Rousas John Rushdoony wrote a classic book, Law and Liberty back in 1971. This book deals with the institutions of family and government and their inter-relationship.
God has set up three basic institutions in society. The family, the State and the Church. The family came first in the Garden of Eden, the State or human government, was set up after the Flood and the Church was established at Pentecost after Jesus had ascended back to Heaven.
Historically and Biblically, the family is the basic unit and building block of society. If the family fails to function as God intended, society crumbles.
According to Genesis 9:5-6 and Romans 13:1-4 the purpose of human government is for one reason only; to protect families from enemies, both foreign and domestic. As I understand it, the government Constitutionally has no business being involved in education nor providing for the financial needs of families. The State only got involved in public education in the middle of the nineteenth century and they only got involved in the Socialistic distribution of welfare money and Social Security with the New Deal following the Great Depression.
The Church is a special called out people of God, purchased by the shed blood of Christ, and given to bless the world through her witness.
Consider the family in this article.
THE FAMILY IS GOD’S PLAN FOR THE PROCREATION AND REARING OF CHILDREN.
Adam and Eve were married by God in the Garden of Eden, as recorded in Genesis 2:18-25. In Malachi 2:14-16 we learn that marriage is a sacred covenant in the sight of God, in which a man and a woman are bound together in love and trust for as long as they both live. Marriage is also a picture of the spiritual relationship between Christ and His Church, as taught in Ephesians 5:22-33.
From that marriage union, normally children are born and have a heritage from their families that cannot be duplicated by the State. The Biblical family cannot be rivaled by science nor government as the institution for the procreation and rearing of children.
THE FAMILY IS ALSO THE BASIC LAW-MAKING BODY OF SOCIETY.
Historically, family law has been the basic law of mankind. Proverbs 1:8-9 teaches it. As children we encounter rules of conduct, and our idea of law is shaped and defined largely by our family. Life is seen through the law structure that the family gives to the child.
How the child approaches and reacts to the church, school, state and society in general depends greatly on his source of law which is parental authority. He can face other law making bodies rebelliously, or obediently and respectfully. His attitude can be constructive, destructive or indifferent, depending on his family background to a large degree. Of course, parents can best rule their children, when they themselves are under the Lordship of Christ.
According to Genesis 18:19 God could bless Abraham and his family and make them a blessing to the world because He could trust Abraham to take his parental responsibilities of commanding his children seriously.
The response of children towards authority outside the home is a reflection of their response to authority within the home and is a reflection of our own submission as parents to the Lordship of Christ.
Children who are out of control in public places, such as church, school, in a store, or visiting in the homes of others, are children who are out of control in their own homes. Children who are out of control are a reflection of parents who are out of control. That’s why a father’s ability to govern his family is such a crucial consideration when choosing pastors, elders and deacons, according to I Timothy 3:5.
THE FAMILY IS THE FIRST GOVERNMENT IN THE LIFE OF A CHILD.
The father is the God-ordained head of his household and his government under God is the child’s basic government.
The children are not the only ones governed in the family. The mother is governed in her activities by the needs of her husband and children.
The father is governed by his need to lovingly and sacrificially provide for, protect and give his family the example of leadership they need.
When a father is not self-supporting, he has neither the power nor the authority to govern his family.
Welfare families, with their lack of masculine authority from the days of the Roman Empire to the present, have been notorious for their undisciplined, immoral and delinquent family members. A man who will not provide for his family, will not earn his family’s respect and will lack the character, authority and ability to govern with wisdom and honor. The Christian man who does not provide for his family is worse than an infidel, according to I Timothy 5:8.
In short, government welfare destroys family life and creates more evil than it tries to solve.
THE FAMILY IS THE CHILD’S FIRST AND BASICSCHOOL.
Parents have very extensively educated their children, for better or for worse in the first five years before they ever set foot inside a government or private school. Read and study Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Isaiah 28:9-10 on this.
Has it ever occurred to you that every mother performs the most difficult of all educational tasks which no school performs nor can match? From birth, over the next three to five years, she teaches her child to speak fluently in the native tongue of the family. Though difficult and painstaking, it is accomplished through love and patience. It comes simply and naturally within the family as an expression of parental love. Learning is the child’s response to that parental love.
At every stage of a child’s life, the educational function of the home is the basic influence in the life of the child. Read Proverbs 1:8 and 4:1-13 on this.
If parents are to entrust the education of their children to a school, it is essential that they find a school that best reflects their values and goals. Our Christian school, Victory Christian School, is under the control of Alameda Bible Church. We seek together to live under the control of Christ and His Word. As we teach and reflect those Biblical values, standards and goals, we attract only those families who desire what we have to offer. For education to cease to be parent and church controlled and become state controlled is deadly to the child.
ANOTHER BASIC FUNCTION OF THE FAMILY IS TO PROVIDE MOTIVATION AND GUIDANCE.
A child is provided with the best motivation and guidance in his home because his family loves him and is deeply concerned for his future. That goal is, of course, to be like Jesus. Philippians 1:21, 3:10-14
CONSIDER THE ECONOMIC FUNCTION OF A FAMILY.
A father provides for his family; not for strangers.
Welfare agencies provide for a growing number of dysfunctional families. Under this system, disintegration and demoralization takes place within the family. Education declines and there is less interest in the values of learning and less ability to progress.
