It’s not that long ago that it was commonplace to hear the phrase, ‘Children should be seen and not heard!’ but the Bible is very different. We find that that Jesus is far more welcoming:
Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 19:14)
The Lord’s words require us to see our children as spiritual people in their own right. So how do we nurture these young minds?
The Bible says rather a lot on the subject. Here’s a representative summary:
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. (Prov 13:24)
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph 6:4)
For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Th 2:11-12)
And these words that I [God] command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children… (Deut. 6:6-7)
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. (Prov 1:8)
Children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. (2 Cor 12:14)
Parents are to support, nurture, discipline, teach, and love their children, preparing them to leave home and create their own families.
‘Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.’ Psalm 34:11
‘Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.’ Proverbs 22:6
There’s no getting away from it, parents are teachers. This teaching happens in so many ways: like chats on the way to school, reading together and perhaps most importantly setting a godly example in our own lives.
It’s important to realise that teaching is not the same as ‘indoctrination’. The latter has come to mean brainwashing children and stripping them of their natural inquisitiveness. Good teaching allows children to discover great truths for themselves and take them for their own. It involves guiding and coming alongside our children in their own voyage of discovery.
The Ultimate Father
Of course when we’re searching for an example we should look no further than God himself. He is our father, and provides us with nurture, discipline and love:
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? (Heb 12:9)
He guides us without ever forcing our path. He is always faithful and ready to forgive, but will discipline us when necessary ‘for what son is there whom his father does not discipline’ (Hebrews 12:7). We can always talk to our Heavenly Father, and always ask, knowing that he will hear. Above all, he loves us. Love so deep we can’t really understand it.
So if we are looking for a parenthood template then we should look to the character of God, which leads us to our final point.
When it all goes ‘wrong’
The Bible has many examples of great characters whose children didn’t follow in their godliness, like Samuel for example. Parents can often feel guilty in such situations but if God, the ultimate Father, has children who go astray, then we realise that this isn’t about blame ourselves. Instead we have the example of the father in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15). Always waiting, watching, and hoping, then ready to drop everything when the son comes home.
Parenthood is one of the toughest jobs going, but also the most rewarding. Our Heavenly Father has given us the perfect template to follow.