Marriage and Family: Part I
This is an interesting topic especially nowadays. Just what is a parent and what does he/she do? To some, a parent simply keeps the “home fires burning.” The home is to function as a way station in which various members come and go. To others, the term has replaced the term home; it is house a domain and a castle for individual use. House rules and headship are synonymous. For others, the home or house is more like a boot camp. In contrast, others consider the home as a prison and something to be avoided. In terms of parenting, some take an “anything-goes” approach to parenting.
These various ideas originate from some source. They are motivated by something. That source may experience, their own or that of others. It may be based on feelings. And or it may be based on their thinking but divorced from biblical truth. Our culture is rapidly debunking and redefining sexuality, decision making, family, and parenting. Where do we go to define the significance of home and family life, parenting, and being a child or young person? God who created the first parents and the first home is the only authority worthy of our time. He speaks in His word such as in Isaiah 8:20 that are to go to the law and to the testimony. In other words, we seek answers from the only source that can truly be trusted – God’s holy, inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word.
What is a parent? Surprisingly in the original language, the term is rarely in the singular. In the Old Testament I could find only six instances of the translation parents. In the original language the word ab is usually translated as father (Deut. 22:17; Jud. 14:4, 9; Prov. 17:6; 19:14; Zech 13:3). In the New Testament the word in the original is goneus from the verb meaning to become or beget. It occurs some 1200 times. So a parent is a begetter – a generator. By God’s providence and radically awesome work in a woman’s body, a little person is produced. That little person is a child, a living being in the image of God from conception, who usually develops into an older person.
But biblically-speaking, a parent is much more than a physical begetter. Animals beget. Please catch those last two sentences. God has designed the woman’s body for generation. When she delivers a baby she is a parent. That is a physical and legal phenomenon. However, the Bible’s concept of a parent and parenting hinges not on the physical but the spiritual. Notice that the original language carries the plural form of the words translated as parent. When the Bible uses father alone in the context of a human father, the emphasis is on the father-mother unit. Yet, in God’s design, the believer-father is responsible for providing love and direction to his wife and to his children most often in his home. In that way, he, his wife, and children honor God. It is important to remember that the family began in the Garden of Eden – before children. The husband and wife are a family.
Parents are to parent and they are to parent God’s way. They are to be godly parents. What is a godly parent or what is God’s way to parent? The questions may generate numerous answers. The Bible answers these questions and it begins with the parents. First, each parent, singularly and as a one-flesh unit, are to be growing in Christlikeness. In other words, they have taken the supernatural, miraculous work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit seriously. Rejoicing in their salvation, they honor God and out of gratitude and awe put off old, self-pleasing habits of thinking, wanting, and doing. They put on God-pleasing habits of thinking, wanting, and doing. This activity will be evident to others especially to each other and to their children.
Second, each spouse functions as a godly husband or wife. That in itself is a monumental responsibility and privilege. Each person as believers, have been equipped to be what God called them to be. Each is a believer in God’s family and kingdom and as a result is indwelt with the Holy Spirit. They have duty and responsibility BUT. The BUT is important. For the believer, duty is never simply duty. Growing in Christlikeness is always a grace-filled privilege and blessing. Christ went about His Messianic mission with a proper heavenly and eternal perspective which controlled His time on earth and the completion of His mission. His desire was to please His Father which He did all the way to and on the cross. Third, each parent understands in varying degrees that the home is full of sinners starting with self. Fourth, the husband and wife have the Bible and the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit as their constant companion. Since the Bible speaks loudly and clearly on the subject of parenting, the dad and mom are ready to use biblical truth to function as a Godly parent.
- As a Christian parent, how does Christ’s relationship with you and yours to Him influence your daily life including being a spouse and parent?
- Give specifics and reasons for them as you answer question #1.
- Consider your salvation: what do you know about regeneration (see John 3:3-8; Ezek 36:25-27)? What does God in His word teach you about your changed state?
