A Chinese Proverb states: “One generation plants the trees another gets the shade.” The summer weeks, my wife and I have spent much time alone together with our boys. Over the many miles we traveled, we were often reminded how both sets of our parents provided a moral grounding for what was right and wrong. (Her parents are celebrating 50 years of faithful, Christ-honoring marriage at the end of this month, and the same will be said of my parents in just 11 more months). Those absolutes provided great security as we matured individually. Now, as we assess what we are providing our 3 sons, we are considering: “What have we planted?”
While in Washington D.C. this week, I was overwhelmed with the legacy of many of our nation’s founding fathers – especially their commitments in the home. For example, George Washington, himself, was a father to the fatherless, a humble husband, and a leader in his home before leading this young country. As to his legacy, every state in America has a city, school, county, or monument named after him.
You can tell where a society is headed and where a culture is going by looking through the prism of the family. It is God who created the family as the cornerstone of society. God established the home before He established the church. In our church, we rally families around an initiative called, “MERGE: combining the influence of church and home.” Instead of competing with the home, God designed the church to compliment what the home is already accomplishing for God’s glory.
Churches, by and large, have done a disservice to its own members when we don’t call out parents in a loving way, about the way they are living. It’s a sad fact that many churches fear offending people so they make excuses for parents like, “They would come to worship or connect in a small group, but they’re really busy.” “They used to serve but they’re going through a rough time right now.” Both statements may be true but the issue is not a busyness issue, its a spiritual issue. Many churches have not helped parents establish spiritual goals for their parenting. When it comes to raising children, most church-going families have no strategy.
Like it or not, parents are molding their children and influencing the next generation – for good or bad. But without a spiritual strategy, what is that image they are conveying? Here are three levels every Christian home should grasp:
SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION – Modeling (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
“Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. The most intriguing phrase in this passage to me is “The Lord is One.” This is not trying to relate the unity of God but simply state that the title “God” rightfully belongs to Jehovah alone! He is the one and only absolute God.
Israel (as well as America does today) struggled with syncretism as much as polytheism. The key is found in the preceding phrase: “The Lord OUR God.” Polytheism is pulling God down to the level of other gods; syncretism is elevating other things to the level of God. It’s not a question of doctrine (“do you believe in a God?”) as much as it is a question of dedication (“Have you surrendered to God – to the exclusion of your loyalties to other things?”). God may be important to you, but is He your everything? Is the worship and adoration of God as important in your home as the attention and worship your family gives to select sports or good nutrition? Some families care more about finding the right school than finding the right church.
God’s grand design for Israel was a godly people who’s national character was distinguished by their fear of the Lord. Moses’ job was to prepare the children of Israel for crossing over into the Promised Land and building a brand new nation. Their national history would become the history of the church, and the moment they abandoned their surrender and service to God they would cease to exist as a nation – something very similar to the convictions of many of America’s founding fathers. The stronger the family, the stronger the nation. When the family is secure, the nation is secure.
Unfortunately, youth are not seeing exemplary examples from the celebrities before them. I remember when the then, famous basketball player, Charles Barkley, said, “I don’t want to be a role model.” Charles Barkley didn’t have a choice and as parents, neither do we. Parents, we are whether we like it or not, we are role models to our children. Character is not taught to your children. It is caught by your children. How we live screams so loudly that many times, our kids can’t hear the words coming out of our mouths.
I want to say particularly to fathers here, there is no substitute for a father who shows his child by the way he lives, by the language that he uses, by the places that he goes, by the television programs that he watches, by the books that he reads, that he truly fears the Lord.