The biggest problem we face in this world, John Piper preached this past Sunday, is not politics or culture or choices we make but the power of sin. Because sin entered the world, childbearing and childrearing, for one example, became hard. There are no easy times for parents, Piper said, although some times may be harder than others. “If you think (parenting) is easy, you’re dreaming,” he said. “Or wait a few days.”
His sermon, “Parenting with Hope in the Worst of Times,” looked at the situation the prophet Micah was in around 700 years before Jesus was born. What we see in Micah 7 is parenting in the worst of times, where the situation in his culture and at home is bleak. There is no one he can trust, whether it’s in his community or even his own home. In verse 5: “Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms.” And it goes further in verse 6: “For the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.”
Is this uncommon? No. Many have families that are torn with strife, broken in some way either by corruption or some other problem. Or even something else. Jesus in Matthew 10:34 quotes this very passage where he talks about the way he divides one family member from another because of his calling. He does it. Not because he loves to break up families, but because there is something so radical about what Jesus demands that it causes disruptions in families. You know what this looks like. The family that doesn’t get that call accuses the one called of being “arrogant” or “too good” for them. Jesus wants them all, but the split can happen over Jesus. The point is is that the tear is not always over some evil.
What is the response? What can we learn from what Micah says? Here are his words from Micah 7:7-10:
7 But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. 8 Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. 9 I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. 10 Then my enemy will see, and shame will cover her who said to me, “Where is the LORD your God?” My eyes will look upon her; now she will be trampled down like the mire of the streets.
Piper calls this “brokenhearted boldness.” Going back to the original statement, we know that our biggest problem is the power of sin. As a parent, it can be so discouraging to see our children growing in ways that we do not want. What do you do? Read another book? Rage at them? Go to God. But the danger is to go to God in prayer and justify yourself. Instead, Micah takes it a different direction in verse 9, where he — in brokenheartedness — admits he has sinned against God. That is hard when you feel you have been wronged, by anyone. As a citizen of what we call (dangerously) the greatest country on earth, we are so sure of our rights. And when we are wronged we are eager to have those rights protected and restored. That makes mercy and brokenness difficult if not impossible.
This brokenness is essential. This is how Piper puts it:
The posture of parenting with hope in the worst of times is the posture of brokenhearted boldness. And the brokenheartedness is owing first to his own sin, and only then to being sinned against. This is the great battle we face. Will we find, by God’s grace, the kind of humility that enables us to see our families and ourselves that way?
As a side note, Piper says that we will not stand before God on judgement day explaining all the offenses others have done to us. We will be answering for our offenses before God. So let’s not get hung up on those, it will not matter on that day.
But it’s not just brokenness that is called for. Micah also is bold before God. This seems strange coming right after he has acknowledged his sin. How can this be? Is that crazy talk? Is there an answer for why Micah speaks this way? The answer comes later, in verses 18-19:
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
This, Piper says, is crucial: if we don’t feel our guilt and sin, we won’t go deep with the pardon of God. And, equally important, if we don’t know the depths of God’s pardon, we won’t go deep with our sin. So, as parents, we need to keep this in our minds. We are sinners. The power of sin is a terrible destructive force in my life. And we cannot deal with the problems we have with our families unless we deal with the problem we have in our hearts. But, in having Jesus pay for our sins, we have hope. We can see God’s commitment to rescue us from the power of that sin and we can hope for God to do that miracle in our families as well. Don’t despair, but go to God with brokenness and boldness.