In the ancient Hebrew world, the Israelites certainly knew their freedom could be taken from them. They had experienced it essentially from the founding of their existence. They knew it was possible for cultures, societies and governments to take away their ability to gather and worship.
Much of their history was spent in the condition of little to no freedom to gather and worship God together. Can a people continue to worship and grow without the option of meeting publicly? Without paid spiritual leaders, can spirituality flourish? People continue to worship and grow in the absence of spiritual leaders only if the foundation of their life of faith is dependent not on the public meeting but on the core of the family.
The Israelites understood the practicality of God’s teaching found in Deuteronomy Chapter 6: the truths of who God is and who we are must be taught in the home. We must be the main voice for spiritual teaching, and we must make the time for these conversations regularly and consistently. It is almost impossible to overestimate the importance of the parent’s role as spiritual leader for their family, especially if we desire for our children to follow in the same path. There are some things that cannot be delegated to others.
It is certainly important for families to go to church, and youth and children’s ministries are great assistance to the Christian family, but that is what they are intended to be: assistance. Too often, we put them into a position to replace the spiritual life and leadership of the family.
Children catch the passion of their parents, so when a parent shows there are certain things worth living and dying for, the chances are their children will pay close attention. Though parents can and should involve others to help young people engage with the truth of God, the foundation really needs to be laid in the home.
My experience as a pastor and a counselor is children intuitively will see God the way they see their parents – especially their father. As a child grows older, he or she can choose to think of God differently, but their gut-level understanding will always most easily be the way they understood their parents.
In the Bible, the role of the husband-father as the giver of blessing is an important element to recognize. A blessing is when a father or anyone else, but biblically it is typically the father, speaks identity into their loved ones. Speaking identity is referring to their future, their value, their promise and their person through words. As humans, we live in desperate need of this. The heavenly Father models this concept most powerfully at the baptism of Jesus when He speaks over His Son, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Every man I know has heard this or is waiting to hear this from his father. More information on blessings can be found in the classic “The Blessing” by Smalley and Trent.
Experts on men’s issues comment to one degree or another on about how men still seem to have a major role in speaking identity. There is a stability that comes from a father/husband who is seeking to represent God’s truth to his family.
A healthy perspective of spirituality, and especially a right relationship with our Creator, is vital for a healthy and complete life. There are just too many aspects of life, such as tough decisions, basic purpose, facing addictions and dealing with tragedies, which are virtually impossible to handle without clinging to something greater than ourselves. There are times when nothing short of devotion to God will get us through.
The family is the most dependable source for devotion to God.
Claiming a passion in one thing and then living as though other things were higher priorities will not be missed by children. Most of us know how sensitive the noses of teens are to any form of hypocrisy, right? Paul warns fathers not to exasperate their children. Some translations use the phrase “inspire to anger,” but the Greek word here is “athumos” – to take away their fire. Parents who claim God with their mouths, especially in a place where it is popular to do so, but then live as though there were no God higher than themselves “steal the fire” of their children. For much more depth on this, check out Tim Kimmell’s book “Why Christian Kids Rebel.”
Finally, one of the reasons the family must be where the seeds of a relationship with God should be planted is found in the practical teaching of Deuteronomy Chapter 6. Moses reminds the people of the truths of who God is and who we are must be taught all the time in small doses. The big Christian buffet meal that most church services offer cannot accomplish it alone. We need God all the time, not just one day a week for a couple of hours.
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Your children and spouse need these blessings all day like drinks of water. Sure the spiritual meal each Sunday is a good thing, I am a pastor after all, but gatherings cannot sustain alone. The church staff cannot be there all the time for your family. You must be that example, the teacher, shepherd and blessing in their lives.
It has to be you.