Marriage and Family: Part II
Wandering Parents and Wandering Kids
This is a second blog addressing the home. In the last blog I set out answers to the questions: What is a parent and what is a parent to do? Basically, the parent is to be a godly, growing Christian and spouse according to 2 Corinthians 5:9 especially in the areas of husband-wife and parenting. The primary purpose for every Christian parent is to honor God. A secondary goal is to have godly children. Godly parenting does not guarantee godly children and ungodly parenting does not guarantee ungodly children. However, God does promise covenant benefits and blessings for those that please Him, both parents and children (Deut. 28:1-14; Lev. 26:1-13). He also promises consequences for self-pleasing (Deut. 28:15-68; Lev. 26:14-46). The Bible also teaches that the soul (person) who sins will die. They are consequences for sin especially if the person is unrepentant. Ezekiel teaches that the sinner cannot blame his parents or the parents their children for their own sins (Ezekiel 18). The righteous one, parent, child, or both, will live (18:9). Ezekiel taught Israel that they could not blame God or others for their rebellion. Consequences followed. While good (biblically-based) parenting generally results in godly children that is not always the case. God was the Father par excellence. His child and first born son Israel was a self-pleasing rebel and idolater. God did not fail as a parent. He disciplined Israel severely.
From the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, the Holy Spirit through Moses taught and is teaching His people throughout all ages that God motivates His people – both parents and children – in different ways. He motivates with the promise of blessings and of warnings. Please notice that only 25-35% of Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 contain promises of blessings; the bulk of each chapter focuses on God’s warnings.
Turning to the present day, figures abound as to the percentage of children that leave a local church and perhaps the Church (these are churches that considered themselves Christian). One statement I read said that 70% of youth stop attending church when they graduated from High School. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church. The question asked of the church is why. Various reasons were given and I give mine in the last paragraph.
Let’s take a minute and consider: wandering parents and wandering children are defined as those moving away from God and biblical truth. I think more often than not the two are linked. Does the Church have a role in the home? Certainly but it is not the Church’s role to parent the children. It is the Church’s function to teach and to help parents and children function as godly, growing Christians with the proper motivation of pleasing God not to get but to give Him what is His due.
I chose wandering in the title because it is a pregnant term. In one sense every person is a wanderer. This earth is not the final destiny of the believer or unbeliever. Citizenship is elsewhere – heaven for the believer and hell for the unbeliever (Phil. 3:20; Heb. 18-24; Matt. 3:12; 2 Thess.1:8-9). For the believer, the misery in this life is seen through the lens of such passages as Romans 8:28-29. For the unbeliever, there is misery in this life as well although so often that fact is denied (Prov. 13:15; Rom. 1:18-23).
For the believer, the exhortations such as given Colossians 3:1-3 and 1 John 3:1-3 are very important for this life and the next. Both Paul and John understood the truth that resurrection life begins now (after regeneration), The believer looks forward to heaven but that forward, heavenly-minded gaze enables him to be of earthly good. Growth in holiness and Christlikeness is demonstrated as he is God’s kind of spouse and God’s kind of parent.
In another sense people wander looking for something. After the fall that something was always motivated by a pro-self and anti-God mindset. Pleasing self in its various forms took center stage. People were also looking for something but not God. Upon salvation (regeneration – a new heart) the now-believer has a new worldview and presupposition. He can now think and desire God’s thoughts and desires and please Him simply because he was recreated and placed in God’s kingdom and family. If someone is saved, God won’t let him back into the cesspool of folly and self-pleasing permanently (Prov.5:21-22; 13:15; 26:11). But the pull to please self is still present in a believer.
Parents and children wander from God (they move away from God and biblical truth before they wander from the Church). They do so for any number of reasons but basically it boils down to a low view of God and high view of self. As a result, parents and children live for self as if this universe and home is their world and they run it their way for their benefit. You will hear so many other reasons and subsequent programs to “stop-the-bleeding.” Most people would balk at the simple statements above. Before you do, parent, ask if you are more interested in being a godly parent even if your children are ungodly? Also ask: is pleasing God more important than the product – godly children? Parenting is a ministry. God blesses godly parenting (we need to define the phrase) often with godly children but we dare not equate the two (see Ezekiel 18). Parenting is one aspect of discipleship. It is God’s way to grow the covenant kingdom.
- How would apply the term “wandering” to yourself, your spouse, and your children?
- Where are you in terms of your relationship with God in Christ?
- Does your spouse and children “see” God’s sweetness, goodness, power, and majesty of God in you – your actions, thoughts, and desires? Why and why not?
Marriage and Family: Part III
Wandering Parents and Wandering Children
Parents will live out their relationship with God as they relate to each other and their children (Matt. 22:37-40). Children leave out their relationship with God as they relate to God, their parents, and others in the family. The potential to wander – to move away from a Holy-Spirit directed lifestyle – is always there. Parents and children must be on guard for the wandering heart – prone to leave the God Who loves them and as a professed believer whom they love. Parents and children wander – move away – from God because they interpret Him as small and themselves as large. Self takes center stage manifested by I want and I deserve. How would that approach look in daily living?
