Derren Liang—Irvine, California,
IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A
As the proverb goes, It takes a village to raise a child. This expresses
the received wisdom that parents will struggle to raise a child by themselves.
But, beyond parental limitations, the proverb also implies that the whole
community bears a responsibility towards a child. A child raised within a
community to uphold its values will grow up to become a member of that
community, thus ensuring the continuation of the community and its identity.
But if a child is not nurtured as part of the community, he may go astray, or
worse still, become a nuisance to that community. Similarly, within our
spiritual community of the church, we have the responsibility to inculcate
spiritual values in our childrenXto preserve and pass on our faith.
The family is the
foundation of the church, and the strength of the church depends on the bonds
within every family. Therefore, building the church starts with building each
family. This is not just about cultivating a happy family, but, rather, a
blessed Christian family. In secular society, each family follows the culture
to which it belongs, but in the church, we follow the teachings of the Bible.
However, we sometimes confuse the culture of the church with that of society.
For example, in the United States, the state provides a childs education,
funded by taxes. Citizens can rest assured that paying their taxes will
guarantee their childrens right to education. Regrettably, some brethren apply
this concept to the church setting, thinking that their sole responsibility is
to offer tithes so that the church can provide religious education and foster
their childrens faith. This perspective, founded on societal norms, goes
against what we learn from the Bible.
As the proverb we
started with tells us, many resources are required to raise a child. Couples
spend so much time and energy parenting that their lives revolve around their
children. When it comes to instilling faith in our children, the church also
puts in much effort. However, if religious education does not begin at home,
then the church will struggle in this task. Indeed, parents cannot separate
themselves from the village and its responsibility. They are the most important
part of a childs community, playing the pivotal role in a childs upbringing and
faith. If parents fulfill their duty, then the church can bridge the gaps. The
church cannot replace the family in instituting religious education. Both
parties share the responsibility of raising the children in the faith.
THE LORD WHO BUILDS THE HOUSE
the Lord builds the house,
labor in vain who build it;
the Lord guards the city,
watchman stays awake in vain. (Ps 127:1)
focuses on building and guarding, which can be likened to establishing a
persons faith. In the context of a Christian family, to build a house is to
build the faith of our next generation, and to guard the city is to watch over
their faith. The psalmist also speaks of two types of strength: that of the
builder and the watchman, and that of God. Gods strength is needed even while
man discharges his duty. When man has worked to the best of his ability, God
will fill in the gaps, to complete what man cannot do on his own.
regardless of the effort invested into raising our children, we need Gods
mercy. We may plant and water, but God gives the increase. We must bring up our
children in the faithXthis is our dutyXbut the development of our childrens
faith rests with God. Only the all-powerful God can change peoples hearts. As
we rely on Him, we need to pray that He increases the faith of the next
generation. We should intercede on their behalf, just as Job regularly offered
burnt offerings for his children, in case they had sinned and cursed God in
their hearts (Job 1:5b).
We also have the
Bible as a guide to leading a godly life. God establishes all things, including
family units. The Bible reveals the principles God has determined for His
creation, but problems arise when men rebel against these principles. This is
why we see families breaking down. On the other hand, if we align ourselves to
Gods principles, He will bless our family and shower His mercy on us.
AND THESE WORDS YOU SHALL TEACH TO
Hear, O Israel: The LORD
our God, the LORD is one! You shall love
the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with
all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your
heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of
them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down,
and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they
shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the
doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut 6:4V9)
As part of
tradition, devout Jews would memorize and recite these verses. Verse 4 starts
with Hear, O IsraelXIsrael, meaning Prince of God, was the name God gave Jacob.
Being a prince is glorious; what more a prince of God? We, as princes of God,
have freely received this noble status and we must pass it on to the next
generation. Today, many esteem their cultural heritage, and invest time and
effort in passing it on to their children. Those residing outside their country
of birth will teach their children their mother tongue and cultural practices.
Likewise, we who hold the noble status of princes of God must esteem our
spiritual identity. Our earthly cultural roots may be important to us, but the
culture of our heavenly Father is even more precious.
describes three kinds of inheritance: children, material possessions, and God
Himself. Most of us desire to pass on to our children material security. We focus
on their education and academic achievements, hoping they will have good
careers and a high income. Understandably, most parents wish the best for their
children: abundant material possessions, and comfortable lives without
financial burdens. However, such possessions are not eternal. Only the unseen
things of God are eternal. To receive God as an inheritance is to receive
blessings on earth and eternal life, far exceeding the value material
possessions could bring.
