Saturday, December 26, 2015

Childrering

It is my own fault, I suppose.  I should have known better.  But if you are a parent you can forgive me my blindness.   I am sure you've suffered the same blindness from time to time.  Let me confess from the start that I consider myself a fairly terrible parent.  I won't go into details, but let's just say I have no illusions concerning my parenting skills. If it wasn't for my wife I think things would have been many times worse.  But that out of the way I have always tried to raise my children in the way they should go.  I've also tried to live the life God calls me to live.  Not perfectly, but I think with a fair amount of integrity.

I thought, wrongly I see now, that if I raised my children reading, studying and living the Word of God; if I prayed for them and our family, taking them to church with me and raising them in a godly environment (we even home-schooled all six of them) that they would just follow Christ themselves.  I realize that some interpret Proverbs 22:6 to mean "raise a child into what they are gifted for and tend towards and they won't depart from it".  To clear the air let me state in unequivocal terms that such and interpretation is a great example of terrible exegesis.  Not even the context supports such and interpretation.  The fact is the passage leads one to believe that doing the right thing results in the right outcome because that is precisely what the passage seems to be saying.  I know now that this isn't true.  At least not a lot of the time (and in all fairness Proverbs was never meant to be read that way).

I am sure now it was a self imposed, but I was blind to what the Scriptures was really telling me.  Jesus told us that because of him the children would turn against their parents.  We were told by the apostle that in the last days children would be haters of their parents.  I grew up in the "focus on the family" era in which child psychology guided our exegesis so I can't be faulted entirely for my mistake.  But regardless of who I blame, the fact is the Scripture makes it clear that the "normal" outcome will be non-christians hating true followers of Christ.  And in some cases this will be a battle between children and their parents (in both directions).

This doesn't mean that we as parents are exempt from doing everything we can to raise our children in the right way.  But it does mean that we need to be honest with ourselves up front.  We need to brace ourselves for the very real possibility that our children will choose to not follow our Savior and rebel against us as they continue their rebellion against God.  I've watched too many parents (mostly mothers) have meltdowns when it came to their children.  Their spiritual walk either ceases or becomes some tragic, desperate spiritual parody as they enter a lifelong grieving for their wayward children.  I am not saying that grief is wrong or that we should not do what we can to rescue our children, but the fact is we are called to follow Jesus unto our own salvation.  Yes, we must evangelize, but in the grand scheme of things our children may not be the priority we thought they were.  Jesus even rewards those who forsake their wives and children!
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
(Matthew 19:29 ESV)
I think we American Christians need to take a serious look at our theology and instead of asking "How should I worship God?" ask, "How does God want me to worship Him?"  These are slightly different questions but different in a very important ways.  Too often we construct our theology around how we are most comfortable interacting with God.  Sometimes we go so far as to construct a completely new god.  Other times we have the right God but we decide how to interact with him on our terms.  Either way the results are turning out to be disastrous for the modern Church.

How does God want us to worship him?  How does he want us to follow him?  These questions are answered in Scripture but also in history.  Simply look at the first thousand years of the church and you will (as I have) come to the startling realization that the pre-reformation and premodern church was very different than the church we see today. You will see over and over again parents choosing to follow Jesus and the children refusing to do so (as well as the other way around).  But instead of continually trying to build little christian kingdoms out of their families as we seem to be all about today, these individuals had a laser focus on the lamb who was slain almost to the shunning of everything and everyone else!  Oh they loved others, but never more than their own Savior.  Their salvation was more than just avoiding hell (again, a modern construct), salvation was about being filled with and saturated with the God whom they loved with all their heart, mind, soul and strength.






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