Foundations For the Family

There seems to be no end to the tide or severity of violence and immorality in our nation. Real acts of terrorism and terroristic threats in our public school system are exceeded only by the violence committed against our children in every other public arena. Even home is not a safe haven for our children as criminals are bold enough to snatch children from their beds while asleep or from their yards while they play (e.g., Danielle van Dam abducted from her 2nd floor bedroom on Feb 1, 2002 in San Diego, Calif.  Evidence of her murder was found almost 3 weeks later with a 50 year old neighbor two doors down from her house.)

Where are the advocates of our children and their future as a nation? The answer to this question, or lack thereof, betrays the condition of the institutions of our nation ordained by God to promote social order and justice. Our civil government wants you to believe that it cares about our children (give us a Village!!) yet continues to fund the murder of 1.5 million children a year. It has not only thrown off its godly heritage but continues its 130-year war against the very foundations of our Constitution. The resulting immorality, violence and lawlessness is paving the way for continued erosion of our constitutional freedoms as a vocal support for the disarming the citizenry grows.

The Church in America has lost her way. As Keith Green sang some 20 years ago, she is “asleep in the light.” Having succumbed to the modernist worldview, she stopped building hospitals, orphanages, and universities 75 years ago and is now reaping the fruit of her shift in theology: social irrelevance. Her only hope is for Jesus to come back soon and rescue her from the mess. A whole generation sat in waiting and her only vision for the next generation is for them to fill the seats of the previous generation.

In the midst of this chaos, the family is suffering from an identity crisis. Who can say what the acceptable family norm will be tomorrow? For sure, the traditional family of male-husband- provider/female-wife-homemaker/loyal-children-with hearts at home is looked upon with scorn and disdain. While the average divorce rate is now 50% (in and out of the Church), most have bought into an economic system that makes it almost impossible for the wife not to work. The consequence of society’s selling out is a trickle down effect on the family. The wife’s loyalty is split, the average number of children per household has diminished to 1.7, and each family member develops their separate interests and life schedule. No leadership. No vision. No expression of calling. No purpose. No connection from one generation to the next.

Thus, “we the people” have thrown off the objective constitutional principles that ruled our nation for nearly 100 years in exchange for a New World order. The Church in America has thrown off the objective standards of God’s word in exchange for a feminized, emotionalized, introverted, and self-centered form of religion that denies the real power thereof. The family is left at the mercy of a power hungry state, a never satisfied consumer oriented economy, an ever-threatening judicial system, and no where to turn except into the relentless momentum of societal decay and perdition.

The breakdown of our social order, as personified by the breakdown of the various institutions, can only be understood in terms of God’s hand of judgement against a society who has abandoned His ordained standards of rule in exchange for nothing. Like Eve, we have made covenant with the Devil. Accordingly, God, in His mercy, is driving us from the garden.

It is the hope of rearing a generation that might make a significant difference in the course of our nation that moves many of us to the crazy endeavors we find ourselves engaged in, such as home schooling. While we may feel overwhelmingly hopeless in having any impact on the course of the national government and may feel overwhelmingly helpless with the course of the Church, many of us have determined that we can and will direct the course of our smaller society, our family.

Godly leadership of our family requires godly government just as it does in the larger societies of church and state. Government provides the expression of comprehension and application of one’s calling and destiny. It is the way people organize themselves in order to fulfill a purpose. Accordingly, neither the purpose of man nor the standards by which he organizes can be left to the discretion of man if he is to accomplish his God-given calling.

The best model of familial leadership is the rule and reign of Jesus Christ over His Church. Just as Jesus is head over His Church, so the husband is head over his family. Just as Jesus serves and loves the Church, so the husband is to serve and love his family. From His example, as expressed by the Westminster Larger Catechism answer to question #45, we can find at least six characteristics of godly leadership that apply directly to parental leadership of the family.

Identity and Distinctiveness

First, Jesus calls a people out of the mass of mankind to be a separate and peculiar people, holy, and set apart for the glory of God. He does this by virtue of His covenant established with His Church and expressed by the related sacraments of circumcision and Passover of the Old Testament and baptism and the Lords’ supper of the New Testament.

