Parents & Kids of Faith

  • Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Question: Which is required in the fifth commandment?
    Answer: The fifth commandment requires that we preserve the honor and perform the duties which belong to every one in their various roles as authorities, subordinates, or equals.
    Scripture: Lev 19:32; 1 Pet 2:17; Rom 12:10; 13:1; Eph 5: 21-22; 6:1, 5, 9; Col 3:19-22; 1 Thess 5:12; Heb 13:7, 17


    AMNESIA: Condition that enables a woman who has gone through labor to have a physical relationship with her husband again.

    DUMBWAITER: One who asks if the boys would care to order dessert.

    FAMILY PLANNING: The art of spacing your children the proper distance apart to keep you on the edge of financial disaster.

    FEEDBACK: The inevitable result when a baby doesn't appreciate the strained carrots.

    FULL NAME: What you call your son when you're mad at him.

    GRANDPARENTS: The people who think your children are wonderful even though they're sure you're not raising them right.

    HEARSAY: What each boy does when anyone mutters a dirty word.

    IMPREGNABLE: A woman whose memory of labor is still vivid.

    INDEPENDENT: How we want our children to be as long as they do everything we say.

    OW: The first word spoken by the younger boys with their older siblings.

    PRENATAL: When your life was still somewhat your own.

    PUDDLE: A small body of water that draws other small bodies wearing dry shoes into it.

    SHOW OFF: Any boy who is more talented than yours.

    STERILIZE: What you do to your first baby's pacifier by boiling it and to your last baby's pacifier by blowing on it.

    TOP BUNK: Where you should never put a boy wearing Superman jammies.

    TWO-MINUTE WARNING: When the young boy’s face turns red and he begins to make those familiar grunting noises.

    VERBAL: Able to whine in words.

    WHODUNIT: None of the kids that live in your house.

    Bring them up in the Discipline and Instruction of the Lord, Part III
    The purpose of the article for this issue and the last few weeks is to investigate the New Testament and other writings from the first three centuries of Christian faith, asking the question, “How, during this time period, did discipleship occur in the context of Christian families- or did it? What were the expectations for Christian training in the household? And how did the community of faith partner with believing households?” Robert Plummer, Associate Professor of New Testament at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary writes on this topic.

    In the Christian writings that followed the New Testament era, the instructions for parents are similar to the ones found in the New Testament. Early Christian leaders reminded husbands and wives of their obligation to love one another, to live in orderly households, and to love their children.

    “I Received from my Parents this Good Confession.”
    Over and over, parents were called to train their children in the Christian faith: “Let our children receive the instruction that is in Christ: let them learn how strong humility is before God, what pure love is able to accomplish before God, how the fear of him is good and great and saves all those who live in it in holiness with a pure mind.” (1 Clement 21:8)

    Fathers, “bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” and teach them the Holy Scriptures, and also trades, that they may not indulge in idleness. Now the Scripture says, “A righteous father educates his children well; his heart shall rejoice in a wise son.” (Ignatius, To the Philadelphians, 4:5)

    “You shall not abort a child nor, again, commit infanticide. You must not withhold your hand from your son or daughter, but from their youth you shall teach them the fear of God” (Epistle of Barnabas 19:5)

    “[Christians] marry just like everyone else, and they have children, but they do not cast out their offspring.” (Epistle to Diognetus, 5:6)

    “Then instruct your wives to continue in the faith delivered to them and in love and purity, cherishing their own husbands in all fidelity and loving all others equally in all chastity, and to teach their children with instruction that leads to the fear of God.” (Polycarp, To the Philippians, 4:2)

    “You shall not withhold your hand from your son or your daughter, but from their youth you shall teach them the fear of God.” (Didache 4:9).

    As in Ephesians 6:4, these texts do not provide step-by-step instructions for the parental discipleship of children. Yet parents are presented with a fundamental obligation to function as primary faith-trainers in their children’s lives.

    This second-century account of martyrdom makes it clear that early Christian parents did impress vital theological truths on their children: A man called Paeon stood up and said, “I also am a Christian.”

    The prefect Rusticus said: “Who taught you?”