It is imperative
we recalibrate our value system towards the things of God above. We may wish to
give our children what people of this world deem as valuable; but more
importantly, we must give them the best spiritual inheritance, that is, God
Himself. At times, we may view this heavenly value system as beyond us, and
irrelevant to our lives. But, actually, every decision we make reflects and
reveals our values for all to see, especially our children. For instance,
should we enroll our children in extracurricular enrichment classes on the Sabbath?
The Sabbath day is a day of rest and blessing from the Lord, a critical fact
emphasized in religious education. But if we choose to enroll our children in
such classes, our action advocates a value system that conflicts with biblical
teaching. We have to align ourselves to the values of God, even in simple
decisions, so we can demonstrate our beliefs and pass on the right values to
BEING ROLE MODELS
There may come a
time when our children no longer heed our words, leading us to conclude that
our only recourse is to pray for them. However, Deuteronomy 6 tells us that the
first step in educating our children is not with words, but with a lifestyle
that demonstrates our love for God (Deut 6:5). This love we have for God must
be manifested in action and become our way of life. In their formative years,
children often imitate their parents. If we lead a lifestyle of loving the Lord
with all our heart, soul, and strength, our children will most likely imitate
us to do likewise. Therefore, we must live a life of faith, and show our
children the practical aspects of our faith, daily. By demonstrating our faith
to our children and testifying to them the wonderful blessings we receive from
God, we will be setting a good example for them.
6:7, we learn that we need to teach our children in our house, when we walk,
when we lie down and when we rise up. This suggests spending time with them in
order to have teaching opportunities. A child is blessed if he can have his
mother or father by his side throughout the day. Although the family will have
less income, the stay-at-home parent can channel his or her love and wisdom
into raising the child. The Bible tells us that the hireling does not care for
the sheep as the shepherd does. Likewise, a nanny is not an adequate substitute
for a parent.
A critical and
indispensable platform in every Christian family is family service. This
service is a regular session where parents guide their children in Bible
reading and lead them in home worship. In Pauls letters to Timothy, he refers
to the younger mans early introduction to the faith:
[I thank God] when 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
and how 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 Tim
Timothy was a
third-generation believer, and his mother taught him the Scriptures from an
early age, establishing his life of faith. Similarly, if we set up a family
service and take every opportunity to share our faith with our children, we can
nurture their belief from a young age. Establishing a family service requires
having a daily schedule of Bible reading and praying together as a family. By
doing so, our children will develop a habit of cultivating themselves
spiritually, so they can remain rooted in the faith as they become more
independent. If the next generation recognizes the importance of reading the
Bible, they will have Gods word as a lamp to their feet and a light to their
path. If they know how to pray on their own, God will strengthen and move them.
A CHRISTIAN HOME
Deuteronomy 6:8V9, God says, You shall bind [these words] as a sign on your
hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on
the doorposts of your house and on your gates. We can interpret these verses as
instructions to establish a good Christian environment for our children.
Children are highly impressionable and the surroundings in which they grow up
will influence their character. The environment should remain an important
consideration even when they are choosing a university.
Should they enroll in a liberal college that will challenge their religious
values? Should they select a college that is far away from the nearest church?
Consenting to these choices is like sending our children into the wilderness.
Indeed, many seemingly strong youths have lost their faith because of their
decision to study at such colleges. As Christian parents, we must understand
that the best university may not be the one that is highest ranked or the most
prestigious, but the one where our childs faith can be strengthened.
In conclusion, we
have to guide our children towards God, to plant the seed of faith in them, and
to nurture that faith so that our God will become their God. As parents, we
have received this inheritance, our children, from God. Hence, we have a
responsibility towards our children and to God to ensure that we preserve them
in the faith. It can be an uphill task for us to be like Christ, so that our
children can imitate us. It may not be easy for them to see the goodness that
our life of faith brings, and for us to pass on our faith to our children.
However, let us remember that all things are possible through our Lord who
strengthens us. May Gods mercy continue to rain upon us so that we can instill
this faith in our future generations.