Our Children in the Community

Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.

We are certainly fortunate to be blessed with so many children among us. The young children particularly need and expect their parents to provide shelter, food, clothing, protection, love and discipline. As our children grow and gain experience, they begin to assert independence, gradually relying less on their parents and ultimately becoming self-reliant. A small child is typically not very concerned about the world around him, but that will change. Whether for better or worse, changes occur through a variety of influences. It can be through parental and scriptural influence, or conversely, it can be through peers, teachers, coaches, school, television, magazines and other media. However, as parents we can exercise some control as to how alluring these worldly influences might be in the various stages in our children's development. We are fortunate to be aided in this task through scriptural examples that provide direction pertaining to our children in all aspects of life, including their exposure to the secular community.

Scripture offers us numerous examples of youth and how they are influenced; some good and some not good. When we think of the word "youth," how do our minds translate it? The word youth has a sound to it that makes us feel good; youth is fresh, its vigorous, its active! There are levels of youth. During childhood we think we will never grow up, while in the teen years we feel invincible. But where does youth end and maturity begin? Paul describes Timothy as a "youth." Joseph is introduced to us at age 17. Samuel is described as "a boy." David is "distained by the Philistines for he was but a youth..." We know of Joash - king at 7; Manasseh - king at 12; and Josiah - king at 8. Daniel, at the age of the typical college sophomore came before the king of Babylon, and later after revealing both the king's dream and its interpretation, was made ruler over all the province of Babylon and chief over its wise men. We recall how he "purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself" with the king's meat and wine, negotiating and trusting in God for release from the king's requirement. What an example of spiritual maturity!

Are our children not asked to bow down (pledge allegiance) to a country that offers a different way of life than that to which Christ calls us? Our country allows for murder in the name of abortion; it has taken the name of God out of schools and asks its citizens to obey the dictates of the President and the Congress. At baptism we agree to conform to the commandments of our Lord, placing our citizenship in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour (Philippians 3:20). It is this heavenly citizenship that we must keep uppermost in ours and our children's minds and hearts. Our children must understand that an oath of allegiance to the flag and country is putting one's faith in men rather than God. Do our children see us putting faith in the governments of this world? Do they see us, as their parents and examples, pledge our allegiance to this world not only with hand over heart, but with our votes, participation on juries or membership in secular organizations? Christ tells us in John 18:36, My kingdom is not of this world. Let us always show our Lord and our children that our intense desire is to please our Father rather than the world in which we presently live. We are to live in glorious anticipation of that future world order, which we pray will soon be established upon this earth.

Consider the impact of the parental example on children as reflected in the scriptural example of Paul and Timothy. Though Paul was not Timothy's biological father, he treated Timothy as a son in the Truth, writing in 2 Timothy 1:2, to Timothy, my dearly beloved son: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. Timothy is described in Acts 16 as the son of a Jewish woman - a believer, and a gentile father. Paul had considerable respect for both the mother and grandmother of Timothy (no further mention of his father is made). We can discern quite a bit about Timothy through the writings of both Paul and Luke. Luke states that Timothy was well spoken of by the brethren in Lystra, and it is probably safe to say that while at Lystra, Paul became his mentor. In the book of Acts as well as in some of Paul's other letters, it is apparent that Timothy spent time with Paul during his travels, and later stayed with Paul while he was a prisoner in Rome. We can also surmise that like Paul, Timothy was at one point a prisoner himself, likely a result of his beliefs (Hebrews 13:23).

Interestingly, we have no record of any writings or even a quote attributed to Timothy. He never speaks, rather he is only spoken to. His "adoption" by Paul was evidently very meaningful to him. To Timothy, Paul offers considerable instruction and encouragement through the two letters that bear Timothy's name. Paul states to him that others should not look down on him because of his youth, and that he should show himself an example of those who believe through his "speech, conduct, love, faith and purity" (1 Timothy 4:12 NAS). Paul's letters are full of parental instruction, teaching Timothy specifically to fight the good fight of faith, and to flee also youthful lusts: follow righteousness, faith, love, peace with them that call on the Lord (1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:22). The parental bond, and the respect and influence it can have on youth, is referenced by Paul in his admonition to continue in the things which thou hast learned and been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them (2 Timothy 3:14). The power of parental example cannot be overemphasized, as also reflected in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. Paul had intense confidence in Timothy to send him there, and entreats the Corinthians, Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timothy, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord (4:16-17).

