History as well as experience teaches us that it is much easier for children to imitate the vices and weaknesses of their parents than it is to emulate their virtues, and that the sins of the parents are frequently perpetuated in their children. This was true of Isaac—the son of Abraham and Sarah—who, without doubt, did walk in a path nearly identical to that of his father Abraham. The readiness with which Isaac followed in the way of his father (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18; 26:1-11) is a significant truth for Christian parents today.
While some of the behavior that Isaac copied from his father Abraham is not in any way advisable for us or for our children, we must be willing as godly or Christian parents, to allow our children to sometimes fail and to grow in the way God has purposed. Much as we would prefer it otherwise, our children cannot begin to relate to God on the level of our own walk. They must start at the beginning. This is the best way we can help them grow in their walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is no doubt that training up a child or children in the way of wisdom to live in the fear of God is a big challenge to most Christian parents. But Christian parents “who are engaged and active in a Church community are more likely to have children who will find ways to participate in the Christian community at large.” As previously pointed out, “parents and Churches have a big responsibility to help their children know they have gifts, talents, and inspiration that are not only welcome in the community, but are in fact very vital to it. If the Lord Jesus Christ truly inspires the parents, then, they should inspire their children.”
As Christian parents, the best way for us to help our children grow up in Christ is when we ourselves are growing in Christ. We are to constantly examine our own heart and our own life to see if it is something to look up to (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:5). Then when our child or children looks at us, their parents, they will see their future—how it’s going to look.
In other words, if we want our children to walk in our footsteps or their lives to mirror our own, then it is an awesome responsibility that we have as parents. But our footsteps must be such that we would want them to walk in—that is, to always walk in the path of obedience and submission to the will of God.
Not only that, if we truly want our children to be a part of the kingdom of God, then our lights must shine among them so that they will see the good things that we do (Matthew 5:16) and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), thereby escaping from the trap of the Devil who would want them to obey his will (cf. 2 Timothy 2:26).
As previously said, children, although will sometimes make the same mistakes that we have made (as with the case of Isaac imitating his father). However, they must be allowed to grow and come to a more mature faith and trust in the God who has called them by having a personal relationship with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ.
To train up a child to walk in the way of the Lord or in the way he or she should go, and when the child is old, he or she will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6), requires a lot of discipline. As we know, no discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it is painful; but afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living. But discipline must go hand in hand with steadfast love. Since the Lord corrects those He loves, Christian parents should also correct a child or the children in whom they delight (Proverbs 3:11-12). They are to discipline their children with consistency, wisdom, and love (Hebrews 12:5-11), and not show favoritism between children as did, for example, Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 25:28), and as Jacob infamously showed favor to his son Joseph over all his other sons (see Genesis 37:1-36). Parents who are too indulgent do not help their children develop godly character. We must not honor our children more than the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Samuel 2:29; see Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26).
While it is very natural in parents sometimes to love the youngest child, or feel partial to their children who excel in school or in talents or are friendly and pleasant, such a practice or distinction is dangerous and always lead to unhappy consequences in the family. Parental favoritism, beyond doubt, is a dangerous practice; in fact, it is a common source of division in families and should be avoided. It causes lifetime effects, and has unhealthy emotional impact on all children, whether favored or not.
Godly parenting is not an easy or a simple task! Finding a parenting style is a matter being honest with oneself; it is a matter of understanding, interpreting, and applying the word of truth—God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15). Notwithstanding, no parenting skill, no parenting style, and no parenting guide is a guarantee or has all the answers or all that it takes to help train up a child in a godly manner and the child will not depart from it when he or she is old. Even the best parents, with all their skills and knowledge, cannot guarantee a child’s future spiritual choice; it is easy for Christian parents to become confused and uncertain at times.
But God’s divine power has given us everything we need to train up our children to live a truly godly life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share in His own glory and goodness—the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus has given us the very great and precious gifts He promised, so that by means of these gifts we may escape from the destructive lust that is in the world, and may come to share the divine nature (1 Peter 1:3-4).
For this very reason we Christian parents must do our best to add goodness to our faith; to our goodness we add knowledge; to our knowledge we add self-control; to our self-control we add endurance; to our endurance we add godliness; to our godliness we add Christian affection; and to our Christian affection we add love. These are the qualities we need, and if we have them in abundance, they will make us active and effective in raising our children in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But if we do not have them, we are so shortsighted that we cannot see and cannot genuinely give our children a wonderful spiritual education that would help them live for Christ (cf. 1 Peter 1:5-9).
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