Kingdom Marriage 5 - Parenting
"... bring them up ..."
The wonder of producing a child begins with the realisation that God has given creational life to their love with conception.
The first-time parents' wonder continues throughout pregnancy and culminates in amazement and delight when their baby finally arrives. This is more so for Believers who receive their baby with thanksgiving.
More thanksgiving follows with a celebration to present the baby to God on the Lord's day with His Family.
In all these things, there's the comparison for Believers of when Mary and Joseph had to follow the Law of Moses when they presented the new-born Jesus at the Temple.
Here's what they were required to do:
"... when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.
Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord," Luke 2'21-22.
Mary and Joseph were going through a very unusual situation. Nevertheless, they obeyed with a sincere worshipful disposition. How simple things are for believing parents today.
And how wonderful it is to be able to present new babies to our heavenly Father in Jesus' name. And to have the family of God agreeing with Parents in their desire to bring up their child according to the word of Christ.
KEEP LOVING EACH OTHER
Throughout marriage loving one another in all circumstances is essential and especially during pregnancy and babyhood.
Parents' frequent expressions of love and support to each other in the presence of their children, as well as privately, are crucial to the well-being of all.
Discomforting symptoms and uncertainties in pregnancy, childbirth plus the general range and constant demands of babyhood, and, possibly, other things, may produce unexpected emotions.
The husband's stable emotional disposition can calm feelings of insecurity and give a sense of wellbeing to his wife.
Although it is particularly critical at these times, the call at all times is:
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Body of Christ and gave Himself for her," Ephesians 5'25.
"Husbands ... dwell with them with understanding, giving honour to the wife, as to the weaker vessel," 1 Peter 3'7.
With the shared blessings of being equally yoked together in marriage comes the sharing of responsibilities. With pregnancy these take on greater importance.
Being part of the growth of a new-born child means that new are things added, some of them unpractised, even unknown.
During the tough routines of the early months it's helpful to have agreement on future behavioural routines, even before the child is able to fully understand any spoken or "body" language.
One very important thing to agree on is being consistent. It is something parents owe to their children. Security begins to build in a child who encounters a common position from both its parents.
They learn, from their first day, that Dad and Mum are in harmony.
While scripture exhorts children to obey their parents, parents seem to naturally expect their growing children to obey them.
However, children naturally test their parents' unity as part of discovering where the lines are. And they take advantage of any discord very quickly.
When a disagreement does arise, it should not be allowed to develop in the presence of the child but be resolved at a later time.
Keeping control of feelings (and speech) and not contradicting one another in front of the child is a constant challenge.
Plenty of mutual encouragement between the Parents is essential - especially after an occasional "lapse".
A child should never hear a parent talk negatively or jokingly about them to other adults. They should be free from knowing about adult problems and responsibilities.
Dads are responsible and called to be loving, as the Lord is:
"You, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath,
but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord," Ephesians 6'4.
Just as Children are to obey, Fathers are to be encouraging:
"Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged," Colossians 3'20-21.
Children have to grow before they know that their obedience pleases God. However, for Parents expressions of honour come when they come!
But knowing the promise that's attached requires considerable growth:
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
'Honour your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise:
'that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth'," Ephesians 6'1-4.
A FAITH ENVIRONMENT
The kind of domestic environment children are born into is bound to influence them for the rest of their lives. Children "read" the reality of their parents' lives.
Commenting on the kind of setting Timothy was born into, Paul says:
"... from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus," 2 Timothy 3'15.
"... I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and I am persuaded is in you also," 2 Timothy 1'5.
In Timothy's household, the Scriptures were considered holy, believed and being expressed in every day life.
Although his father was a Greek unbeliever, the expression of "genuine faith" by his mother and grandmother affected his life.
Timothy became wise regarding God's salvation. He grew to become a sincere and willing Disciple (Acts 16'1).
Children today can experience the spiritual unity and godly conduct of Parents, hearing the word of Christ and being among a Body of Believers - and being free to ask questions.
From infancy to adulthood, the children of believing couples today could experience an even greater faith environment.
A CHILD IS A CHILD!
The goal of Kingdom Parents is to raise their children in the "training and admonition of the Lord". They shepherd them, counselling them as they grow, all the time being examples of Kingdom life to them.
But realising that a child is a child, and as such has limited understandings, can easily be overestimated by parents and by others who are relatives or simply critical onlookers.
Obviously, children vary in comprehension according to their rate of development. Such things as concepts, logic, Biblical requirements and spiritual truths, etc, begin to enter their understanding around the onset of adolescence.
Careful thought needs to be given to the level of some parental expectations. They may very well be beyond a particular child's ability (Biblical truths included) .
A parent's expectation of a child's progress and understanding may, in fact, be unreasonable. This could be due to lack of experience, ignorance or a blind strict attitude.
Paul seemed to state the obvious when he said these words:
"When I was a child,
I spoke as a child,
I understood as a child,
I thought as a child," 1 Corinthians 13'11.
There it is, children are children, growing and developing - in what they speak, in what they understand and in what they think. There are those who need to realise that.
COMING OF AGE
When I became a man ...," Paul says (1 Corinthians 13'11). Most adults in western societies have heard the phrase "coming of age".