One might consider the proliferation of youth gangs as a perversion of the God-given desire to be identified with something larger than ourselves. While expressing the need for identification, the fact that gangs organize under differing flags of colors and symbols reveals the need to be distinct while a part of a larger group.

Our families should not only exhibit the characteristics of membership to the larger body of Christ but should also exhibit qualities that are peculiar and distinctive to the individual family. Distinctive qualities are going to develop within the family as the members begin to express the callings and giftings of their Christian faith. For example, when I think of certain families I automatically associate them with certain activities such as chess, music, team sports, or hospitality. Other distinctives may be less evident to outsiders as the family develops traditions connected with holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and travel.

The wise parent identifies and captures the distinctives and traditions of his family in order to build within his children a sense of identity that is distinctively theirs and centered around the family. By this the parent is then able to call his children out of the norm of society that surrounds the family and into standards of behavior and ethics that his family can recognize as uniquely theirs.

That is not to say that every family member must share the same interests, but it is the challenge and duty of the parent to integrate the pursuits and likes of each member into the family as a whole. It is to say that the hobbies and interests of individual family members cannot dictate the life and schedule of the family. The more family members there are the more important this becomes, especially as the family recognizes that resources of time and money are limited. Therefore, the family is more efficient when the parents direct the activities of the family members rather than allowing them to develop and pursue interests individually.

Law and Order

Second, Jesus equips His Church with officers, laws, and censures and, thereby, establishes law and order. In the family, the husband serves as the head of his wife and, therefore, of the family. The husband is commanded to love his wife, the wife is commanded to respect her husband, and the children are commanded to honor both father and mother. Thus a hierarchical structure is established as well as the underlying law that governs the life of the family.

As an officer of the family, the husband is responsible to establish, apply, and enforce God’s law as objectively set forth in scripture. For some of us such a statement sends chills of legalism up our spiritual spines. There has been so much more emphasis placed on the God of grace at the expense of the God of law that one would think the two are exclusive and contradictory. The fact is that every family has some sort of standard of behavior established even if the accepted standard is no standard at all. The only question is whose standard is in force. The only acceptable standard is God’s.

Good government is designed to promote order. Order and discipline are necessary elements of successful home schooling. Accordingly, godly parents will establish laws of the home that are objective, proactive in that they will produce the results desired by the parents, and ones that can and will be consistently applied through time and for each of the family members.

Laws that are objective are ones that transcend the parents. In other words, they are not self-serving or arbitrary. They are set upon a foundation of objective values. When I think of objective household laws I think of Greg Harris’ “21 Rules of This House.” His list, found on more home schooling refrigerators than the 10 Commandments, serves as a standard of behavior that is known and agreed upon in advance. Therefore, enforcement becomes a matter of social order in the house rather than emotional reactions to circumstances encountered by the family.

Likewise, because the rules are in plain writing and agreed upon in advance, certain behavior that would normally trigger emotional outbursts by the parents can be avoided all together. That is what is meant by laws that are proactive. If the parents desire to have a home where the children respect each other and do not pester or fight, that standard should be established in advance and becomes a rule of the house. If it is violated the offender is punished accordingly, no questions asked. Thus, planning and vision is a requirement of the proactive parent.

Consistency in application and enforcement is an important aspect of law in the household. Just as it was once held that no one is above the laws of our nation, so should it be that no one is above the laws of the house. If it is against the laws of the house for the kids to curse, spit, lie, pester, tease, and fight so it is to be for the parents. Application and enforcement can then be routine and without prejudice.

The importance of objective laws consistently applied throughout the household becomes more evident as our children reach the age of challenging the system. If the system wreaks of inconsistencies and arbitrariness, the child will most likely jettison the system as quickly as possible in lieu of another system. However, if the system is held up and defended as one that transcends the parents and is evidenced by justice, the child is more apt to recognize part or all of the system in their adult life.

Blessings and Curses

Third, Jesus rewards the obedience of His people and corrects them for their sins. The family is the first place that a person learns that there are consequences associated with obedience and disobedience. Likewise, the family is the training ground for children in repentance and forgiveness.

Almost without exception, young children possess the desire to please their parents and will conform to the standards of the family in the attempt to gain approval. Proactive parents exploit this God-given desire, openly rewarding family members for obedience in order to the established family standards.

