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Copyright © 2001
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RAISING GODLY YOUNG PEOPLE IN A GODLESS SOCIETY
Alec D. Brooks
AMERICAN ENVIRONMENT AND REARING CHILDREN
In an article in The Wall Street Journal entitled "the U.S.: It's No Place to Raise a Family," professor Edward Wynne, of the University of Illinois, said, "A number of changes have altered the American environment to make it a very barren one for rearing healthy, competent children."
DISAPPEARANCE OF CHILDHOOD
In his book The Disappearance of Childhood, New York University professor Neil Postman, writing about what is happening in our society that is negatively affecting families, asks the question,
Is the individual powerless to resist what is happening?
He goes on to say,
The answer to this, in my opinion, is 'No.' But, as with all resistance, there is a price to pay. Specifically, resistance entails conceiving of parenting as an act of rebellion against American culture. For example, for parents merely to remain married is itself an act of disobedience and an insult to the spirit of a throw away culture in which continuity has little value. It is also at least ninety percent un-American to remain in close proximity to one's extended family so the children can experience, daily, the meaning of kinship and the value of deference and the responsibility to elders.
Similarly, to insist that one's children learn the discipline of delayed gratification, or modesty in their sexuality, or self-restraint in manners, language and style is to place oneself in opposition to almost every social trend. Even further, to ensure that one's children work hard at becoming literate is extraordinarily time-consuming and even expensive. But most rebellious of all is the attempt to control the media's access to one's children. There are, in fact, two ways to do this. The first is to limit the amount of exposure children have to media. The second is to monitor carefully what they are exposed to, and to provide them with a continuously running critique of the themes and values of the media's content. Both are very difficult to do and require a level of attention that most parents are not prepared to give to child rearing.
Nonetheless, there are parents who are committed to doing all of these things, who are in effect defying the directives of their culture.
RAISING CHILDREN IS DIFFICULT IN ANY CULTURE
Raising children in any culture and at any time has not been easy, but as we look through history and, in particular, biblical history, we see that it has been done successfully. One of the best examples in the Bible is found in Hebrews 11:123-27:
By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king's edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to share ill treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered abuse suffered for the Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt. For he looked to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king; for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.
PARENTS OF FAITH
From the account of the life of Moses, we learn that if a young person is to grow up godly in an ungodly society it is necessary that he have parents of faith. The faith that parents must have if they are to raise their children for God has two components: vision and action.
The faith that Moses' parents had was based on and grew out of their world view-a particular way of looking at the world that determined who they were, what they valued, and how they behaved. In other words, they looked at life and their family from God's point of view.
Their faith determined who they were in the culture in which they lived. They knew they were not Egyptians, which meant they did not worship Egypt's gods. They were not idolaters.
REJECTING GODS THAT SOCIETY WORSHIPS
Egypt had many gods, as does our society. The gods of our society are humanism, hedonism, individualism, materialism and consumerism. If we are to raise our children successfully for God, then we must, like Moses' parents, reject the gods that our society worships.
Dr. Henry Holstege, professor of sociology at Calvin College, writes,
Humanistic psychology and sociology emphasize that one's own growth and development is of paramount importance in the universe. It is of such paramount importance that there is not any one thing as important as self; not spouse, nor children, nor parents, nor church, nor one's God.
Boats, automobiles, carpeted living rooms and cottages are not sinful unless we buy them because we use them as symbols to the world to indicate our wealth or unless they take precedence over our giving to the church, the Christian school, the mission field and the relieving of poverty and misery of the world's masses. Sadly, self-love leads to just that error.
WHAT IS PRE-EMINENT IN OUR LIVES?
God was paramount in the life of Moses' parents, and no doubt Moses was greatly influenced by this. Whatever has first place in our lives will have more influence on the lives of our children than anything else. If we are not sure about what has pre-eminence in our lives, we ought to ask our children what they think is most important.
Moses' parents not only didn't worship Egypt's gods, they were not subject to Egypt's government. This did not mean they were in rebellion against the government of Egypt but that they recognized its limits. They understood that the state is not ultimate in the lives of people; that it is to govern under God for the good of those governed, and that children do not belong to the government but to God. They understood what we must all understand-that parents have a stewardship over children to raise them as God's for God.
We find more and more that government is intruding into the lives of families, and this must be resisted because it is based on the false premise that children are the property of the state. We must recognize and stand for the principle that children do not belong to the state nor to parents but ultimately to God, and it is to God we are responsible and accountable for the way we raise them.
