This week we will look at probably one of the most important commitments we can make…Family. The Biblical model of spiritual growth largely centers of the efforts of the family. Throughout the Bible the assumption is that young people will be raised to know the truths and ways of God so that when they are adults, their tasks is less about figuring it all out as much as passing it on to their own children. Parents are to be the spiritual leaders of their families. Because the extended family lived and worked closely together in ancient times, the expectation was that grandparents and other relatives would be a support system for parents and their children. The community of faith with which the parents interacted would also provide a secondary line of support. Today, Americans have become heavily dependent upon religious schools and local churches to bear the primary, if not sole, responsibility for spiritually nurturing both children and adults. The burden of growing people spiritually has fallen primarily to those who are now paid to engage in such ministry. Parents, who are now busy earning a living, seeking to build a better life for their families, and trying to get some relaxation and refreshment in to their lives as well, believe they lack the time, training, and skills to satisfactorily do the job. Of course this model is not promoted in the Bible and is proving to be relatively ineffective in today’s society.
Various studies have persuasively shown that the most effective time to focus on a person’s spiritual development is before the child reaches the teenage years. It is during this time that they are most receptive to learning about spiritual matters and most likely to retain the principles they are taught. This truth is clearly presented in the Bible. [Deut. 6:6-7; Psalm 78:4-7; Eccl. 12:1; Isaiah 28:9-10; Eph. 6:4]. Founding Father Fisher Ames, a framer of the Bill of Rights, affirmed to his generation,”The reverence for the Sacred Book that is thus early impressed lasts long, and probably if not impressed in infancy, never takes hold of the mind.” [Fisher Ames, Notices of the Life and Character of Fisher Ames, Boston: T.B. Wait & Co., 1809, pg. 134]. Founding Father Benjamin Rush avowed that “religious instruction is most useful, when imparted in early life” and that if the Bible is not diligently taught to children when they are young, then it “is seldom read in any subsequent period of life.” [Rush, Essays, pg.94]. Founding Father John Witherspoon, a signer of the Declaration, like many others in that day, finished reading through the Bible for the first time when he was four years old. [Varnum Lansing Collins, President Witherspoon: A Biography, vol.1, Princeton University Press, 1925]. And as has been previously addressed, parents taught their children to read long before they went to school.
American children are very sensitive to spiritual principles, typically embracing the same religious beliefs and behaviors as their parents have adopted. Research has discovered that the vast majority of religious beliefs and attitudes possessed by adults were initially adopted by those people when they were pre-teens. [George Barna, Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions, Ventura, CA:Regal, 2003]. Unfortunately, over the past couple of decades, as Christian parents have become less involved in the spiritual development of their children in favor of letting the local church do the job, surveys have consistently shown that the youngest adults are entering their voting years with a more liberal perspective on politics and are more enthusiastic than usual about liberal candidates. Surveys also consistently demonstrate that the youngest voters are less Biblically literate than were their predecessors and generally do not connect their spiritual views with their political beliefs. [Barna Group: “OmniPoll 1-12” and “OmniPoll F-12”; additionally four studies conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute: “RightView-3” (March 2014), “RightView-4” (April 2014), “RightView-5” (June 2014), and “RightView-6” (July 2014)]. The blame for the disconnection between faith, politics, and lifestyle falls squarely on the shoulders of Christian parents. Christian parents must accept the responsibility to educate their children through instruction, discipline, and behavioral modeling to know, love, and obey God with all of their hearts, souls, minds and strength. This does not relieve the church of any responsibility at all. A church that does not prioritize the spiritual development of its children is a church that has resigned itself to both irrelevancy and rapid demise. Unless we accept and champion the responsibility to help raise our children to be Godly citizens, America will continue down the path of spiritual deterioration that fosters national moral decay.
While parents have the primary responsibility to raise their children, it is a responsibility of the church to train parents in these responsibilities. We sometimes forget that many of the parents were not themselves raised to respect God’s Word or to consider any connection between God’s Word and politics. They go to church on Sunday morning…maybe…and then go home feeling no obligation whatsoever to set an example for their children or to explain how politics can destroy the Judeo/Christian principles that were the foundation of this nation. Then we must also consider that many ‘parents’ do not bother to commit to each other or when they do they feel free to just walk away from that commitment when their ‘freedom’ is being challenged. How can ‘parents’ with no Godly standards teach Godly standards to their children? To the dismay of some, in a few weeks I will start on a series about the secular world’s attack on Christianity and how the church is ‘hanging out to dry’ those Christians who take a stand for God’s Word. If it were not for organizations of Christian lawyers…no, that is not an oxymoron…many of those who take a stand would find their lives destroyed. I still believe that every church should have a “Political Activities Committee” to advise the Church on just what secular politicians are trying to do to undermine God’s Churches and His Word…but then that is for another time. The stories are unbelievable and may very well bring about righteous anger. I ask…why is it that atheists seem to be able to better organize than churches? One offended atheist seems to be able to disrupt years…even decades/centuries… of Christian guiding principles.
Next week we will continue on meaningful commitments with a look at the disadvantaged and hurting.