One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. Romans 14:5-9
"So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." One of my pastors, Matthew Brooks preached a sermon, The Beauty of Belonging, based on this scripture from the book of Romans. Pastor Brooks reminded us that our children belong to the Lord and asked us to reflect on what we will do with our children this year. It was poignant for him to ask this question of his flock considering that he had buried his infant son, taken by sickness unexpectedly, just days earlier. He certainly takes joy in the fact that his son was never really their own and belonged to His heavenly father. The Brooks' deeply treasured and enjoyed their days with their young son, but they also mourn the loss of the days on this earth that they wouldn't be spending with him. I took Pastor Brooks' challenge to heart; it is a topic that has been on my mind since the day I became a mother: What should I do with my kids?
That question presents a seeming contrast. On one hand, scripture instructs parents to train their children in the way they should go and promises that they will not depart from those ways when they are older. On the other hand, scripture reminds me that children belong to the Lord. In my Evangelical days, I was taught in no uncertain terms that my children's salvation was in my own hands. As a Lutheran, I am taught that God works faith through His proclaimed Word like the unrelenting waters of a hurricane flood. I am to continually point my children ever to the Word for their conviction and salvation.
What should I do with my kids? I desire for my kids to recognize their sinful state, learn the JOY of their salvation, grow strong in the faith that is Christ Jesus and live contented and meaninful lives. My husband and I bring them to the Word and surround them with the Word, provide catechism at home, school and church, love and pray for them. Yet, far too often, I become discouraged. They sin and I become discouraged; we, as parents, sin and I despair. Satan then uses that discouragement and despair to pull us away from the Word, as I start to use my reason to determine that my childrn actually need me to explain to them how awful they are. As if God needs my help in explaining that to them! Quickly, reliably and lovingly, God restores my faith and trust in Him as the owner of us all. We belong to Him. In many ways, I am my children's sister in Christ, as much as their earthly mother. I, too, am a sinner in need of a Savior. My job as their sister in Christ is to herd them back to the Word, in that loving and enticing way that only a parent knows how to do.
In his preface to the Larger Catechism, Luther discussed my very attempts and failures. He also reassures me that even he still needed to study every day. He wrote:
But for myself I say this: I am also a doctor and preacher, yea, as learned and experienced as all those may be who have such presumption and security; yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism, and every morning, and whenever I have time, I read and say, word for word, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Psalms, etc. And I must still read and study daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and am glad so to remain.
In his sermon prefacing the Large Catechism, Luther begins:
Luther goes on to list the things that a parent should be sure to instruct to his children, at the bare minimum: the Ten Commandments, the Creed and the Lord's Prayer. Luther's Small and Large Catechism are tools that every part should use! You can read them online and/or order a copy for your home.
This sermon is designed and undertaken that it might be an instruction for children and the simple-minded. Hence of old it was called in Greek catechism, i.e., instruction for children, what every Christian must needs know, so that he who does not know this could not be numbered with the Christians nor be admitted to any Sacrament, just as a mechanic who does not understand the rules and customs of his trade is expelled and considered incapable. Therefore we must have the young learn the parts which belong to the Catechism or instruction for children well and fluently and diligently exercise themselves in them and keep them occupied with them.Therefore it is the duty of every father of a family to question and examine his children and servants at least once a week and to ascertain what they know of it, or are learning and, if they do not know it, to keep them faithfully at it. For I well remember the time, indeed, even now it is a daily occurrence that one finds rude, old persons who knew nothing and still know nothing of these things, and who, nevertheless, go to Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and use everything belonging to Christians, notwithstanding that those who come to the Lord's Supper ought to know more and have a fuller understanding of all Christian doctrine than children and new scholars. However, for the common people we are satisfied with the three parts, which have remained in Christendom from of old, though little of it has been taught and treated correctly until both young and old who are called and wish to be Christians, are well trained in them and familiar with them.
I once wrote to my pastor regarding parenting advice and he responded with the following:
Blessings in Him who was the perfect child and through whom we have access to the perfect parent - our heavenly Father - Jesus!
What does the Bible say about parenting? Your first and primary responsibility is wrapped up with the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. Before we give our children anything else, it's bringing them to the Means of Grace, the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, and the working of the Holy Spirit.
The very best thing I ever did for my 5 children was bring them to the waters of Baptism. Honestly, I could give them the best of the whole world, but everything, everything pales in comparison to bringing them to Jesus and Jesus to them. "What does a man gain if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul..." Jesus says (Mt 16:26).
The sole of parenting is really attached to the soul. I believe that governs everything. How will this effect the eternal soul? is a good question always to ask. That governs setting definite expectations and consequences, communication - use of Law and Gospel,marital example, Christian example, etc., etc.
In Rev. 14:13 it mentions that we will rest from our labors and our "works" will follow us when we go to heaven. What can we take with us from this earth - PEOPLE, especially the ones the Lord's entrusted to us in our homes.
Thanks to excellent teaching from my pastors, I am able to find strength in parenting teens. I am able to say to my kids each day:
I am a sinner. You are, too. Together we are hopeless and will keep sinning for the rest of our lives. We belong to God, but are separated from him by our sin. We are bound for hell because we can't enter heaven unless we are perfect. However, God still loves me and you. He desires to spend eternity with Him in heaven. In an incredible and unfathomable act of love and grace, he gave us His son, Jesus Christ, as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. We have been saved! Rejoice! We can now enter heaven! Share this good news with others!