Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
Welcome Young Believer! Let's start today's post with a big disclaimer, I am not a parent... in fact, I'm not married yet. However, I think today's topic is very important to cover because as Christian parents the first group of people we have a responsibility to disciple is our children. If you'd like to listen to a couple of Dads discuss this issue I'll leave a link to a podcast episode our church did a few months ago talking about this exact subject!
Children Are a Blessing!
With the many heated conversations, we could have today surrounding the value of life especially unborn life sometimes this simple truth gets lost. Before having children as young people we see how dramatically having children changes your life! We might think of children as a burden or in the case of unexpected pregnancy as a punishment, but that's not how God views children at all. In fact, it's one of His first commands to humankind that they be fruitful and multiply!
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28
Then throughout the Old Testament, we see many women struggle because they have not been able to have children and bless God when He finally does give them that precious gift of new life that they've been longing for. We also see God's anger with the Israelites when they turn away from Him, not only worshiping false gods but worshiping the gods of their neighbors whose religions did require child sacrifice. The first person recorded as being raised from the dead in the Bible is the son of the Widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17:17-24. Interestingly enough, the first person Jesus raises from the dead is the only son of the widow of Nain in Luke 7:11-17.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:3-5
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers. Proverbs 17:6
Even the people in Jesus' day did not see children as we do today. They were certainly more of the "children should be seen and not heard", type of people. However, Jesus Himself didn't see it that way and rebuked His disciples when they tried to send the children and parents away who had come to have their children blessed by Him.
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. Mark 10:13-16
Discipling Our Children Through Discipline
Speaking of hot-button issues, discipline has become much more controversial in the last several years than it was when I was growing up. Many parents are opting for a free-range approach to parenting where discipline isn't really a part of the picture. Other parents are focusing more on their children's emotions where discipline is more likely to be time-out or giving up a toy for the afternoon. Some parents still believe that spanking is the best discipline for their children.
Now once more I want to say that I am not a parent, so at no point in this post do I want you to feel judged as a parent for the decisions you're making as you raise your child. I think that children do need time to solve some problems for themselves, they do need parents that care about their emotional well-being, and I'm definitely among that group of people who still believes that sometimes a child's bad behavior has earned a good butt-whooping.
However, what we perhaps don't think through too deeply in a moment that requires discipline is what the purpose of doing so is in the first place.
When a toddler is still too young to understand the difference between right and wrong they may get their hand smacked for trying to stick a pointy metal object in a socket or trying to touch a hot surface like the stove. This early form of discipline, in the moment, is for that child's protection and to begin setting the limits of their world. Its purpose is that of correction. No matter how much correction we receive we'll never really start to grow until we get to the second part of discipline which is instruction. When your child is old enough to understand the difference between right and wrong, this could look like asking them to explain to you what they did wrong and what consequences they think they should have. it could also look like requiring your child to take responsibility for their wrongdoing. For Christian parents, this is also a great moment to point your children to repentance and the sacrifice that Jesus made for their sins on the cross.
All of us need correction, instruction, responsibility, and repentance in our lives. When we're young our parents are the ones we look to for this kind of guidance, but as we become adults we find that God continues to discipline us as we walk with Him. Depending on how faithful our parents were in disciplining us and how obedient we are now, that discipline varies in how painful it is in our lives!
My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11-12
However, the Bible also gives a special warning to Fathers not to provoke their children to anger. The Greek word translated to anger or wrath in many translations of the Bible could also be translated to mean exasperation or extreme frustration. Instead, fathers are to bring children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
Consider this, if you're disciplining your child and they are not clear why they're being disciplined that could be extremely frustrating to them not to mention fail to correct whatever behavior you're supposedly disciplining them for. If you're doing so without any grace or acknowledgment of your own failings, you certainly won't call your children into any kind of an attitude of responsibility or repentance. Abuse is not discipline whether physical or emotional and fails in every way to show your children the love you're supposed to have for them much less the way that you claim God has transformed your life.
Discipling Our Children By Example
Anyone who spends any time around young children will quickly realize what little sponges kids really are. They look up to and imitate the adults in their lives as they learn what life means from the examples set before them. Our children see and internalize everything whether we're conscious of it or not! From the way we treat our spouses and other adults in our lives to the way we respond to them even after a long day dealing with adult concerns
when we take the time to listen to and answer their questions, we're pouring love and a foundation of trust into that young life. When we pray or share God's Word with them we're putting in the time to instruct them in the way that they should go, so that as they grow they will have their own desire to follow and love God.
Our children see the way we serve in church and our communities.
They see how we respond to people we disagree with.
When you speak to your adult children you may begin to learn only decades later how much your children learned from watching the way you would deal with failure in your own life and wrestling with God over something you didn't understand yet.
This is also why it's important as members in our churches to love on and serve the children who visit with their parents whether on Sunday mornings or any other ministry gathering. No parents out there are perfect and all of us have different strengths and weaknesses as we mature in faith. Being good examples and teachers of these young children is one of the best ways that we help to build the Kingdom.
This makes it even more disgusting that the church has come under scandal after scandal for decades because of people who abuse their positions of authority and trust at church to abuse the children put under their care! If you want to know how seriously God takes this abuse and the misleading of children take a look at what Jesus says would be better for these evil people to face as a consequence than what they will face when sit under God's judgment:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:1-6
He says that it would be better to have a millstone tied around their neck and drowned in the sea! By the way, a millstone is about 3,300 lbs... basically, an inescapable weight that would drag you under long after you died from your lungs filling with water and the immense pressure of the depths.
Let us be wise, therefore, in how we disciple our children that we would have no reason to be judged in this way by our Creator and Heavenly Father.
If you have any other questions about discipling your children, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. Also, let me know if you young parents would like your own Equipped 4 the Kingdom Forum started so you can discuss this and other young family-specific topics amongst yourselves. I highly encourage you to find a mentor in the faith who can help personally walk you through many of these issues as you grow into a mature believer. This is one journey you were never meant to take alone!