Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long… Exodus 20.12
Too often, it seems to me, we stop here at the Ten Commandments, when we are considering children in our family relationships. We want our children to obey, to respect, to honor, but perhaps not much more. We want them to “be seen and not heard.” We believe in “spare the rod and spoil the child.” Children should know their place. All of these things are true, but in the Bible (and in life) there is so much more for children to know, to do and to fulfill.
- Samuel was a boy who ministered to the Lord (1 Samuel 3). In fact, he heard from God when no one else did. Eli, the priest did not hear God, but a boy did. Children today can hear the voice of God as well, if we will teach them to and allow it.
- Jeremiah was called by God, even before he was conceived (Jeremiah 1.5). There are great things in store for people (children) even from the earliest ages. Do not diminish what your children are destined to accomplish for God’s glory.
- Jesus welcomed children in his group (Matthew 19.14). Not only did Jesus teach them, include them and admonish the disciples for their treatment of children, he also touched them, held them and blessed them.
- It was a young boy, who was almost arrested along with Jesus at the end of his life (Mark 14.51-52). We sometimes get over-protective of our children. They should be allowed to follow Jesus and take risks for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
- Young people can have leadership roles in the church (1 Timothy 4.12). Be careful to not overlook those who are gifted and called for ministry just because they are younger than you expect them to be. God calls people regardless of their age.
Everything that has gone before applies to young people generally and not necessarily to children in the context of their families. However, all these things are true in families as well. I was fortunate as a child to have parents who listened to me and believed that I could accomplish great things for God. They nurtured me and my relationship with God. They listened to me and offered guidance and correction from time to time. Let me assure you that I was not excused from chores, family responsibilities, obedience or respect. I was well-rounded in all those ways. The rod was not spared in my childhood home. I knew when I was to be quiet and when I could speak out. But I never sensed that I was not respected and loved.
The same should be true for our children. We must love and nurture them. Teach them respect. And allow them to blossom in whatever ways God calls them. Who knows: The next Billy Graham may be living in your house or attending your church. Wouldn’t that be a great thing?