Under the family system, children are not only intellectually motivated, but they are also economically financed through high school, college and sometimes grad school.
As far as sheer economic efficiency is concerned, nothing in all of history equals the family. By comparison, state welfare and Socialistic takeover of the family economic functions are pathetic and tragic failures. Socially, the family has no equal in its contribution to social stability and order.
The family as an economic unit has an excellent division of labor plans. Fathers, mothers and children each have their responsibilities. Each has rights and duties which are equally shared. The family can withstand and survive more shock, economic disasters, personal disagreements and social catastrophes than any other institution.
THE FAMILY ALSO HAS A VALUABLE POLICING AND PROTECTIVE FUNCTION.
The members of the family police one another and keep their family in line and out of trouble. They punish and protect one another. Their’s is a cradle to the grave protection.
THE CONTRAST OF FAMILY TO THE STATE
When government talks about cradle to the grave security, they are simply attempting to imitate the family and offering the state as a substitute to the family.
Throughout history the family has done the most satisfactory job. The State botches up every attempt to replace the family. Today our socialistic government continually attempts to limit the authority, power and ability of the family. They do this through:
1. Outrageous taxation, even to taxing the inheritance parents pass on to their children. That is stealing!
2. By scrutinizing how families rear their children and threatening to take children from their parents if discipline or education is not according to their standards.
3. Then the State has the audacity to blame the family for the problems they have created within the family.
Has the State weakened the family? Not really. The more the State has interfered and demoralized families, the more it has emphasized man’s need for family. The prevalence of sickness does not make health obsolete. It only emphasizes the importance and need for health. So the incompetence of the State had made more obvious the need for the family to function as a family.
Historically, every period of Statism is followed by a period of intensely family oriented society as men turn from sickness to health. For decades we have been in a struggle between two clear choices in America. The choices are obvious.
1. More and more State control and dependency as we depend on “The Village” to raise our children.
2. Or we must strengthen our families and take back the responsibilities and freedoms the former generation forfeited to the State. We must return to strong Biblically oriented families and quit depending on the State to do for us what we can much better do for ourselves.
I encourage you to read Psalms 127 and 128 and note:
1. The Psalmist is speaking primarily to the husband and father. He refers to his wife and children.
2. Children are given by God to families; not to the State.
3. The wife is seen as a homemaker with all the family sitting around the dinner table together.
4. Security and prosperity come by hard work; not by government welfare.
5. If we live in the fear of God and in obedience to God’s Word, we can expect God’s blessing on our children, our grand children and our great grandchildren. I have seen that in our own family, by God’s grace. All our children, and our grandchildren are successful and living for the Lord. And now our great-grandchildren are beginning to come! May they continue to “seek the Lord while He may be found.” Isaiah 55:6-7
And may you, Dear Reader, know the Lord and His blessing on your family.
I love you, Johnny, said mother one day,
I love you more than I can say,
Then she answered his questions with,
Don’t bother me now!”
And just didn’t have time to show him how
To tie his truck to his tractor and plough,
But she washed her windows and scrubbed the floor
And baked, and cooked, and cleaned some more.
“Bring the boy next door in?” “Well, I should say not,
You’ll mess up the floors and I don’t want a spot.”
“No, we don’t have time for a story today,
Mother’s too busy cooking, so run out and play,
Maybe tomorrow,” she said with a sigh,
And Johnny went out almost ready to cry.
“I love you, Johnny,” again she said,
As she washed his face and sent him to bed.
Now how do you think that Johnny guessed
Whether ‘twas he or the house that
She really loved best?
First read this many years ago. Author unknown
When my wife and I, both in our early twenties, started parenting in 1956, I was pastoring a small church in the Sandhills of Nebraska. Our parsonage was next door to the church, but about five miles from the nearest neighbor and thirty-five miles of graveled road from the closest town and fifty miles of paved road to a larger town in the other direction We had no telephone and of course, no television in those first three years. Our only contact with the outside world was our little AM radio. In those days an FM radio was a luxury we could do without. Our 48 Dodge was our lifeline for help. When it was not working we were stranded at home for several days.
Dr. Spock and the Bible
It was there that our first son, Steve, was born. At that time there were few books on child rearing. We had two: Dr. Spock and the Bible. We used Dr. Spock to help guide us through the health problems of our infant son and we used the Bible to guide us in all the other matters we needed to know concerning raising children. Both my wife and I can testify that God is faithful to His promises. He promised us that if we would raise our children by His Word, that He would bless our family and He has blessed us beyond measure.
Raising our children together was a wonderful experience. My wife looks back on those days when our children were small as some of the happiest days of her life. In these articles I’ll share some biblical principles for raising children that worked for us. We never had a problem with “the terrible twos” nor “teen age rebellion”.
We are all aware of the fact that when we put a swimming pool on our property we have the responsibility of fencing it to protect children. Failing to do so could result in the injury or even death of children. In Bible times God gave the responsibility to parents to build walls or battlements around the flat rooftops which were used as porches or family rooms. Deuteronomy 22:8
Fathers and mothers cannot shrug off the responsibility of taking measures to protect their children from harm. We make sure our children are fastened safely in their car seats or seat belts. We use child proof fasteners or locks on cupboards and cabinets containing items that could physically harm our children.
