In a recent mothers’ group, a fellow mum shared how her three-year-old boy liked wearing dresses and she was letting him, as she wanted to support him in who he was. Her husband was embarrassed by the fact his wife let their son wear dresses to the shops. As this mother sought advice, there was overwhelming support for her loving acceptance of whomever her son was to be and disappointment over the husband’s response. In another group, I heard a mother share how her husband had left her with their children as he realized he had fallen in love with another man. This mother was grief-stricken as she reflected on the way her life had rapidly changed and unsure how to speak to her young children about their father’s choices.
There is no doubt: conversations in mothers’ groups, in school drop-off zones and in the supermarket are changing—rapidly. As a Christian, it is easy to feel confused about how to speak into this post-Christian culture: do we share our beliefs about gender, marriage and sexuality with these mothers, or do we stay silent?
Previously there was a fairly strong Judeo-Christian world view in society, so it wasn’t a huge step for people to agree with Christian morals, or even respect and encourage them. Today though, is it good to speak to these fellow mothers about how dressing her son as a girl is confusing for him, or that a man leaving his wife and children to pursue homosexuality is sinful? While our biblical world view speaks morally to this situation, these ladies are not seeking a dose of moral standards. If I share morality with them, I am likely to be left off the next group meeting’s invitation list. What these women are seeking is loving wisdom—a wisdom that we as Christians have and can point them to.
As mothers, we share our parenting troubles in the hope that someone may have relevant advice to give. The Bible tells us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Prov 9:10). As Christians, we can be confident that at the feet of Jesus we will find the wisdom we seek, and the wisdom our non-Christian friends seek.
The moment my daughter was handed to me, I became overwhelmingly aware of my imperfections and failings. As I looked down at her little body and saw the blank canvas who had been given to me, I realized just how many ways I could mess her up. In the years since, with two more children joining the family, the reality of my fallenness is never far from my mind. As I talk to other mothers, regardless of their spiritual beliefs, this failure to reach perfection is a commonality.
The thing that sets me and other Christian sisters apart, however, is that we have the answer to this imperfection—and that answer is found on the bloody and brutal cross. We recognize that in our rebellious desire to be the god of our world, we have rejected the one who promises to heal it.
Each of us are responsible for the confusion in the world around us, but when we come to the cross in humble repentance we find the promise of the restoration of our very beings and of the world around us. Our world view shifts and our seeking of wisdom becomes a humble orientation of the heart, seeking God to intervene and work in and through us, transforming our minds through the renewing power of his word.
As we look for answers to a young son who likes wearing dresses, or a husband who discovers homosexuality, we see that we live in a sin-infected world, where broken people and broken parents desperately need the truth of Jesus and the impact that his life, death and resurrection makes on us here and now. We also find the glorious hope of the promised, reconciled and restored future with him. In owning our imperfection and rebellion, the gospel liberates us from them, providing light to our path in a dark and hopeless world.
If I start and end with morality, I impart a false gospel to my fellow mother. As Matt Chandler asserts, “unless the gospel is made explicit, unless we clearly articulate that our righteousness is imputed to us by Jesus Christ, that on the cross he absorbed the wrath of God aimed at us and washed us clean—even if we preach biblical words on obeying God—people will believe that Jesus’ message is that he has come to condemn the world, not to save it”.1 But as I go about sharing the fact that all these moral issues are because of the brokenness in our world, because we have rejected the God who saves, I can share with them the true gospel. For that is what they are seeking: an answer to the confusion and brokenness of their own lives and the culture around them, found in Jesus. These challenges then become an opportunity, not just to make blanket statements but to open up the discussion into our world view and theirs through asking questions.
An example could be, when this mother shared her concern about her three-year-old, I could have asked her what she thinks about it. Does it worry her or make her feel uncomfortable? Why does she feel the way she feels? Through asking questions we can help her express her deeper thoughts, rather than just seeking a remedy for the surface issue. This may then open up discussion into how I would navigate that issue in my own home, and enable me to share about my Christian world view and how my identity is found in Jesus.
Sharing the gospel, then, becomes about sharing the reality of Jesus in my life and how his word informs it. As Sam Chan says:
While the gospel is something we speak, words that communicate God’s truth, there is also a sense in which we ourselves are a component of how the message is communicated. We speak the words of truth, but we speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15).2
We need to be authentically living out this reality in our mothering and in our conversations, so that our fellow mothers see the difference Jesus makes. We need to point them in conversation not to a band-aid moral fix but to the ultimate healer. We need to be confident that God and the gospel speak to every situation we could come in contact with, and we need to be thankful that, in sharing parenting struggles with one another, we have an opportunity to point up to the all-knowing God who has the answers to our questions.
1. Matt Chandler & Jared Wilson, The Explicit Gospel, Crossway, Wheaton, 2012, p. 208.↩
2. Sam Chan, Evangelism in a Skeptical World, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2018, p. 116.↩