Fights, quarrels, strife, and disunity are common consequences when self takes center stage (James 4:1-3). James used different words in the original for fights and quarrels. The terms cover the waterfront from skirmishes and guerilla warfare to big time world wars. Peace and contentment if it was present is replaced by high or low-grade hostility. Each person fends for themselves. Self motivates blame-shifting and defensive and offensive tactics for protection and attacking which become habit patterns. The home becomes a house that does not engender trust in God and His ways. The idea, let alone the truth of good, purpose, all-controlling God seems so remote. An increasingly wrong view of God, self, sin, and trust-obey dominates the whole family’s thinking.
Selfishness breeds more selfishness. James 4:2-3 mark out the dynamic: expectations become wants which become demands. These are unmet according to the wanter. In response, he or she believes she has rights that have been violated. Constant friction and sometimes full blown warfare are the order of the day. The situation and stimulus for the exposition of warfare may be as simple as who cleans the dishes or who drives the carpool. Or it may be seemingly more complex: I don’t love him or her anymore. Why should I? Life is the pits. Nothing will change. One or both persons may leave pointing the finger at the other and ultimately at God who brought the two together. Or both may stay hopelessly self-focused and saturate self in their work, their local church, or their children. Extracurricular activities take center stage as they move further from God. When the children leave or work dries up the wall is so high and the hole so deep that hopelessly self-focused divorce follows. God is dishonored and the family moves further away from a good God.
Another scenario may go like this even if dad and mom are on board with each other or close to it. For whatever reason, the home is a child-centered home rather than a God-centered one. The child believes and functions as if others in the home and perhaps outside of it exist to please him. James 4:1-3 and Philippians 2:3-5, 14-17 describe such a situation. This approach to life by the child is not selective to him. The parents, one or both, have convinced themselves that it is entirely permissible and even preferable to have a self-centered home or child-centered home in contrast to a Christ-centered home.
Two Scriptures from the Old Testament come to mind that help set a straight course for parents who may be tempted to wander. These passages give direction that help create a milieu inside and outside the home. They center on two non-negotiable truths: God is and He rules for His glory and the benefit of His people.
In Job 1:5 we are told that as head of the family, Job was a priest with God. He interceded for his children. In that sense he was a type of Christ (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). The sin he feared was that his children might curse God in their hearts. This was the same sin that Satan predicted Job would commit and the sin that Job’s wife suggested he commit (1:11; 2:5, 9). We learn that Job’s religion was inward and outward. It was not self-concerned but other-concerned. It was first and foremost God centered. He was not against rituals and worship services. The very act of offering burnt sacrifices testifies to his belief in a mediator and his own need of that mediator (Job 19:25-27).
The second passage is from Deuteronomy 6 which emphasizes the importance of the word of God to promote, establish, and apply a Holy-Spirit initiated whole-person approach (thoughts, desires, and actions) to being God’s kind of spouse and parent. Moses speaks to the parents (v.4-6): the commandments/words are to be upon the parents hearts – inside out. They are to be modeled and taught to the children. In that way, the word of God would be impressed on the hearts of the children (v.7). Moses’ emphasis is on a heart that was overflowing with biblical truth (Ps. 119:9-11). Parenting and being a child was more than on duty. He understood God’s covenant making – promise making and keeping. He understood what a blessing it was to a covenant member. Moses emphasized both the blessing and privilege for parents and for children as members by God’s grace in the covenantal community. They were under God’s wing. It was the most logical activity for the Israelites to be involved (Rom. 12:1-2).
As a consequence of their inclusion as God’s covenant people, the Israelites, singularly and corporately, were to teach their children to please God. The goal was not to have godly children or to stay in the covenant community. Godly children would come as a byproduct of godly parenting. This is true for the Church, God’s covenant community in the present age.
Christianity is an inside-out religion. God-centered parenting does not guarantee that children won’t move away from their moorings. But it does please God which is the best thing this side of heaven and is often blessed by God with children who love God and their parents.
- Where are you and your spouse in terms of your relationship with God?
- What Christ-like qualities (fruits of the Holy Spirit) are visible to your children, both young and older, and what is their response?
- Consider teaching in the milieu which means taking the time and opportunity to model and teach God’s truth in the midst of a time of unpleasantness.
- How are you taking and using the events of God’s providence – often called “life” – as teaching times for you and the family?