Our children’s friends
So it is with the spiritual protection of our children. We cannot ignore our responsibilities or blame others for our failures. So often parents blame their failures with their children on their children’s friends. It’s our responsibility to protect our young impressionable children from the wrong friends and the wrong influences of degrading music and television. The education and raising of children is the parent’s responsibility; not the State’s. Certainly, the State steps in when parents neglect that responsibility.
As young parents back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, we controlled the television programs and music our children watched and listened to in our home. We were very much aware of the friends with whom our children played. We took the responsibility for the education of our children. My wife and I ruled our home with a gentle, loving, but firm hand.
I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 give clear instruction to pastors, elders and deacons as to how they are to raise their children. They are to be examples to all the church family. Those who cannot manage their families are not to attempt to lead churches. God holds a husband and father responsible for his family. A godly wife and mother works in harmony with her husband. Proverbs 14:1 teaches that a foolish woman who refuses to accept her responsibility under God destroys her family just as surely as a woman on the roof tears apart her house with a crow bar and axe.
We were not the perfect parents. As we grow older most of us become aware of our failures and in retrospect see how we could have been better parents. We thank God that in spite of our failures, our three children grew up without major problems and today each of them are raising their children to know the Lord and live for Him.
We continue our comments from Deuteronomy 22:8 about our responsibility of building battlements or walls of protection around our homes to protect our children. This spiritual, as well as physical responsibility, starts with the father; but a wise mother works in harmony with her husband to protect her family. Let’s consider those walls of protection.
Before we consider those walls, we need to make sure our home has a firm, solid foundation. In I Corinthians 3:9-15 Paul speaks of Christ as that foundation. To have a Christian home, both husband and wife need to make sure they are both trusting in Christ alone for salvation and that both are submitted to the Lordship of Christ. . A Christian home must be built on Christian principles.
The first wall of protection is dedication.
If ours is to be a Christian home, both husband and wife must each have dedicated their lives to Christ. Paul writes to every Christians in Romans 12:1-2 ” I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Success as parents starts with both parents yielded fully to God, ready to do whatever His Word says. Whether you are a young couple anticipating marriage or whether you have been married for several years, I urge you to get involved in a church where Christ is magnified and where the Bible is clearly taught and applied to life. Some of the preaching may go against your grain and irritate you, but if you are wise you will honestly face God’s Word and test everything you hear by what the Bible says. Dedicate yourself to God to read His Word together daily and spend time talking to Him together. Unless you are both dedicated to God, one of the important walls of protection is lacking in your home and your children will suffer for it.
Dedicate your children
As dedicated Christian parents I would urge you to publicly dedicate your children to God in a church service. It can be a blessing to you, to your children and to the rest of the congregation. In a dedication service you are publicly acknowledging that your child is a gift of God and that you recognize He has entrusted your child to you for about 18 years to train for His glory. You recognize your lack of wisdom to take on this sobering responsibility and your total dependence on God and His Word for that wisdom. Your trust is in God for success. Your desire for your children is that they each come to know Christ as Saviour and Lord and that they surrender their wills to Him.
Two examples of infant dedication are given in Scripture.
Hannah brought her infant son, Samuel, to the temple and presented him to the Lord. She said, “For this child I prayed and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him: therefore also have I lent him to the Lord, as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord. And she worshipped the Lord there.” I Samuel 1:27-28
In the New Testament we read of Mary and Joseph bringing the infant Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Lord. You can read the story in Luke 2:21-22. We must not mistake infant dedication with baptism. Jesus was dedicated to the Lord as an infant and He was baptized in the Jordan River when He was about 30 years old. Luke 3:21-23
There are other walls that we will be discussing, but there can be no success in any other area of parenting until this wall of dedication has been built.
The second wall of protection is that of discipline. That word evokes negative feelings in our modern society, but discipline is necessary to building character. What would our military be without disciplined soldiers?
Are you out of control?
We will never be successful in this area unless we are surrendered, victorious Christians and self-disciplined ourselves. Discipline has gotten a bad rap because some fathers and mothers attempt to discipline their children in a fit of rage. An out-of-control, undisciplined parent is unfit to attempt to discipline his or her children.
Strong willed children
Before we get into the topic of discipline, be aware of the fact that every child is different. Some are strong willed and others are easy going and even tempered. My wife and I were certainly aware of this in our own lives as parents and we were aware of the difference in our three children whom we raised in the turbulent decades of the 50’s-70’s when many Dr. Spock taught parents were raising a generation of self-righteous, rebellious hippies, so colorfully described in Proverbs 30:11-13.
Our responsibility as parents is not to change our children’s personalities; but to lead them to Christ who will eventually control their wills and beautify their personalities as they become more Christ-like. We accomplish that primarily by our own example. There are no perfect parents. Certainly my wife and I were aware of our own failures and cast ourselves on Christ for His strength in our weakness as parents, as taught in II Corinthians 12:9-10.
But in addition to living a Christ-like example to our children, God’s Word commands us as parents to restrain our children when they do wrong. Fathers, to fail in that responsibility is to disqualify ourselves as pastors and elders in the church according to I Timothy 3. That happened to Eli in I Samuel 3:11-13. when by failing to restrain his wicked sons, he became disqualified to lead Israel.
It is our Biblical mandate to teach them right from wrong and teach them respectful obedience to authority, by exercising our authority over them as parents.