    Paeon said, “I received from my parents this good confession”

    Euelpistus said, “I listened indeed gladly to the words of Justin, but I too received Christianity from my parents.”

    The prefect Rusticus said, “Where are your parents?”

    Eulpistus said: “In Cappadocia.”

    Rusticus said to Hierax: “Where are your parents?”

    He answered, saying, “Our true father is Christ, and our mother our faith in him. My earthly parents are dead, and I was dragged away from Iconium in Phrygia before coming hither.”

    As in Paul’s letter to Ephesus, early Christian writers do not provide specific examples of how children must be instructed. Yet the basic obligation remains clear. Just as the earliest Christians in the post-New Testament period found different ways to convey the faith to their children, so today, believers in varying cultures and with diverse educational backgrounds will find different ways to convey the gospel to their children in winsome and faithful ways.

    “God is Angry with You.”
    When parents failed to heed their obligation to pass on the “good confession” of a living faith to their children, the results could be disastrous. The unknown author of a second-century text known as Shepherd of Hermas recognized the tragedy of such failures. Throughout this document, a divine messenger upbraids Hermas—the Christian man addressed in the text—for his failure to provide spiritual leadership for his family:

    “God is angry with you . . . in order that you may convert your family, which has sinned against the Lord and against you, their parents. But you are so fond of your children that you have not corrected your family, but have allowed it to become terribly corrupt. This is why the Lord is angry with you. But he will heal all your past deeds that have been done by your family, for because of their sins and transgressions you have been corrupted by the cares of this life.” (Shepherd of Hermas: Vision 1:3:1)

    When children failed to obey their parents, such failure was viewed concurrently as disobedience to God, with temporal and eternal consequences.

    In writings from the first three centuries of Christianity, children were addressed alongside their parents, reminding us that children were part of Christian gatherings. In a few texts, Christian leaders gave general exhortations about the importance of training the next generation. The most natural way to read these passages is as proclamations addressed primarily to parents. These passages do not, however, preclude the broader community’s involvement in children’s discipleship. “Let us fear the Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood was given for us,” Clement of Rome urged his entire congregation in the late first century. “Let us respect our leaders; let us honor the older men; let us instruct the young with instruction that leads to the fear of God.” From Clement’s commands to the believers in Rome, it appears that the community of faith bore a corporate responsibility to train the young (neoi, no longer children but also not yet fully mature).

    Pastors were quite willing to engage personally in the spiritual development of young people. According to Eusebius of Caesarea (A.D. 260—340), the apostle John once entrusted a child to the care of a local elder. The young boy was baptized—but then, as a young adult, turned astray and joined a gang of thieves. Hearing this, the apostle John mounted a horse and personally pursued the young man into the mountains to call him to repentance, crying out, “Why, my son, do you flee from me, your own father, unarmed, aged? Pity me, my son; fear not; you have still hope of life. I will give account to Christ for you. If need be, I will willingly endure your death as the Lord suffered death for us. For you, I would give up my life. Stand and believe! Christ has sent me!”

    By the second and third centuries, the practice of infant baptism seems to have been widespread in many areas, with baptized children partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Even if such practices represent well-intended misapprehensions of the apostolic understanding of baptism, they also demonstrate the early church’s passion to pass along the Christian faith to the next generation. In the third century, Cyprian mentioned a boy of unspecified age who served as a lector—a reader of the Scriptures—in the church.

    An Age-Old Struggle
    “It’s Sunday Schools!” he assured me in that Italian restaurant in San Antonio. “They’ve destroyed the faith of children!”—and he blamed church-based children’s programs for the failure of parents to disciple their progeny. And yet, it is clear from the New Testament and other early Christian texts that, centuries before Sunday Schools even existed, Christian parents struggled at times to fulfill their calling to disciple their children. Then, as now, it was not a church program that caused the problem or provided the solution. What was needed was—and is—to call parents back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As parents live genuine lives of repentance and faith together in community with other believers, their faith will be both “caught by” and “taught to” each generation. Parents must embrace their roles not only as providers and disciplinarians but also as primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives.


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