Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

What Parents Owe Their Children

Pastor’s Window for February, 2008

What Parents Owe Their Children

Beloved in the Lord, As my wife and I prepare for the birth of our first child, I have been spending some time studying and meditating on what our God has to say about parenting in the Holy Scriptures. What does it mean to be a faithful Christian parent? This is an important question not only for me to consider as a father, but to teach you about as your pastor. It may be difficult for you to take parenting advice from me, since I am new to parenting. But what I want to do in this article is tell you what the Holy Scriptures say, rather than giving you my own personal advice. In other words, this is not my personal opinion, but the Word and command of God. What does God say in His Word about the office of parenthood? What do parents owe their children?

Parenting is a vocation, a holy calling from God, and indeed, one of the most difficult to fulfill faithfully. It is also one of the most important God-given vocations. In the Table of Duties from the Small Catechism, Luther quotes St. Paul’s words from Eph. 6:4: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Luther’s Small Catechism [St. Louis: Concordia, 1986]). From this we learn that the most important responsibility given to parents by God is the spiritual formation of their children. This is reinforced in the Catechism as each chief part bears the heading, “As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.” This takes work. St. Paul calls it “training and instruction.” Other translations use the word “discipline” in place of “training.” Learning the faith is not all coloring books and crafts. It is also serious bookwork, learning the Holy Scriptures, the Catechism, the liturgy, and hymns by rote, so that these things become a part of the child’s heart language. This is why daily family devotions are so important. This is why you should encourage your child to do individual devotions as well. And this is why you should require your child to be with you in church, to pay attention and follow along in the hymnal, to attend Sunday School, Catechism Class, and be involved in the congregation. I can’t stress this enough. Too often I have heard parents in this congregation tell me, “You can’t require your children to participate in church. It will just drive them away. You’ll understand someday when you have kids.” Beloved, this is hogwash (yes, that is the correct theological terminology). This is a lie of your sinful flesh attempting to let you off the hook of having to do something hard, that is, be a parent to your children. Repent. You have a responsibility, a command from God, to make sure your children are learning the faith, even if they don’t want to. You owe such spiritual leadership to your children. There is also this promise attached to the command: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6; ESV). It is true that not every child of faithful Christian parents remains in the faith. Children have to believe for themselves. But children who are given a thorough grounding in the faith from early childhood are much more likely to remain in their baptismal faith throughout their lives.

Of course, you also have a responsibility to provide for your children’s physical and emotional needs. You should love your children, feed them, clothe them, provide a roof over their heads. Our heavenly Father is our model: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desires of every living thing” (Psalm 145:15-16). This providing also includes discipline. Why is our culture in need of a show like Super Nanny? Because parents have forgotten that the discipline of children is their responsibility and charge from God. We need a television show to remind us of this. But the Bible has always been clear: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Prov. 13:22). Parents who use verses like this to justify abusing their children are certainly sinning and acting outside of their vocation. But God-pleasing discipline is not optional for Christian parents. It is for the good of our children. Here again our heavenly Father Himself is our model: “we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them… For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but [God] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Heb. 12:9-10). You are not called to be your children’s buddy. You are called to be their parent. Sometimes you have to do things that do not please them, but hopefully as they grow older, they will respect you for it, and perhaps even thank you.

As earthly parents, we are never perfect. We often fail and fall into the sinful trap of doing what is easiest or most convenient. So as earthly parents, we cast ourselves as children on the mercy of our loving Father, who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him into death for our forgiveness. We repent, confess our sins to God, receive His forgiveness, and go back to our vocations praying for God’s grace to do better. God is always a faithful Father to us. We are His own children in Holy Baptism. He gives us the strength to do what we are called to do as Christian parents.

The Peace of the Lord be with you all,
Pastor Krenz


Anonymous pooja said...

nice article...and yes, being a parent is hard, but it’s also a matter of perspective...:)

1:50 AM  

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