God was pleased with Abraham and chose to use him for His divine purpose. Do you know why God was pleased with him? You will find the answer in Genesis 18:17-19. God, in His sovereignty and foreknowledge, could count on him to command his children to follow his godly example, even before they were born. .
How to raise spoiled, selfish, rebellious, uncivilized, disrespectful children
Because some parents discipline incorrectly does not mean we should ignore discipline. Many parents today who were harshly disciplined by their parents go to the opposite extreme and allow their children to grow up without any discipline whatsoever. They have adopted the world’s philosophy and are raising children who know nothing about self-control. Their philosophy is, “Express yourself! Do your own thing! Live to satisfy yourself and do whatever makes you happy! Eat when and what you want. Do whatever you want. Watch whatever you want on television or on the internet. Stay out as late as you want. Don’t ever cross your child’s will.” In teaching this supposed freedom to their children many parents today are raising spoiled, selfish, uncivilized brats who live to do as they please, destroy property and disrespect all authority. Parent, if you do not teach respect for authority while your child is small, he or she will someday have to learn it the hard way from a policeman or worse yet, from a prison guard.
Why are you frustrated?
Perhaps you are a parent who wants to rear your children correctly, but you are frustrated by your seeming lack of success. I’ve heard mothers talk of their “terrible twos”. Their two year olds have become a little monsters who rule the house with temper tantrums. You are experiencing this frustration because you did not start Biblical discipline soon enough.
Discipline begins in infancy.
Mom, you need to be home at least until your child is in school. I know there are some exceptions such as single mothers who have no other choice but to work outside the home. But if you are a mother whose husband can supply your basic needs, then your presence in the home is far more valuable than anything extra your pay checks could buy. Whatever you do, don’t give up the blessed privilege you have to bond with and guide your children from infancy to the time they are in school. Why would any mother turn over that privilege and responsibility to a baby sitter or a child care service? It’s beyond me how any mother could trust the care of her children to another during those formative, wonderful years.
Having said that, I am thankful for godly child care providers whom God uses to carry out the responsibilities of parents; but God gives that responsibility and privilege primarily to parents.
Throw out all those secular child care books.
Though we used Dr. Spock’s book to help us through the medical problems of infancy, we would not for one moment have considered his godless child psychology. Folks, forget that secular philosophy that “it takes a village to raise a child.” It takes a God-fearing, stay-at-home Mom who loves her children and is willing to raise them by Biblical principles. It takes a mother who snuggles her little ones in her arms and sings to them and rocks them and feeds them and changes their diapers and bathes them and spanks them when they need it.
Horrors! Did I say the “S” word? Yes, I said spanks them when they need it. If I had raised my children by my feelings, they never would have been spanked. I am a gentle, easy-going person. I don’t want to hurt anyone, much less my own children. But the Bible taught me to spank, so I did, firmly, but lovingly and with many tears. Yes, I wept as I spanked my children, praying, ” Lord, I’m trusting you. I’m doing this because your Word teaches me to do it. Please, help me to do it right and please bless my children according to your Word.”
It takes a real mother.
My wife, Pat, was right with me. We had talked over these matters during our courtship. God blessed me with a wonderful wife who became a wonderful mother. No mother was ever more loving and caring. Our children were never allowed to lie in their cribs and cry for long periods of time. Pat always understood their cries, whether it was hunger or a stomach ache or a wet diaper. She took care of the problem and stopped the crying and comforted the child. At the same time, there never was a more consistent disciplinarian. Our children never got away with anything. She had “eyes in the back of her head”. Our children knew that they might get away with something with Dad, but never with Mom.
Listen to the instruction of God’s Word on the subject of discipline and spankings.
Proverbs 3:11-12 “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, even as a father the Son in whom he delights.”
Proverbs 13:24 “He that spares his rod HATES his son; but he that LOVES him chastens him repeatedly.” You say you love your child too much to spank him? No, you do not love him enough to make him do right. You prefer to read and follow the advice of godless, child-rearing books rather than the Bible.
Proverbs 19:18 “Chasten thy son WHILE THERE IS HOPE, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” Parents, if you start when your child is old enough to understand the word NO; if you do it correctly; by the time your child is old enough to go to Kindergarten, spankings will be a thing of the past. Very seldom will you ever need to spank again. We proved that with our own two sons and daughter.
By spanking I am speaking of smacking their fat little bottoms just firmly enough to make it sting. They will scream in rage and anger when you start, but if you command them to stop screaming and keep the spanking up until they sob quietly, then the spanking will have accomplished it’s purpose.
Now you can take that little one and hug him and kiss him and tell him how much you love him. The punishment is all over. No harsh words, No screaming at the children. No frustration. It’s all over and your child will snuggle contentedly in your arms thankful that you love him. Will he forget and disobey again? Of course. He’s a little child. He forgets. When that happens you go through the whole procedure again and again. If you are consistent in your spankings and if you always do what you say you will do, in time your child will learn and the spanking will grow farther apart until one day you will find that your little five year old no long needs spankings.
I’ll tell you what’s cruel!
Some of you think spankings are cruel. I’ll tell you what is cruel. Cruelty is screaming at your child all day long, warning him over and over again that you are going to punish him if he does not obey; yet never punishing him. Cruelty is shaking your child. Cruelty is shouting at your child and telling him how bad and how stupid he is. Cruelty is sending your child to his room for several hours and allowing him to fume and grow more angry with you.
