s friend’s parents while also teaching my child those two key ingredients to healthy fellowship with others.
OFF THE CUFF:
I love working through these issues and teaching my children to do the same. Living in a community with one another is messy and frustrating at times. During seminary, my two study partners (Eric and Brian) and I were studying together during our summer Greek class. One shared that he was tired from being up late with his two-year-old daughter who was a night owl. I said, in what I thought was a modest comment, “Man. God has been gracious to me; all my kids go to bed at 7:30pm.” He replied, “Ted, is God not being gracious to me that my child goes to bed at 9pm?” Ouch. That question stopped me in my tracks. Of course, I was not the definitive authority on God’s grace regarding bedtimes. Eric may have been tired, but he also had the joy of having spent a lot of time nurturing his child’s soul at whatever time of day it occurred. However awkward I felt, Eric was kind to ask me that question. His question helped me be a wiser friend.
As we navigate this crucible of parenting, schooling, we must be diligent to guide our children regarding wisdom and charity. These two qualities, in my mind, reflect the two great commandments: Loving God (who is the Source of Wisdom and who was Wisdom Incarnate) and Loving our Neighbor. Seeking and applying wisdom in our families is a means to honor and love the other families in the school. From respecting others’ tooth fairy rituals to giving an allowance to allowing “sleepovers” to blended family dynamics, I challenge each family to discuss these in light of wisdom (What does God say about this?) and charity (How should we then relate to our neighbor?).