It is supposed to describe the time when children can be held accountable to family, community and society for their own words and actions (instead of their parents being held responsible).
In the various "Christianities" there is what is called "the age of accountability". This is celebrated in a ceremony when a child reaches a certain age having learned basic denominational doctrines.
From the believing Parents' point of view, there is one factor that must be acknowledged in this context. And it is that faith may be present in a child at a young age.
Due to the godly family environment, encountering God's word among Believers and the working of the Holy Spirit a child believes.
However, it is important that they are allowed to grow in their faith. The truths of repentance, immersion in water, keeping the Lord's Supper, etc, all require an adult level of Biblical understanding in order to be personal responsible and accountable.
The Bible refers to someone as being "of age". This describes a person who is able to take responsibility and consequences for speaking and acting for himself or herself on the basis of their godly understanding, like Jesus was.
There are a number of examples.
The clearest one is in a statement made by a Jewish couple about their son. Almost all of John 9 is taken up with it.
These parents were being called on by Pharisees to take parental responsibility for what their had said and did after Jesus had healed him of blindness. They refused.
They were not willing to take the consequences for the strong way their son was rebutting the Pharisees' threatening questions.
They said: "He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself"! Their son spoke for himself confidently and clearly, refusing to back down. His conduct revealed that he was of age!
The young Mary is a prime example of being of age. Her faith, worship and understanding was acknowledged by the angel's greeting: "Rejoice, highly favoured one, the Lord is with you," Luke 1'28.
He added: "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God," Luke 1'30.
By way, how had she found favour with God? Like her famous forebear Abraham she believed God. And it was accounted to her for righteousness, as it was him!
She was at the stage, naturally, personally and spiritually, where she was able to accept His commission and face the challenges that would come with it, Luke 1'26-39.
Showing her trust in God she responded to the angel's statement with:
"Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word".
Mary was "of age"!
Timothy is another example. Paul describes him as "a certain disciple" and the son of a believing Jewish woman and unbelieving Greek father and well spoken of.
At one stage Paul called on him to be circumcised because of the Jews in that region who all knew that his father was Greek (Acts 16'-1). He was willing and yielded himself to it.
He had known the Scriptures from childhood which, Paul said, "... are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus," 2 Timothy 3'15.
Later, as a believing young man, he was called to be an example to all:
"Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity," 1 Timothy 4'12.
About Moses being of age Hebrews 11'24-27 NKJV says:
"By faith Moses, when he became of age
refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God
than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,
esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt;
for he looked to the reward.
By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king;
for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible," Hebrews 11'24-27.
Although Moses may have been somewhat older than the healed man, or Mary or Timothy the basics of his coming of age are the same.
Being of age is particularly important regarding when a person is ready for immersion in water or partaking in the Lord's Supper.
This is because both of these commandments of Jesus call for a degree of commitment and understanding in order to honour God.
It must be remembered that neither of these are essential to salvation. No one has to do them as soon as possible after first believing.
They are not rites of passage of part of membership criteria or done because others have given themselves to them.
The point is that Believers should be mature enough to understand the word of Christ. They should understand that He and are always available to them in their walk with the Lord.
It's common in most cultures to recognise, or even set, a time when a child reaches an age to be able to speak on their own behalf.
It's intention to define a time when children can be held accountable to society for their words and actions (instead of their parents being held accountable). One description that's used is "age of accountability".
This falls in the transition from childhood to adulthood, beginning at puberty. At about the age of 12 logic and abstract understandings are dawning. Wisdom is perhaps some way off!
These are the adolescent years of multi-faceted transitional growth.
With self-discovery, independent decision making and responsibility for personal actions builds confidence. Some time during these years the person is judged to have "come of age".
"Of age" thinking is held by societies and philosophies. In New Zealand some "of age" things, such as marriage and qualifying for a driving licence are laid down legally.
This thinking is shown in laws requiring parental approval through to laws giving full independent decision-making and self-responsibility.
Ungodly worldviews confront godly parents whose purpose it is to give their children a secure childhood.
Outside the home these "influencers" seem bent on unsettling and robbing all children, not only Believers' children, of their childhood.
The early Believers took the leading of the word of Christ and lived according to the Apostles' Kingdom teachings which recogise what "... is in the world -
the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life," 1 John 2'16.
Nevertheless, the greatest influencers of children are their Parents, even though outside influencers present major challenges to the Believers' desire to raise resilient children.
During the unsettled personal environment of adolescence, children encounter influencers among their peers who influence their behaviour, preferences and choices to a greater or lesser degree.
In addition, commercial influencers intentionally focus on advertising at children. They engage entertainers, "stars" and "celebrities" in their efforts to influence children in what they see, read and hear.
As Believers live through the years and love their children from their first day:
Always remember that
"He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world,"
1 John 4'4.
BACK TO LOVING
As has been emphasised earlier, top of the list of marital priorities is "love one another" - at all times maintain the disposition of lovers.
Be sure to love one another first. Say "I love you" often.
And "... keep yourselves in the love of God," Jude 1'21.
Prayer. Heavenly Father, thank you for Marriage and thank you for Children. Above all, thank you for your love and the upholding power of the Holy Spirit.
In Jesus' name. Amen.