Controversy recently surrounded the directives laid down by an ex-evangelical who counsels people to raise their children “unfundamentalist”. “Do not evangelize a child”, Cindy Wang Brandt commanded in a tweet. “Your religion does not have a right to stake claim to a child’s allegiance.” We might ask what authority she has for her edicts and what she believes should claim a child’s allegiance. She thinks children should be shaped by certain “progressive” values, but who says these are the right ones? It’s still a call to evangelise children, only with agnosticism. Christian parents face a stark choice: if we don’t evangelise our children, the world will. It’s not about imposing our personal religion. The God who created and sustains them has a claim on them as moral creatures. Their ultimate purpose for living is to love and serve Him with all that they are. Not to raise children diligently in relation to this is the greatest possible neglect.
How will you prepare your children for the future when you don’t know what that future will hold? That’s a thought that can quickly overwhelm any parent but it’s one for which the Christian parent should be well equipped. It begins with realising that God’s truth is sufficient for living in God’s world. God’s Word is sufficient for teaching us all that we need to know for life and godliness.
1. Share the Faith Comprehensively
Teach them to remember what God’s Word says. That way they can recall it whenever they need it and it will shape their thinking. This is the importance of catechising. When children have the complete system of doctrine stored in their minds it not only shapes their thinking, it protects them from error.
In addition to teaching them what to think, we also have to teach them how to think. Show them how to discover Scripture’s doctrine for themselves. They will then be able to apply Scripture to any future challenges they encounter.
The authority of Scripture is what undergirds this. How are children to be raised? “Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This involves loving spiritual instruction and discipline. It can be done in a wrong and deficient way. We can be stumbling blocks to our children through a bad attitude and example. This is why the Apostle Paul prefaces these words with a caution against provoking our children to wrath and anger.
Sharing the faith with our children is a process of discipleship, patiently teaching and correcting them over many years. We want to see them embrace Christ by faith for themselves and live for Him and so we will stress the urgency of eternal realities but also the need to devote our whole lives to Christ. In the midst of busy family lives it may seem challenging to make room for nurturing our children in faith but what could be more important? It will not simply happen spontaneously, we have to set aside time for it and patiently commit ourselves to it.
James Fergusson has some helpful comments on Ephesians 6:4 and how it counsels us to share our faith with our children. It is a verse that outlines the duty of parents in a way that carries a necessary caution. We have to recognise that we can be apt to abuse our parental authority.
2. Share the Faith Without Embittering Them
There are various ways in which we can provoke our children to anger or embitter their spirits.
- by denying them their due, in food, clothing or means of education (Lamentations 4:3).
- by commanding things that are in themselves unjust (1 Samuel 20:31).
- by unjust and rigorous commands about things that are in themselves indifferent (1 Samuel 14:29).
- by castigating them with bitter words, especially when there is no cause, (1 Samuel 20:30).
- by chastising them unjustly, when there is no fault (1 Samuel 20:33)
- by chastising them too harshly or at the wrong time and in a wrong way when there is a fault.
3. Share the Faith Practically
Paul guards us from the other extreme of too much indulgence towards our children. He exhorts us to bring them up, or (as it is in the original) to nourish them. This includes not only giving them what they need to be sustained from the womb onwards (Genesis 21:7). It also means making provision for their future (2 Corinthians 12:14). It involves training them up in any lawful employment by which they may be able under God to sustain themselves and their own (Genesis 4:2).
4. Share the Faith Intelligently
Parents must combine nurture and admonition with the education of their children. Nurture means timely and compassionate correction (Proverbs 13:24). Admonition means informing their understanding, teaching them how they ought to conduct themselves towards God in religious things (Genesis 18:19). Teach them also how to conduct themselves towards others in righteousness, politeness and good manners. This is also a great part of the duty of parents towards children (Proverbs 31:1, 8, 9).
5. Share the Faith Evangelistically
Their education must be in the admonition of the Lord Christ. This means, as becomes Christians, and by which young ones are instructed primarily in the knowledge of God’s Word, of Jesus Christ, and of the way of salvation declared by Him.
6. Share the Faith With Natural Affection
The prevalence and influence of sin in the souls of fallen men and women is so great that in some it entirely extinguishes, or greatly weakens the most intense of our natural affections. It can make them run in the opposite direction from that which they ought to. The apostle assumes that in some parents even natural affection to their own children will be weakened to such an extent. They will provoke them to anger and embitter them through unnatural behaviour towards them.
7. Share the Faith Without Provoking Them
To provoke or stir up others to sin makes us guilty before the Lord. It makes us guilty of those sins which we provoke others to commit (Hosea 6:9). Paul forbids and condemns this as sin in parents’ behaviour towards their children. Everyone naturally has such little command over their passions (especially when provoked by real injuries from others) that the strongest of natural bonds cannot keep them under and in order. Unless restrained by grace, they will transgress their bounds. Even children cannot put up with injuries from their very parents, without being incited to sinful anger. Indeed the corruption of some children is such that they can endure less from their parents than from anyone else.
8. Share the Faith Diligently
A necessary duty is not to be neglected under the pretence that others may us it for an occasion to sin against the Lord. In particular, parents are not to withhold timely and necessary correction from their children, even though their children would be enraged and provoked to anger by it. Even though Paul forbids them from provoking their children to anger, he will not have them use that pretence to neglect to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
9. Share the Faith in a Balanced Way
People are most ready to run from one extreme of any sin to the other. They go from extravagant expenditure to sinful miserliness, from rigidity to too much lenience. So the servants of Christ, while they are dissuading people from one extreme need most carefully to guard, lest under pretence of avoiding that, people rush to the other. While the apostle forbids too much rigidity in parents, he sees it necessary to guard them against the other extreme of too much indulgence and lenience. So he emphasises, “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”.
10. Share the Faith with Love for their Souls
It is the duty of parents, not only to provide for the bodies and outward condition of their children, but also, and mainly to care for their souls. They must endeavour by all means possible to bring them up as sons and daughters for the Lord Almighty. As they are to bring them up or nourish them, so they are also to suppress sin in them by nurture or correction. They are to make them know Jesus Christ the Lord.
11. Share the Faith in the Way that You Correct Them
As parents have to correct their children from time to time they must not do it to satisfy their own rage. Rather, they must engage in it with a composed mind, as service required by God. They must aiming mainly at how the child can amend their faults. In order to do this they need to combine instruction and admonition with correction. They must also seek the blessing of Christ to accompany it. The apostle says that nurture and admonition must be united together, and both of them must be in the Lord.
The article What’s Missing From Your Home? considers what it means to make the things of God real within family life in the home. The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes–interacting about spiritual things.
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