“Times outs” are silly games you play with your children because you don’t want to obey God in the matter of discipline. Why drag punishment out for hours when it can be taken care of in a few minutes and the happy relationship between parent and child can be restored. The only time outs should be for you to cool down from your own anger, so that you can handle the discipline situation in a mature, Christian manner.
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER spank your child when you are angry and out of control!!!
Proverbs 22:15 “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” Why try other unworkable solutions to solve disobedience when God’s way works? By the way, get this please. Don’t spank your child for being a child. Don’t spank him for accidentally knocking over and breaking a beautiful expensive glass vase. Rather, spank him for disobeying you by running in the living room when told not to. Don’t spank him for accidentally wetting his pants.
The only time a child should ever be spanked is when he deliberately disobeys you or lies to you or shows disrespect toward you. You can teach instant, unquestioning obedience through consistent punishment. Never let any disobedience or disrespect go unpunished. Unless you sting the bottom and spank until the child is quietly sobbing, you have not done the job right. Don’t spank in public and create a scene and embarrass your child. Take care of it in the privacy of your home.
In Ephesians 6:4 Paul warns fathers to provoke not their children to anger, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Fathers provoke their children to anger by their lack of discipline in their own lives, by being hypocritical, by being inconsistent and by not listening to their children and treating them with disrespect.
Teens don’t have to be rebellious!
Does this kind of discipline work? Absolutely. We raised two sons and a daughter using Biblical discipline and we never experienced “the terrible twos”. Even when our children were teens they were never rebellious. Now they have raised their children, our eleven grandchildren, with the same Biblical discipline and they have gotten the same results. And now the great-grand children are coming! We rejoice in the way God has kept His Word to us.
The third wall of protection for our homes is our example. Without our godly example all our teaching and discipline will be meaningless to our children. We will appear as hypocrites to our children.
Children learn from models. As little tots, their earliest models are their parents. Little girls want to grow up to be just like their Mommies. Little boys want to grow up to be just like their Daddies. As they develop beyond the infant and toddler stage, their models begin to include people outside their home: their Sunday School teacher, their pastor, a school teacher, a scout leader, a sport’s hero, a policeman, a television character or another child.
It’s just a little poison.
It is essential to know exactly who those models are and what our children are watching on television. We can be certain it is going to influence them for better or for worse. What goes into the minds of our children is as important as what goes into their mouths. As we would not consider offering our children a plate of poison just because some good food was mixed with it, so we should not allow the poison of inappropriate television or movie fare to enter the minds and hearts of our children just because it is mixed with good.
If we control the models to which we expose our children, they will learn to love what we love and reject what we reject. By the time they have reached their teens, their values will be set.
Do you want your child’s heart?
Every father should be able to say, “My son, my daughter, give me thine heart and let thine eyes observe my ways.” Proverbs 23:26 Every pastor, every Christian teacher, every Christian coach, all in Christian leadership should be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “Be ye followers of me as I also am of Christ.” I Corinthians 11:1
Christian young person, let me challenge you with Paul’s challenge to young Timothy in I Timothy 4:12, “Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith and in purity.” Young people, you are a role model to younger children. Don’t let them down and don’t let the Lord down.
A fourth wall we need to build to protect our children from evil and prepare them to know, love and serve God is the wall of Christian training. Proverbs 22:6 gives instruction and a promise to parents, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” This verse is not saying that a child will have his fling and live in sin and rebellion in his youth and then when he is old he will return to God; although, as in the case of the Prodigal Son, that sometimes happens and we rejoice when a prodigal son or daughter returns to God. It is teaching that if we look to God for wisdom and faithfully carry out our God-given responsibilities as parents, our children will grow up to please Christ from childhood. Rebellion during the teens years is not something we need to expect and suffer through.
Don’t be a know-it-all parent
In this age when there is a proliferation of books on child rearing the greatest danger for young parents is to be self-confident and certain that they know all the answers and that raising children will be a breeze. It was a blessing to us that as young parents we felt so inadequate. We literally cried to God for His wisdom, and as He promised in James 1, He gave it to us as we searched His Word to learn how to raise our family.
My wife and I can verify the truth of the Proverbs 22:6 promise from our own experience as parents. Although we were certainly not the perfect parents, we did the best we could to train our children. None of them ever went through the “terrible twos” nor became rebellious teenagers. Our children were a constant delight to us. No one ever enjoyed parenting any more than we did. Today each of them are married to godly spouses and each of them are raising children who love God and are living for the Lord. God is faithful to His promises.
Christian training begins in infancy.
Isaiah 28:9-10 asks and answers the question as to how early we should begin that training. “Whom shall he teach knowledge? Whom shall he make to understand doctrine?” Then he gives the answer. “Them that are weaned from the milk and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little and there a little.” Mothers and fathers should begin introducing their children to Christ through reading the Bible to them, praying with them, telling Bible stories and singing songs about Jesus from their earliest years. When a child is old enough to enjoy hearing and learning nursery rhymes, he is old enough to learn about Jesus and the need for Him as Saviour. Basically Christian training in early childhood involves simplicity, repetition and application day in and day out. That training should continue at the dinner table, when taking walks, when being tucked into bed at night. It’s an ongoing life style and should be a part of normal daily conversation. There is no better time to teach the doctrine of sin and the need for Jesus as our Saviour than when dealing with our children over misbehavior. As parents we must be alert to every opportunity to teach our children Biblical truth.
