Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. -James 3:18 (NKJV)
Co-parenting with a non-believer has to be one of the hottest topics in single parent ministry today; but is it one of the most disciplined? From a personal standpoint, I completely understand how frustrating it can be, but the way we handle an adverse situation such as this is a reflection of our own personal relationship with Jesus. Whether you are the full-time or non-custodial parent, your faithfulness and devotion to the Lord in bringing your children up, in Christ, when they are in your care, solely your responsibility. The rest we must entrust to God. As is the case when we are faced with any sort of opposition or trial, we are called to be obedient and trust in His Word; keeping in mind that it is not just our walk that is being molded, but our children’s as well.
He Said, She Said.
As the opening verse states, the fruit of righteousness comes not by vengeance – but through peace. To start, we should make sure to drop the mindset of who is wrong or right and focus on whether we are remaining in the right. Paul instructs us in Philippians 3:16 to “keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.” In other words, keep modeling Christ no matter what comes our way. If you do decide to correct the other parent, do it with gentleness (2 Tim 2:25) and be sure to pick and choose your words and motives carefully. In our single dad small group, our “Golden Rule” is we never slam our children’s mother. This helps to protect both ourselves and our kids by not allowing anger or resentment to creep into our hearts. Otherwise, the bitterness will eventually control other areas of our life if left unguarded. Keep yourself focused on your own relationship with Christ and your kids and turn anything beyond your control over daily in prayer and petition.
The power of prayer is by far one of the greatest weapons of warfare we as believers possess. Where are your prayers focused? Is it for God to change the other parent’s heart and not to let your son or daughter be tainted by their beliefs? Or, is it a much more Gospel-centered approach, one that shows complete trust in Him and selflessness on your part? Even in His greatest moment of pain and agony, Jesus still cried out for His Father’s forgiveness on behalf of His murderers. Stephen did the same. When we align our heart with God’s and pray according to His will, we are assured that He hears us and our petitions (1 John 5:14-15). Standing in the gap and praying for our children’s other parent is extremely Scriptural, and vital if we are to grow in our own walk. Instead of asking God to change them or not manipulate the kids, pray instead for His love and mercy to be poured upon their household; to forgive them for they know not what they do. By doing so, your heart will be kept soft too and the kids will be blessed in their lives through your authentic Christ-centered love.
Keeping Our Side of the Street Clean
If we read the story of Saul and David in the cave (found in 1 Samuel 24) we get a very clear picture of mercy, humility, and obedience – all on David’s part. Despite the obvious advantages that had seemingly just been delivered into his hand, David was well aware of his position with the Lord and made the conscious decision not to alter God’s sovereign plan. He did not consider an act of disobedience to be God-ordained and even showed sorrow for his cutting of Saul’s robe. Are we acting accordingly? Are we as believing parents actively showing grace to the other? Are we humbling ourselves in obedience in order to grow ourselves? Psalm 25:9 says, “The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way.” If we allow ourselves to be teachable along the way, God can do great things in our households. If we don’t, then He can only do so much. Even though we may have the best intentions at heart when it comes to ministering to our children, let’s be sure that we are doing it according to His will and not our own.
Co-parenting can be a challenge by itself sometimes, but co-parenting with a non-believer is a completely different ball game. Consistency on our part in every aspect will be a key component in raising our kids in Christ. We may not be able to change the other parent’s beliefs, but the authentic light of Jesus cannot be ignored by our children. Be sure to look through the obstacles that may be laid out before you in this regard, and stay focused on the One who will lead you so you can lead your son or daughter in the same way.
Matt Haviland is the founder of “A Father’s Walk” single dad ministry and the author of the book, A Father’s Walk: A Christian-Based Resources for Single Fathers. He currently lives in his hometown of Grand Rapids, MI, is the co-founder of the Grand Rapids Single Parenting Expo, and is a single dad to a beautiful little girl himself. For more information on the ministry and how to form a single dad small group in your own church, please visit http://www.afatherswalk.org.
Publication date: August 8, 2013