The faith that Moses' parents had not only determined who they were in their culture, it also determined what they saw in their child. They saw that he was born with value. They understood, as should we, that a person has value not because of what he is in himself or because of what others think of him but because of who he is before God. They understood, as we must understand, that value does not come from anything in the world that we can acquire or achieve.
LET CHILDREN UNDERSTAND THEY HAVE VALUE
Our society has devalued life by redefining and destroying it before it is born, rather than after, as the Egyptians did.
It is the responsibility of parents to treat a child in such a way that he grows to understand he has value before God. They should treat him in such a way that he understands that neither his nor anyone else's value is based on appearance, ability or achievement; that each human being is of value because each is loved by God and made in His image with the capacity to know and be like god.
NEED FOR AFFECTION AND ACCEPTANCE
It is a parent's responsibility to teach his children that their need for affection, acceptance, approval and achievement, needs that must be met if they are to grow to maturity, can ultimately be met only by God. They need to know that any attempt to have these needs met by someone or something else is doomed to failure and will result in disappointment and frustration.
GOD ALONE IS OUR SOURCE
We are to raise our children to know and understand that the source of all true and lasting value is God alone. We should remember, however, that a child learns more by what he sees than by what we say, more by our example rather than our exhortation or edicts.
Moses' parents also taught him what he was born to, and that is virtue. They taught him he was born to be worthy of God that he was not born to be famous or wealthy but to be a person whose life would be pleasing to God. We too must remember that what children acquire or accomplish will soon be forgotten, but what they become as persons they will be forever.
FAMILY IMAGE OR THE IMAGE OF GOD?
Dick Keyes in his book, Beyond Identity, says,
Parents can be more concerned with the way their child maintains the family image than how their child bears the image of God. Remember, our children are to grow up reflecting God's image, not protecting ours.
Moses' parents also taught him that he was born to do the will of God. We are given children to raise as servants of God, which is the greatest thing they can become, the greatest thing they can ever do.
SELF-FULFILLMENT OR SELF-SURRENDER?
This means a child must learn he is in the world not for self-fulfillment or self-satisfaction but self-surrender. He is born into the world go give himself freely for God's glory and others' good.
Jesus said in Mark 8:34, 35 (Phillips),
If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me. The man who tries to save his life will lose it; it is the man who loses his life for my sake and the gospel's who will save it.
We hear much about the importance of self-esteem and having a good self-image. What we should be concerned about is having a right self-image, which comes not from affirming oneself or being affirmed by others but by denying oneself to serve God and others.
RIGHT KIND OF SELF-LOVE
Dick Keyes says further, in his book, Beyond Identity,
The right kind of self-love comes as a by-product of Christian living rather than as a conscious goal in itself. It is not the highest good but comes to us from the side, as it were, when we are aiming at a higher one. We are never to sit passively expecting others to build us up or to supply us with security so that we will then be able to reach out in love. Jesus made this abundantly clear in His new commandment. The old commandment was 'to love your neighbor as yourself.' The new commandment went further: 'We are to love one another as I have loved you.' Note two things: first, we are expected to love others not as much as but more than ourselves. Our standard is Jesus' sacrifice of His life for us. Second, our starting point in loving others is not in ourselves but is in knowing that God has unconditionally loved us.
LET THEM KNOW AND RECOGNIZE OTHERS TOO EXIST
We need to realize and to raise our children with the understanding that others do not exist to make us feel good, but we exist to do good for others.
A child understands his value before God by the way he is treated, and he will grow in virtue by the way he is trained. That training is to take place at home in all the circumstances and situations of life in a family both by precept and example (Deut. 6:4-9).
Whatever else it may take to raise children to be godly in an ungodly society, it certainly takes parents of faith like Moses'. These are not easy times in which to raise children, but by God's grace we can do it successfully.
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- Pastor Alec Brooks has served as President of Bethany Fellowship International, Senior Pastor of Bethany Missionary Church, and Professor of Theology and Missiological Studies at Bethany College of Missions, in Minneapolis, MN. Rev. Alec Brooks is an astute observer of Hisory, who has a strong sense of mission to the poor and suffering. His powerful preaching and teaching of the Word of God and focus on missions has led hundreds of young people to choose life-long missionary careers around the world, including Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, China, Central Asia, and Latin America. He is an anointed counselor to the missionaries all around the world. This article, published long before Christian leaders started showing their concern and love for the HIV/AID patients, speaks about the healing power of Jesus. The article is presented to us by Bev Cooley, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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