Bring your children to church.
I encourage parents to bring their infants into the sanctuary and sit with them in church. Our children were with my wife in church each Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening as babies, sleeping in the pew beside her or quietly eating Cheerios one at a time. Later on as toddlers they were permitted to sit quietly, playing with toys or drawing pictures, absorbing the atmosphere of church. As they grew up, there never was a question of whether they would attend nor did they complain that they had to go to church. It was just a normal part of life. Our oldest son came to his mother at the age of four and expressed a desire to receive Christ as His Saviour. Together they prayed and she had the joy of leading him to Christ. Later our oldest boy led his younger brother to Christ and later the two boys led their sister to Christ.
True, there is nothing an infant is going to learn from the pastor’s sermon, but little by little they begin absorbing truth, here a little, there a little, line upon line, precept upon precept. Often a toddler will ask his parents questions about things he has heard in church. Sometimes a small child will repeat back to his parents things he has heard the preacher or Sunday School teacher say. A little one will absorb the atmosphere of the church service. It will become a part of his life and as he grows older he will not depart from the training if he sees consistency in his parents, in his Sunday School teacher and in his pastor. The Church family all has a part in helping and encouraging parents to carry out this awesome responsibility.
In II Timothy 1:5 and 3:15 we learn that by the grace of God Timothy became a faithful Christian and pastor because of the godly influence of his mother Eunice and this grandmother Lois. In the normal Christian family, that responsibility falls on the shoulders of the father, but is equally shared by the mother.
Who do you trust to teach your children?
I recommend that if you have the opportunity; place your children in a Christian school that best reflects your standards or home school them if you are prepared to take on that responsibility. Either option is better than the secular and anti-christian influence of public schools. Understand that placing your children in a Christian school is not going to accomplish your goals of raising Christian young people, if there is a lack of dedication to Christ on your part or if you are failing as the examples you ought to be as parents or if you are failing in the matter of discipline. Christian training is best carried out as children are receiving the same Biblical training in the home, in the school and in the church.
What good is all the Christian training if the parents themselves are not dedicated to the Lord, not disciplined themselves and if they are not the right example to their children? It’s not Christian training that drives children in Christian families to rebellion. For the most part, it is inconsistency and hypocrisy on the part of their parents. It is failing to control the influences: the wrong friends, the wrong TV programs and the wrong music, that parents allow their children to absorb. Christian parents simply cannot abdicate that responsibility without doing great harm to their children.
Instant, cheerful obedience
As we teach our small children instant, cheerful obedience and as we train them properly, instilling Biblical values into their minds and hearts; there will be less commanding and less external control by the time they reach their teens.. Gradually we will increase their freedom as they prove to us that they can assume responsibility and self-control. After all, the purpose of Christian training is to prepare our young people to become responsible adults, able to make wise decisions and face the consequences of those decisions.
If children are disciplined and taught respect and obedience from infancy, if they see and sense love and consistency in their parents, if they are protected from wrong influences from outside the home; they will not turn from the Christian training of their parents, but will grow up to love and serve the Lord. This is God’s promise to faithful, obedient Christian parents.
“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.” With the picture of birds flying away, those were the words of a poster that hung in our daughter’s bedroom when she was about sixteen. She had chosen that poster and sometimes when I went into her bedroom, I would look at it and ponder the message.
She was not a rebellious girl and I knew she was not hinting to us that she wanted to run away from home, but I wasn’t sure I fully understood the message. As a teen, she with her two older brothers, never were rebellious growing up in our home in peaceful, beautiful Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I can still hear the clop, clop sound as the Amish drove down the county road past our house in their horse drawn carriages. We were a close knit family, and did many things together, including educating our children at home and in our small Christian school that met in our church basement. This was not a popular idea back in the 1970’s, but my wife and I did what we felt we had to do.
We never forbade nor encouraged our teenagers to date.
When our children came to their teen years, we never forbade them dating, but none of the three had any desire to date anyone in the area and we did not encourage it. When each of them were teens, they found jobs and started working part time while finishing their high school education. We permitted them to buy cars to get to work and to visit their friends. They had each earned our trust. Though they spent most of their time at home, they were always free to visit their friends or have their friends over to our home. A wise investment of a 24 foot above ground pool in our back yard made life a little more interesting for them at home.
While still in elementary school we had taken our children with us to visit Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. whenever we took high school students from our church to visit the school. So by the time our three were in high school, they eagerly awaited the time when they could attend BJU as students. As each one left home to start school, it was always a tearful time for us as we said goodbye. It felt like part of our heart was being torn from us. It was especially difficult when we sent our youngest, our daughter to college. By then we were living in Flagstaff, Arizona. Our hearts ached with sadness as we watched our daughter fly out from the Phoenix airport headed for BJU. Yet, at the same time we rejoiced that she was headed to a school we could fully trust with the care and education of our daughter.
A great place to find a Christian spouse
Each of our sons found their wives at B.J.U. and our daughter found her husband there during her sophomore year. We are so thankful to God that each of them have godly mates and each of them have raised godly sons and daughters who desire God’s will for their lives.