A significant facet of Jesus’ leadership of His Church is that disobedience brings more than just punishment. Disobedience is not merely punished, but rather, the punishment is coupled with instruction and correction so as to bring forth change, or repentance, in the child. In theological circles this process of the Holy Spirit is called sanctification. In the family it is called child training. Discipline without corrective instruction is more apt to result in anger and resentment. Absolutely parents are to discipline and then correct, instruct, and model proper behavior.

It is true that standards of behavior are better when established on principles rather than specific actions. Otherwise, the list of 21 will eventually envelop the refrigerator. That is, respect of persons and property is the principle. Specific actions, such as rolling eyes, violate the principle of respect. Accordingly, discipline should be explained as violations of the principle and not just the specific incident. Rather than telling the child he is being punished for rolling his eyes at you, he should be told that he is being punished for disrespecting you as evidenced by the rolling of his eyes. This is difficult for younger children who have yet to reach the age of abstract thinking, but it is nonetheless an important aspect of training them to connect principles of righteousness with right living.

Thus the 21 rules of the house can be reduced back to the original 10 Commandments of the Bible and posted on the refrigerator for all to read and observe. In the above example, the child learns that rolling one’s eyes at parents is a violation of God’s 5th law that commands children to honor their father and mother. Accordingly, he begins the process of understanding and applying God’s law in a broader scope than most of us were taught to do.

Discipline is not complete until the offender expresses sincere remorse for his behavior. In our house, the offense is explained to the offender and punishment administered. The offender is then expected to express his remorse to the one offended by acknowledging the offensive behavior, expressing sorrow, and asking for forgiveness. If the child does not seem sincerely sorrowful, we start over. If the offense includes damage to property, restitution may be expected. The one offended is then expected to extend sincere forgiveness to the offender.

Fairly quickly, the offense is behind everyone and life goes on. That is not to say that there are not future consequences to be suffered for the offense. It depends on the offense. However, the goal is to administer justice quickly, forgiveness asked for and received, and have the offender quickly restored to fellowship in the family. That being done, then the whole family can support and encourage the offender to work through whatever further consequences lay ahead.

Maintain and Sustain

Fourth, Jesus maintains and sustains His people in their temptations. It is unfortunate that families see the desire to please and the willingness to conform wane in their children at an increasingly younger age. Pressures to go one’s own way, to disobey the rules, to conform to another standard, to give one’s heart to someone else, etc…. come against the family members from many avenues.

It is the duty of the parents and in the best interest of the children to closely guard and nurture their hearts. Alert parents recognize signs of pressure on their children to conform to other standards. Influences most often come from age peers who introduce ideas of dress, music, attitudes, and behavior that the child would not have been confronted with in the home.

When behavior is exhibited that does not conform to the family standard (e.g., rolling eyes in disrespect, failure to acknowledge verbally when given instructions, disrespectful words to a sibling or parent) the parent determined to preserve his child’s heart will quickly and openly confront the behavior and guide their child to the right standard. The difficulty for most parents is quick, consistent, and diligent confrontation of bad behavior. Let’s face it – it’s a lot easier to ignore them or let it slide this time. It’s not as if nothing else is going on in our life except constantly confronting the sinful nature of our children. The problem is that our children are not mature enough or strong enough to battle their sin nature alone, nor should they have to. Our children need parents who will faithfully sustain them in the battle against their own evil desires. They cannot do it for themselves. There is no one else who is going to sustain them in their times of weakness.

Often bad behavioral patterns have already set in before the parents notice the child’s turn to poor behavior. Those cases demand diligent perseverance with the child as both parent and child work through the hard lessons of life. It is these times that we pray and depend on the Holy Spirit to bring to fruition the years of biblical instruction sown into the child’s life at an early age.

Serve and Protect

Fifth, Jesus restrains and overcomes all His people’s enemies. The best service a parent can give to his children is to diligently restrain them from their natural tendency toward foolish behavior. Foolishness is the number one enemy of our children. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of every child and the godly parent is determined to drive it far from his child.

