~by Randy Bushey
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
Passive is not a word that immediately comes to mind when thinking of the exploits of King David.
He was, after all, quite literally a giant-killer!
He went on to be a feared warrior-king. We’ve noted he was a polymath, having leveraged his many talents to world-class levels of competence as a fighter, a poet, a musician, and as a national administrator.
David was talented, capable, successful, beloved and highly respected.
But the biblical record is clear: as a parent, he was passive in influencing his kids.
David allowed incidents within his own family – including the rape of David’s daughter Tamar by her brother Amnon, and the subsequent killing of Amnon by his step-brother Absalom – with a reaction that can only be labelled meek, anemic and unassertive.
Distilled to single words, when he should have been active, David was passive.
And this was noted by the biblical historian when David’s son Adonijah attempted – while his father remained alive – to establish himself as king: His father had never interfered with him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do? (1 Kings 1:6).
And yet most parents can identify is some way with David. He must have been extremely preoccupied with other issues – like matters of state.
And our parenting lives can seem so full – following up on homework; getting kids to activities, games and lessons; dealing with needed health and therapy appointments; pitching in to care for grandchildren – that the remnants of time needed for spiritual influencing can feel like beach sand falling through your fingers.
However, the Lord will hold us accountable as parents, and particularly as fathers.
Deciding not to be passive is one thing; but what specific actions to prioritize is a matter of careful planning and discipline.
Here are my 6 recommendations from Sunday’s sermon as a starting point:
1)model spiritual consistency. My father who was a textbook model of consistency in all things. We knew that our Dad loved the Lord because of the way he lived his life. And without saying anything, his commitment to Bible reading, prayer, worship, and participating at church illustrated for us that he saw himself as constantly a follower of Christ and under God’s authority.
2)be attached to a local faith community. I’ve observed that in our town over the last 25 years, many have intentionally disconnected themselves from a local church. Sometimes, they’ve projected an inclination to “fellowship with all churches”; but without the shepherding and discipline of a local church they’ve paid heavily. And that price-tag has frequently been most vivid in the lives of their kids: they became adults without spiritual interest in the things of God.
3)commit to intentional home schooling. I’m not advocating that you take your kids out of the public education system. But public education – and including for kids who attend a Christian school – must be supplemented by a deliberate pattern at home of teaching each child to love God’s Word, and thereby, God’s Son.
4)Christian parents must explain and live out the Gospel, daily describing by word, attitude and behaviour that an eternal relationship with God can only happen through the Lord Jesus Christ. Children need to learn in age-appropriate ways that through His death and resurrection, He offers the great exchange: our sin charged to His account, and His righteousness credited to ours.
5)Realize that when you have children, you are in this for the long haul! Parenting is a never-ending job. Your adult children – and their children – will need your example, encouragement, advice, and direction for as long as you live.
6)Finally, PRAY! Some reading this will have difficult circumstances with special-needs kids, adult children who are distant or totally estranged, or offspring who have rejected the Christian faith. Or you may have come to Christ after your kids were grown and your opportunity to influence is diminished by time.
But prayer is not a last resort; it is the most powerful thing we can ever do for our families – at any stage!
Takeaway: Nowhere in the New Testament does the Lord hold parents answerable for their kids’ salvation. Every child must respond in repentant faith for their own justification before Holy God to result. But parents are commanded by the Lord Almighty to create and maintain an environment where God is honoured, the Bible revered, and the Gospel lived out.
To do so impacts not only the next generation for Christ, but potentially generations to come!