Ever notice how detailed the Bible is in recording God's commands to parents in regard to the training of their children in spiritual issues? (In the interest of space, I will not quote the entire passages - please read them in your Bible).
Deuteronomy 4:8-11 - 9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. . . .
Deuteronomy 11:18-21 - 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. . . .
Proverbs 22:6 - Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Ephesians 6:4 - Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Years of observation have shown that in the community of the Church there are relatively few parents who even come close to listening to these commands. In fact, the neglect is rampant - in the first place, many parents surrender their responsibility for training up their children to Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and others like these. And even more incredible is the attitude that religion is something that should not be pressed upon children, but the child should have the freedom to choose whether or not they will accept the ways of God for their life - and these are the same parents who wouldn't dream of having the child choose their own clothes in the morning.
What prompted my thinking in this area is the frustration of Church and youth leaders, as well as Sunday school teachers who are constantly competing with the organizers of community activities which are more and more in conflict with the times that traditionally belonged to the Church. Not too long ago young children's activities were never scheduled to conflict with Sunday school, Worship time, and youth activities in the Church - but as it became easier for the non-church activity sponsors to get the Christian parents to opt their children out of Church on Sunday, the scheduling of such activities became common. And the trend now is for parents in such cases to begin to demand that Church activities be scheduled around their busy schedule.
One of the disturbing factors is that the activities the children are being made to participate in are activities that have no real present or future value for the kids - some being sports activities where the children have no discernible talent, and will never benefit from them in real life. And, in fact, many of these children get on to the team, yet often are not even inserted in the line-up.
But sports is not the only thing that takes children and adults from Bible training, worship and Christian character development. The focus on temporal achievements in general and success and recreation in other areas is just as, if not more, compelling. Our generation is not the first to struggle with these issues. In the New Testament we find two incidents where Jesus showed the same kind of frustration - we have to understand that when something affected Jesus in this way, it had to be serious. The one incident was close to the end of Jesus' life. He looked over the city of Jerusalem and exclaimed: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate (Matthew 23:37- 38; Luke 13:34-35). Perhaps we can update the verse this way: "Parents, parents, you have devalued the Church and her ministries, how often I have longed to gather you and your children for learning how to live and pray and study God's word, but you were not willing. Look, your family is turning into another spiritual tragedy."
The other time that Jesus was moved to sadness was when He was dealing with those who overvalued the things of the world and showed relatively little interest in spiritual things: Matthew 16: 24-27: Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done (Mark 8:35-37; Luke 9:24-26).
One of the most difficult concepts to grasp and apply is that of present sacrifices for future benefits - especially if those benefits are expected outside of the present life. In our love for one another, especially for our children, it is really difficult to stand in the way of immediate gratification; especially if the thought is that the children will miss out on the joys and benefits of this life.
It is at this point that one has to stand back, look at life from outside the present context, and understand the contrast between the temporal and the eternal. In our humanly programmed concept of time, it is absolutely impossible to conceive the full implication of eternity. It is for that reason that we have to apply conscious diligence to faith, and believe, as God teaches, that once the transition is made into the life beyond the grave, there is no going back (read the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31).
There are two serious issues that must be brought to mind if any of us are in a situation being considered. In the first place, there are bona fide Christians who are guilty of this type of spiritual atrocity. This presents such people with inevitable consequences - none of which are to be desired. This is an insult and an offense to God, it is a misappropriation of spiritual talents and it is a stumbling block in the way of a good testimony for Jesus and the faith. Secondly (and this is what should generate some type of holy fear within the heart of parents, and all those who conspire in the way of keeping people from godly exercises), the day of reckoning is on its way, and many of those who were kept from spiritual training will be eternally expelled from the presence of God. Would any of us dare to imagine someone saying to us, "Why did you do this to me?" Maybe this even being one of our children!
There are many things in this life that are serious business, but nothing is as serious as one's relationship with God. There are many conditions in this life that inflict prolonged pain or regret, but none as painful and regretful as an eternity in hell! For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).
("From the Pulpit" is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association)