Children, obey your parents in the Lord, … fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
The instructions of the household table of Ephesians 5:22-6:9 now passes from wives and husbands to children and fathers. It is interesting that, as Paul writes to a local congregation, he does not merely address elders or even just men, but women and children, as well. Since he addresses both children and their parents, we can presume that Paul expects whole families – fathers, mothers, and children to come together in public worship to hear the Word. That children should be given direct and special instructions in a section of Scripture of their own, demonstrates a sharp contrast between the church of Jesus Christ and the Roman Empire, which treated children with callous cruelty. Throughout the Roman Empire, unwanted babies were abandoned, weak and deformed ones were killed, and even healthy children were considered a nuisance, as they inhibited sexual promiscuity and complicated divorce proceedings.
The world has always hated children. Whenever a tyrant was raised up to lead a nation or empire, there has often been associated with his reign, the systematic murder of children. We see this in Exodus 1:22, where Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you shall cast into the river” In like manner, around the time of Jesus’ birth, Herod the king of Judea, put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under (Mt 2:16-17). Today, we live in a society that is becoming increasingly anti-life – its arsenal being contraception, pre-marital sex, cohabitation, abortion, and euthanasia. We have killed over 50 million babies in our nation since Roe v. Wade made it legal in 1973. We have a president who, while he was a senator, insisted on voting against a law that would protect live babies born as a result of botched abortions. In Europe, the average birthrate per household has sunk to the place where there are not enough births to sustain the next generation – this is soon becoming the case in the US as well.
There is a rule of society – that whatever it values, it accumulates; while what it dislikes, it seeks to eradicate. We seek bigger and more televisions, cars, vacations, and free time – of these, we can’t get enough. Headaches however, we take aspirin to get rid of. What are we to conclude about a society that has, in the same time period, seen the average house size double while birthrates per household cut in half? Does this not indicate, as Kevin Swanson says, “we love drywall more than we love children?” Never! We love children … as long as we have two or less, after that their value seems to decrease; conventional worldly wisdom starts to ask, “can you really afford another mouth to feed?” How differently our society views children compared to the Bible. Psalms 128:3 says, Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine … your children like olive plants all around your table. And Psalms 127:4-5: Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. What the world sees as another mouth to feed, the Bible sees as olive trees with the great potential to bear fruit.
God commissions parents, and in particular fathers, with the responsibility to raise children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, so that they might bear fruit for the kingdom of God. Where are the fathers who are resolute to see to it, that their children will impact the God’s kingdom on earth? Where will this vision come from in the 42% of children who are born without a father? How about the 64% “latch-key kids,” – who will teach them? Will young men ever pick their heads up from their video games and cell phones long enough to take this charge seriously? Is there any hope for us, in the midst of a society that despises children and spurns life itself? The answer is “yes,” but only as God’s new society, the church, with new values and new loves, stands apart and against what the rest of the world values. Only as God’s church seeks to be radically different from the surrounding world, in our philosophy concerning life and family, can we find hope. Only as we seek to live Biblically and establish Biblical order in our households, can we hope to have any brilliance in our future.
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