We seldom see our sons and their families because of the distance, but God in His amazing grace did a wonderful thing for us. In His sovereignty He brought our daughter and her husband and children to Albuquerque, N.M. and a year later He brought my wife and me to the same city. For sixteen years God gave my wife and me the blessed privilege of having them grow up in our church and watching their three children come to Christ and start living for Him. How gracious God has been to us!
Now I understand much better the message of that poster in our daughter’s bedroom thirty years ago. Though we loved our children and were a close-knit family, we resisted the temptation to smother our children by being at every youth activity and every party with them. We trusted our youth workers in our church. We gave our children room to breathe and increased independence as they grew older and earned our trust. Though we would have enjoyed watching all our 11 grandchildren grow up with us in the same town, that has never been the case; but God in His sovereignty, wisdom and love brought our daughter and her family back to us. Through weekly phone conversations and through emails, we have a relationship with our sons that is perhaps even closer now than it was when they were children at home. For the way He has led in our lives we give Him praise.
In John 9:1-3 we read a story of Jesus and His disciples coming upon a man who was blind from birth. The disciples asked Jesus, "Who sinned to cause this blindness, the man or his parents?"
Jesus replied, "Neither has this man sinned nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." Then spitting on the ground, Jesus made some clay and then anointed the man's eyes with it and instructed him to go and wash himself in the Pool of Siloam. He obeyed and was miraculously given his sight.
Isn't it interesting that the disciples did not ask Jesus why this happened? Instead they concluded that someone must have sinned for this man to be born blind. It certainly wasn't the man himself since he had been blind from birth; so they reasoned that it must have been the parent's fault .
Where did the disciples get the idea that this blindness must have been caused by the parent's sin? They got that idea from the Old Testament.
Let me make it very clear that none of us are in any position to ever judge why God allows blindness, deafness, mental retardation or any other birth defect. We do know from Psalm 139 that God is at work in the womb forming every cell of each human body. and He is to be glorified in every situation; but there are stern warnings God has given to us all. In the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20 God gives very solemn warnings in verses 4-5 that He will not tolerate man making or bowing down to idols made of wood, stone, metal or whatever. Neither will He put up with the idolatry of putting anything ahead of Him. He demands that He be first in our lives. We must love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
You can't sin and get away with it!
Those who refuse to put God first in their lives will be judged. This judgment will fall, not only on the idolater, but also on his children, grand children, great grandchildren. and great-great grandchildren. Yes, that judgment will fall on a family to four generations. You see, sin does not only affect you. It affects your family and your yet unborn posterity. What a sober warning!!! Don't you ever flip off God with an impudent excuse, "Well, it's my life and I will do what I please. No one can tell me how to live my life!" If you live your life as you please, your children will suffer for it. That's God's solemn warning! Read it for yourself. Exodus 20:1-5.
Let me give you some Biblical examples of this curse that falls on children of disobedient fathers and mothers.
The Patriarch, Abraham, a man of great faith in God, had a propensity to deceit. He lied to someone about his wife being his sister. That was plain deceitfulness and that propensity was passed on to his son, Isaac, and to his grandson, Jacob, and to most of Jacob's sons. It brought much heart ache to his family for generations to come.
Eli, a priest of Israel was very lax in raising his children. As a result, his sons grew up to reject God and lived heathen lives until God allowed the Philistines to kill them both in battle. Eli died with them the same day.
King David, the man after God's own heart, the sweet Psalmist of Israel, in a moment of passion lusted after a beautiful woman, the wife of one of his loyal army officers. He committed adultery with her and then ordered her husband to the front of the battle where he was killed. Now he was free to marry Bathsheba. Now his sin was covered and hidden- or was it? Though he later confessed his sins and God forgave him; the consequence of that awful sin, plagued his children and their children for generations to come. Read the sordid stories of his immediate family from II Samuel 11 to the end of that book.
God wants to bless your family.
But there is a bright side to this picture. Exodus 20:5 promises God's mercy and blessing on your family for generations to come if you will love Him and put Him first in your life
Don't be discouraged.
Are you the son or daughter of a wicked father or mother? Don't be discouraged and depressed. I have good news for you. Read on.
What if I am the son or daughter of a wicked father or mother? Is there any hope for me? I’m glad to tell you there is! As Exodus 20:4-5 is addressed to fathers and mothers, so Ezekiel 18:19-32 is addressed to sons and daughters.
If you are the son or daughter of ungodly parents, you can break that curse you inherited from them.. Listen to God’s promise in Ezekiel 18:19-20. “Doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth IT shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son.. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” The passage continues to emphasize these truths.
Don’t blame your parents.
This passage is basically teaching that you cannot blame your parents for the spiritual direction of your life. Your spiritual condition before God is up to you. If you are sick of your sins and want to know God and live for Him, receive God’s gracious gift of salvation. Understand that, even if you wanted to, you could not live the perfect life that God demands. Only Christ has lived it perfectly. He died on the cross for your sins and then rose again the third day. If you receive Him as your Saviour, God will transfer all your sins to Christ who paid for them all by HIs death on the cross and He will impute Christ’s righteousness to you. Only then can you begin to live the life God expects of you. When you take this step of salvation, God not only blesses you, but He breaks the curse passed on to you by your father and he extends His blessing on you to your children and to you future progeny.
We can draw several conclusions by reflecting on Exodus 20 and Ezekiel 18.