We are all experienced at suggesting how others should behave, but Paul sets a family oriented example for us regarding our parental responsibilities to our children. He consistently instructed by word and example to take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine; continue in them (1 Timothy 4:16). Paul explains, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15 NAS), and he reminds Timothy not to rebuke an older man, but rather to appeal to him as a father. Similar teaching is found in Proverbs 4:1, Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father and give attention that you may gain understanding; and Proverbs 1:7, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the teaching of thy mother. Learning subjection to parental authority as a child prepares us for righteousness as well as for parenthood, as Peter entreats us to gird up the loins of your mind...and hope to the end for grace...as obedient children (1 Peter 1:13-14).

Some do not conform to the example set, distracted and seduced by those things in their communities that draw them away. While Lot and Abram traveled together in the same land among idol worshippers, Lot chose to move closer to that influence. What kind of person was Lot? When the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him that he should leave his kinsmen and travel to another land, Lot left with him. Lot was with his uncle as he built an altar to the Lord between Ai and Bethel and called upon His Name. Lot was there when Abram built an altar at Shechem, and he was there when Abram went to Egypt and when he returned. There is no question that he was aware of Yahweh considering the years of exposure to Abram's expressed faith and instruction. Perhaps like Paul and Timothy, Lot was as a son to Abram. Certainly Abram felt a responsibility toward his nephew. On the occasion of Lot's capture by raiders, Abram formed a troop and rescued him as well as the others taken captive with him. Several years later when the Lord appeared to Abraham indicating He would destroy Sodom as its sin was grievous, Abraham feared for his nephew who at that time sat in the gate of Sodom. Abraham pleaded with the Lord for Lot, the Lord agreeing to save the city should 10 righteous be found.

Genesis 13:7-16 says that when it came time for Abram and Lot to separate, Lot saw the Jordan Valley - how well it was watered, and he moved toward the cities of the valley and "pitched his tent toward Sodom." Verse 13 reads, the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly. It is probable that for this reason Abram had avoided the cities of the Jordan. Abram and Lot had traveled together for a long time and must have talked about such things. As Lot moved closer to Sodom, the closer he came to its wickedness. When we read of Lot's capture, the record indicates that he was not just near the cities, but was living in Sodom (Genesis 14:11-12). Lot had a choice; he could become a part of Sodom and its activities or he could remain separate. We might speculate how he moved toward the city, gradually coming closer and ultimately lured into the city itself.

Might we and our children sometimes fall victim to Lot's dilemma? Lot saw the righteousness of Abraham and that of his house. Lot likely lived his life in a similar fashion while a member of that house. But Lot was beckoned by what appeared to be greener pastures. He wanted to get a better look at city life and must have liked some of what he saw. Lot raised children there. His wife was perhaps from among the Sodomites. We likewise may find ourselves and our families becoming a part of the cities of the plain through work, school or play in our communities. Rather than attending Bible class, we might defer to other activities or feel we need to relax after the pressures of the day. Rather than establishing the importance of ecclesial life in our children's conscience, do we allow other activities such as recreation or sporting events to interfere? In either example, are we not sacrificing association with brethren for association with non-believers?

Consider how Abraham and his family lived their entire lives surrounded by Canaanites. Yet Abraham described himself as a 'sojourner and a stranger' in that country. He spent time among the Egyptians. He knew them, probably developed commerce with them, yet he was never of them. From 2 Peter 2:6-7 we learn that Lot was "just" and the wickedness of the people in Sodom vexed his "righteous" spirit, but his sojourn there cost the life of his wife and much of his family. We must teach our children to think of themselves as living in Canaan - close to Sodom. We are among Sodom at work and at school but must maintain separateness, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you (2 Corinthians 6:17). Does the language, behavior and the traditions of the people around us vex our spirit, and is that attitude conveyed to our children?

We live in a world not unlike that in which Abraham and Lot lived. As it was with the faithful of old, those we live among will be able to tell that we are separate by how we are living and teaching our children. Let our example and that of our children be according to the familiar Sunday School memory verse: be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2).

Ivan and Mary Ricks, Richmond, VA