IT IS SURELY evident that God intended, through creation of earth and man, to reveal in the human realm the marvelous features of His own character, power, and glory. Made in the image and likeness of his Creator (vs. 26), man was given dominion over the earth, thereby reflecting the power of God as King and Ruler of the universe. Through his moral abilities, man mirrored the righteousness and holiness of God. And an even greater aspect of God's likeness was instilled within our first parents--the attribute of love. Scripture says that "God is love" (1 John 4:8). As infinite love, God lives not for Himself alone but imparts life and shares it with others.
Sin has marred the love intended to exist in the earthly home between husband and wife and between parent and child. It has brought a fearful ruin to a continuance of peaceful family life in harmony with God. Through their human parents, every child on earth has become partaker of sin and dying. And fathers, often discouraged by the prevailing sins of their own flesh, feel themselves incapable of instructing and blessing their children--incapable of setting an adequate example of holiness and obedience.
The result is inglorious. Instead of being a place where children may learn the ways of God, to prepare them for the glories of the life to come, the home often becomes a place of confusion and disillusionment. This frequently leads to misery and destruction.
The results of sin were soon manifested. Cain rose up in a fit of jealous rage and slew his brother, yet Cain was only one step outside of perfection--the paradise of Eden! In much the same way, parents can trace the sins and evil tempers of their children to their own shortcomings and wilfulness. How important is the good example set by Christian parents!
In the distant past God made an important promise to Abraham: "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 22:18). The Christian home into which children are born is a natural environment for the teaching of that promise. God watches over these homes with tender interest. He knows our weaknesses, and does not leave us alone to accomplish the marvelous task of spiritual instruction of our children. He adds His love and lends His power to every parent who desires to be the minister of His holy purpose.
God assured Noah that the ark in which he was to be delivered from death was intended for his children also. "Come thou and thy house into the ark" (Gen. 7:1). That told him that the ark in which he would be carried over into a new world would also protect his children. Noah and his family built the ark, believing that its strength would be sufficient to preserve all therein. While Scripture does not say that Noah's children had faith, apparently they voluntarily assisted their believing father in the construction.
How does a parent bring salvation to his house? A father may be assured that God's power will work on his behalf when he relies on the providences of God in faith, and prays for, and with, his children.
How may parents get their children into the ark? The answer is simple: go into the ark and live there yourself. Your children will grow up with the assurance that living with you is living under the special providence of God (1 Cor. 7:14). Raise your little ones in the knowledge of their Creator. Train them to remain separate from the seductive influences of the world. Abide in Christ, and your children will realize that being near you is like being near our Master Himself.
Some parents mistakenly feel that the "healthy" development of a child's mental and moral abilities would be suppressed if they were to insist that their children obey them. But according to the Scriptures, true liberty of mind and character in the making of decisions is attained only as one learns to submit--to God, and to godly parents. "Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee" (Exod. 20:12). The child who is taught to honor and accept the understanding and wisdom of godly parents will learn valuable lessons which will serve him well in later life. These lessons may never be learned if the child is permitted to pursue his own way, independent of such parental counsel.
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right" (Eph. 6:1,4). The necessity that children obey godly parents is often not fully appreciated by either. Scripture illustrates the spiritual harmony between authority and love, between obedience and liberty. Parents must be more than friends and advisors. They have been endowed by God with a holy authority to be exercised in leading their children in the way of the Lord. Parental rule should be loving and affectionate, and with an authority not to be despised. At the same time, parental authority must not be exercised in a harsh, unreasonable, vindictive or autocratic manner.--Col. 3:20,21
An important consideration regarding Christian parents and their children is in our Master's words in Matt. 19:14: "...Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." There is deep significance in that command. Those mothers who brought their children to Jesus had undoubtedly heard the earlier words recorded in that chapter (vss. 1-6), and they brought their little ones to be blessed by this wonderful teacher. Our Lord understood that these children required counsel and direction, and He knew the importance of a godly example. But Jesus saw His disciples rebuking these women. Perhaps the disciples wondered just how much benefit the children could receive by hearing the words of Jesus. After all, even they sometimes found Jesus' words hard to understand. How could these children understand Him? What benefit could these little children receive from Him?
Certain qualities of character in little children are especially fitting for disciples of our Master. Parents should not adopt the rebuking attitude of the disciples. Furthermore, father and mother must not quench the youthful grace of children.
The willingness of children to come to Jesus is the quality necessary for the first step of entrance into God's kingdom. The simple gospel is just what a child needs. Childlike faith was ready to trust and believe One so kind and loving. Similarly will children trust and believe kind and loving parents. The young personality has no difficulty in confessing need of help. And nothing appears more simple and natural than to follow and obey those who display true love. But above all, children grasp at once what older people may fail to apprehend: faith and salvation center in the living Jesus.
The Master often taught of 'the kingdom.' Thus the disciples posed to Him a question: "...who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (Matt. 18:1) Before the disciples were enlightened through the holy spirit, the word 'kingdom' suggested to them only the idea of power and glory. The response of Jesus to their question may have seemed strange and incomprehensible. "Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me." He called for and set a little child in their midst. He said that as long as they were thinking of who would be the greatest they could not even enter the kingdom. They must first become as little children. In God's kingdom the most childlike would be the greatest.
The child nature loves, and rejoices in being loved. Jesus said this naturalness and simplicity is worthy of emulation by true Christians. The spirit of the world is the very opposite. Its crushing competitiveness and arrogant ambition seek only excitement, possessions and power. It tends to destroy the child's natural beauty and sensitivity while nurturing stubborn pride and self-centeredness. Christian parents who have the means to gratify the tastes and pleasures of their children are especially in danger of destroying the simplicity and tenderness of the child life by permitting and stimulating worldly desires. Even in the midst of consistent Bible teaching, the essence of true religion may vanish if the caustic spirit of the world enters the home.
Christian parents should clearly understand what Jesus meant when he spoke so strongly of being childlike. Value the childlikeness and simplicity of your little ones. Realize that in their tender susceptibility to impressions they are all alive to what surrounds them--both to the fostering influence of the heavenly life, or the withering effects of worldliness. Acknowledge the wonderful affinity which exists between God's spirit and childlikeness.
However, conscience, though it always urges what is right, may not always know what is right. That is why it is essential that children be trained to seek an understanding of God's will in all things. And it is to be remembered that children may be trained to turn to God when important decisions need to be made. The child must know that, even when his parents are absent, he has a heavenly friend who is closer than any earthly friend, an advisor who knows him better than he knows himself. If the mind is wrong in its views of good and evil, faithfulness to conscience may lead to choosing the evil and refusing the good. It is therefore of first importance that the child be educated in the right ways.--1 Tim. 3:4,12
The inner light of conscience is generally reliable, but only the light from above is always reliable. Let Christian parents and children depend on God and His word to lead them in right paths. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psa. 119:105). Important to a child's Christian education is an exposure to all that the Bible contains. Equally important is the child's heartfelt acceptance of God's Word as the final authority in all of life's choices.
Let an affectionate love for God and Christ become your children's foundation, because within that love is formed the desire for truth. Christian parents are urged to fully trust God to be the author and power of your family life. God's rich blessings await those who faithfully work with Him to create today a home in which godly principles direct family life and its decisions.