1. You can’t count on a godly father or mother to save you. Their life may be a blessing to you, but ultimately you must determine whether you will trust Christ or reject Him. God has no grandchildren. Just because your parents are Christians does not guarantee that you are a Christian. Read I Peter 1:18-19 and put your trust in Christ’s blood and be redeemed from Satan’s power by the blood of Christ.
2. Fathers and mothers, watch your lives. Avoid sin. It’s not just your business; the consequences of your sin affect your children and grandchildren for generations to come. A careless, worldy lifestyle will be carried on by your children. Your family will become progressively more and more anti-Christian from generation to generation.
3. Don’t judge parents who are having trouble with their children. Job’s friends judged him and they were dead wrong..
4. If you have a godly heritage, rejoice and thank God. Don’t become smug and careless about sin. You may have inherited God’s blessing as a result of your parents godliness, but you can’t inherit godliness. Each generation has the responsibility of seeking to know God and His Word;.
5. If you have ungodly parents, you do not have to follow their example. You can decide right now to start living for God and break the cycle of sin that has cursed your family. Some of the most godly young people I know have come from the worst of homes where the parents rejected God.
6. Young lady, marry only a godly man who loves God as much or more than you do. Guys, marry only a godly young lady. To disobey God’s command concerning this is to lead your children to hell.
7. Sir, if you are an unsaved father, I urge you to come to Christ now and become the godly example to your children. They need a father who will do more than send his children to Sunday School and Church while he sits at home ignoring God. Your children need a GODLY DAD. Right now ask God to save you by putting your trust in Christ. He died to save you from your sins. Receive Him and then get into the Word of God, get involved in a Bible preaching church and take your family to church with you. Dad, if you will take the spiritual leadership in your home, your wife and children will follow you as it happened in the home of the Philippian jailer who came to Christ. Read the story in Acts 16:25-34
Although I am not a Mennonite, I ministered in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania for many years and learned to know and love many Mennonites. One godly and effective mission cause I came across is Northern Youth Programs, a Mennonite ministry to the natives of Northern Ontario, Canada. This ministry is led by Clair and Clara Schnupp. For over twenty years my wife and I have been reading their letters and praying for their ministry. Their letter this month touched my heart and I would like to share parts of it with you. It concerns the broken families among whom they patiently and lovingly minister.
Now here is part of their letter.
“At Christmas time Clara and I were at a Schnupp family gathering that included my brother and sister and their spouses, our five daughters and their husbands and our twenty-one grandchildren. For about five hours we also had our only living biological uncle and aunt with us. We had them tell stories about their lives and stories of their generation.
All this family togetherness was refreshing and spiritually uplifting. I thank God for our family heritage and the family tree. All within the family structure know where they fit or belong and how they relate to each other.
Not everyone is as fortunate as we are. While there are those here in the North whom we work with who have intact families, many of those who come to us for help come from broken homes, common-law relationships or single parent families. Some young people have eight to twelve “grandparents,” numerous “uncles” and “aunts” and many step- or half brothers and sisters. Their family trees are very difficult to diagram, illustrating much disconnectedness, pain and emotional confusion. There are those who do not know who their biological relatives are and hence do not know who they can and cannot marry.
Others do not know who their biological father or mother is. Some who come to us for help have never bonded with anyone and end up having no one they feel they belong to. They are utterly alone in this world. They have no experienced family togetherness. This creates many spiritual, emotional and moral problems which only generates more broken relationships. This often results in more children entering a new cycle of brokenness and misery.
While we rejoice for the good families around us, sometimes we retire at night in tears for the lonely, hurting people who have such broken, painful and nonexistent families. Their family heritage leaves them little or nothing to relate to. They are alone and desperately seeking a place to find some sense of belonging.
As homosexuality and lesbianism have increased in western society, we meet an increasing number of young men and women who do not like their gender and even hate their sexuality. Many of these fear marriage and any kind of commitment. The ability to make commitments and to trust others are two essential ingredients to building strong, healthy Biblical families.
All of these family problems are compounded by various segments of society in Canada and the United States moving ahead with gay rights and same-sex marriages. Many of us have become burdened with the spiritual, moral and societal decay, as evidenced by the debate over gay rights and same-sex marriages. The present emotionally charged debate is not over human rights. From our point of view, the real debate is about a Biblical view of marriage. It is about preserving the traditional Judeo-Christian definition of marriage.
There are those who want to extend the rights and privileges of marriage to gays and lesbians and are trying to force same-sex marriage upon society. These people wish to abolish the definition of marriage that limits one man to one woman. They are using the courts to present their case as a human rights issue equal to racism. One article I read stated that traditional marriage is terrible discrimination and can be compared to the discrimination of race-based washrooms. It described traditional marriage as vile and disgusting like racial segregation and apartheid.
In the face of these attacks, it was refreshing to read a quote from a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, who said,
“Marriage has from time immemorial been firmly grounded in our legal tradition, one that is itself a reflection of longstanding philosophical and religious traditions. But its ultimate [reason for being] transcends all of these and is firmly anchored in the biological and social realities that heterosexual couples have the unique ability to procreate, that most children are the product of these relationships, and that they are generally cared for and nurtured by those who live in that relationship. In this sense, marriage is by nature heterosexual.”
As I read this letter, I stopped to thank God for my family and for the unity, love and joy we have because of our relationship with Christ. It has increased my burden for the broken, hurting families all around me who need Christ and His healing touch.