Pastoral Perspectives

Timeless Parenting

“How are you going to raise your child in this time and age?” the person asked upon learning that I was going to have another child. “Everything we eat now is probably genetically modified; salmons are not fresh, meat will probably be grown in labs, vegetables are loaded with pesticides. The digital world is exploding, the cost of living will continue to rise, and I am not sure how you are going to cope as a parent. I worry for you.” The funny bone in me wanted to ask, “What are you going to do about it?” Of course, I did not.

This person’s concern is probably a sentiment shared by many people today, specially parents. We truly live in turbulent times; socially and culturally there are massive changes. In short span of time, things have changed so much so that even as I look at the timeline from the generation before mine to the next, it is mind boggling. When I look at my children’s assignments and the methods they employ for submission, I already feel like a dinosaur.

In the midst of all the changes that’s spinning around us, the most challenging thing for a Christian parent is perhaps the challenge of raising our children as faithful Christian parents and at the larger level as faithful churches, raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

As Christians, we go back to the Bible, the Word of God. The question that we ask ourselves then is this- that whether there was time when parenting was easy. Every generation said the same thing – “During my time it was not like this…” If we look at the Bible, there was never a period when parenting (for the children of God- Israel) was easy. When they were taken to the promised land, the land was far from perfect. Canaan was a land known for idolatry! We have just finished preaching through the book of Daniel and we read that the young Jews were going to be indoctrinated and taught in the ways of the Babylonians, the pagans. For the Israelites, whenever they became complacent and let down their guards, they sinned and disobeyed God. The ancient Greek city Ephesus (which means ‘desirable’) was known for idolatry. It was desirable in every sense of the word because it was a centre of travel and commerce. The famous temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the world then was found in Ephesus. It was to the Ephesian believers that Paul would write the household codes for families and the church at large. Certainly the people of God throughout the ages have faced the same problem- the problem of idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of an idol (or anything) in place of God. If we want to live out our Christian faith, we have to go back to the word of God so that we can find the anchor in the midst of the vortex.

This is what the word of God says in Deuteronomy 6:4-9

 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

In this time and age, we have many distractions vying for our time and attention. As a parent, one of the important things to do is to help our children do well in their studies. This is necessary and in itself not evil. But if we are not careful, by the way we put it across to our children, we may be teaching our children to love education (homework) with all their heart and soul and might! We put in so much effort when it comes to this because we know it is necessary. What about their spiritual input? What about guarding the Sabbath?

This is what the word of the Lord says in Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.” This is the first commandment. Of course, we may say that we do not have idols or carved images that we worship. John Calvin said that our hearts are idol factories. Idolatry then, is not an Old Testament issue nor a New Testament issue. It is an issue of the human heart. And we find this consistent theme about it throughout the scriptures and in our lives today.

As a parent I am trying my best to teach my children about this first commandment amongst many other things. Telling my children is the easier part. Living it out and modelling it for them is perhaps the hardest part. How do I diligently continue to teach them when I sit, walk, lie down and when I rise? I admit that is was easier when the children were younger. As they grow older, it is becoming a challenge but if I do not make time for God’s word to be inculcated in their daily lives, soon it will become uncomfortable. We often hear stories of families who share that it is absolutely normal for them to talk about studies, food, travel and many other things but that it is very strange to talk about God because it was not something done on a daily basis. As with most things in life, spiritual discipline needs daily practice and we must make time for it and while we can.

Someone wisely said that whatever consumes our mind/time other than God is idolatry. In this side of the fallen world, we will have to face the fact that we are constantly seeking things we can worship and serve. At every stage of our lives, different things will demand our time and attention. But the Bible does not excuse us from loving God first at any point of time. As parents and spiritual leaders, our duty is to continue to teach the words of God when we sit, walk, lie down or rise up.

The problem of Israel was not worshipping and believing in God. They worshipped and believed. Their struggle was always to worship ONLY the Lord. Many of us would say that Jesus is Lord, but find it challenging to say no to the idols that compete for His worship. It is encouraging to know that a young boy by the name of William Ralph Featherston wrote the words of this hymn when he was just 12 or 16 years of age. Someone had taught him well.

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

Pr Loliro Sani

September 1, 2019