As if it’s not enough that there are dangers from within our children’s heart, the multitude of enemies without, all striving for the life and allegiance of our children, can be overwhelming. These enemies are apt to reside where we might least expect it: The Christian novels we let our girls read, the earphones of the walkman we let our boys listen to without supervision, under the mattress of our church’s deacon whose son our son plays with, the home school and church youth group, etc… These and many more work at a constant pace to gain the attention and allegiance of our family members, sew seeds of discontentment and discord, and promote ideologies and philosophies that are anti-Christian.

It is not that we can or should insulate and isolate our children from every potential danger of the world or to presume that there is a demon lurking behind every tree. But it is crucial for parents to realize and acknowledge that we are in a struggle – purity vs. evil – for the very hearts of our children. As godly leaders of our household, our family depends on us to recognize the dangers that entice our family toward ruin and to respond to the enemy accordingly. Husbands, I can’t say it strong enough: Our wife and children DEPEND on us. It is our duty. There is no other. Godly parents cannot ignore, abdicate, or deny their responsibility to protect their children. The stakes – the hearts of our children – are too high to do so.

Planing and Vision

Finally, Jesus orders all things for the good of His own. This may be a little difficult for a mortal man who is not omniscient or omnipotent as is the case of our Lord. However, it is the duty of the parents, with as much grace as the Lord provides them, to direct the interests and activities of their children with some sort of goal or vision for the future.

We know of a family who, when their children were young, were concerned to see how easily young people switched their allegiance from parents and family to outside peers. Our friends, from their children’s early age, determined that it would be different with their own children. They determined a strategy – keep the kids so busy they won’t have the time or desire for things away from the family. Their means was predominantly, though not exclusively, sports. The key difference for this family, I believe, is that whatever activity was for the day, it was done as a family. If softball, everybody played softball. If golf, most everyone was on the course. If chess, the whole family was involved in the chess club. Their success to maintain the heart’s of their children into and through the teenage years should cause us to give their strategy serious consideration.

Too much of the Church has bought into the humanistic idea of a laissez faire, a nonintervention, approach with their children. Let them drift mindlessly along and they will eventually stumble across something that perks their interest. When that happens, then jump in there and encourage them. Unfortunately, the child is more apt to choose an unprofitable path than not. The result is wasted resources of time and money in a cause that normally only serves to drive the heart of the child farther from the family. Additionally, if the family has more than the average number of children, the parents soon find themselves going in many different directions. The Bible assures us that a people without knowledge, a vision, a word from God will perish. Praise God that is not how Jesus rules His Church or should it be the way parents rule their family.

Conclusion

The war is raging at full force and right at the front door of our homes. The spoils, the hearts of our children, lay in the balance of parents whose vigilance, or lack thereof, to train the next generation for battle determines the number of wounded, dead, and taken prisoner. Too many of the Church’s youth have been taken without even a fight - POWs to a godless society with no one even raising a complaint. Worse yet are the ones actually betrayed and given over to the enemy by those who claim to be allies.

Other parents use isolation as the means of preserving their children. Isolation is certainly a good strategy, obviously better than no strategy at all, and has produced a large number of young people who have preserved purity of heart, mind, and body into the young adult years. In addition, they have done so while gaining the maturity, wisdom, and resistance that will give them the upper edge for staving off the attacks of the enemy who strive to drive them in a different direction.

However, I believe parents will have to offer more than isolation if it is their desire to see generations raised up who not only maintain integrity but actually advance against the enemy, turning the wisdom of man into foolishness and taking thoughts captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. It will take parents who govern and rule their families, calling their family out of the mediocrity of the world, establishing and modeling a system of law and order that transcends mortal man, administering justice that exceeds the wisdom of man, being attentive to the weaknesses of our family that we might encourage and support them, being in their company battling with them against their enemies, and imparting vision – sharing our dreams with them that they might have hope for the future.

Families who have chosen home schooling have already chosen a radically different path of child rearing. But for those who home school out of conviction, it is only the beginning. The same convictions that caused us to look to home schooling also causes us to look at other facets of our family and the way in which we respond to the world around us. They are convictions that cause us to be concerned. They are convictions that cause us to persevere. They are convictions that cause us to hope. Whatever else they may do, they call us to vigilant attention to the high calling of representing Him in the care and training of His children.


Fortifying
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Patrick L. Hurd
Weatherford, Texas
PHurdWford@AOL.com

EST. 01/01/01