Now, within the family, the idea is not just to give life to children but also to care for them and also to teach them about God. When the new testament repeats the fifth commandment Paul adds to it in Ephesians chapter 6:
There are two sides to this one:
1. Honour your father and mother, and
2. Fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
Don’t provoke them to wrath. I guess that could mean on one level: ‘don’t use brutal discipline or cruelty to your children’. And, on the other level, it can mean ‘don’t use lax or no discipline.’
Discipline and the training and the admonition of the Lord is something which is for good, and something which is to be part of what fathers, particularly fathers, should give to their children. Sometimes, it’s the mothers who give all the training, but it’s something which, the Bible says, fathers should do. ‘Fathers bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.‘
And you find this teaching as well in the Old Testament’s central verses of Judaism. In Deuteronomy chapter 6 verse 4 we read:
Showing there that the home is to be the place for passing on the faith. You should teach the Commandments diligently to your children, you should talk to them when you sit in your house. Even the command about putting them on your hand and on your frontlets, between your eyes, which Jewish people actually do literally with the tefillin or phylacteries, binding them to their arms and their foreheads. However, I believe what God is really saying here is that this should be something which guides your actions (your hand) and your forehead (your thinking), and it’s your guide on the gates, on the doorposts of your house, on what goes on inside your house, and on the gates as you go out into the community.
So let the Law govern your life, and teach it to your children, and pass it on. God says: He’s going to bless the society which does that and obeys the Commandment that says honour your father and mother that it you may live long in the land which the Lord is giving to you.
So, when this is practiced, when the Law is practiced, God is going to bless that society and give it long life. When the Commandment is broken, then, the blessing is taken away.
The home is to be the place of passing on the faith. Of course, children have to make their own decision. And sometimes we can get condemned if we try to do this and our children ‘don’t make the grade’, and they don’t do what we ask them to do.
Because children have ‘free will’, and we all have free will, and no one is born a Christian.
If you’re born into a Christian home, it doesn’t make you a Christian. You have to be born again. You have to make your decision to follow Jesus. Obviously, every Christian parent wants their children to make that decision, but we can’t force it upon them, they have to make the decision themselves.
Once, I went to the christening of a relative’s baby. We don’t agree with baptizing babies or christening babies because it’s something which you should do when you have come to faith in Jesus and a baby can’t do that because the baby can’t understand the Gospel. However, in the Anglican church and the Catholic church, they baptize babies.
During the service, the vicar said as he baptized the baby there: ‘this child is now regenerate.’
I thought to myself ‘it won’t be long before the mother finds out that is not the case‘. Because the child has to make its own decision, and we have to train up our children to make that decision, but they have to make the decision.
If you are born into a Christian family, that’s a blessing, but you have to make the decision to follow Jesus. It’s up to you to make that decision. Parents can do their best but, children can still rebel against the Lord because they have free will and we have a society which is working very much against the Christian faith and so are schools and the media. All these things conspire against our attempts to teach our children the ways of the Lord.
We have to pray that they may be kept safe from some of those things. Parents should do what they can to make it easier for their children to make that decision by praying for them, by giving positive values to them, influencing their children, shaping their lives, and teaching them the word of God.
And having done that, children, of course, have to respect and honour their parents.
As I said earlier, in almost all cultures, there’s a concept that parents should look after their children in childhood, adolescence, then launch them into the world. But even as they grow older, children should still honour their parents in marriage, when they form a new unit.
The family is God’s ‘social welfare unit’.
If you think about it, family means to care for brothers and sisters, other family members, and for children to look after their parents and care for them in their old age.
We think of Jesus on the cross with Mary by Him. The Bible says:
It’s a Catholic tradition that John took Mary to his home for the rest of her life. We don’t know about that. There’s no mention of Mary after the first chapter of Acts but, at that time, Jesus told John to take care of His mother. Jesus was not in a physical state to take care of her and He passed it on to His disciple John, His beloved disciple.
Do you know, by the way, that this particular scripture indicates that John was Jesus’ cousin? It says: His mother and His mother’s sister.
If you look through the Gospels, you’ll find that, at the cross, there are, in Matthew’s Gospel and in Mark’s Gospel, three women present. It doesn’t mention Mary, but in the other Gospels. it does mention them. And you can identify the one who is His mother’s sister, who is given the title (in Mark’s Gospel) of ‘Salome’. That’s her name. In Matthew’s Gospel, the mother of Zebedee’s sons (Who was Zebedee? He was the father of James and John). So Mary’s sister was Salome, the mother of James and John who were Jesus’ disciples. They were His cousins.
Interestingly also, Mary, the mother of Cleopas or Clopas, is mentioned in Luke chapter 24 as one of the people who Jesus appears to in his Resurrection. According to early church tradition, Cleopas was the brother of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
So, there’s a kind of family unit even in this whole situation. And Jesus was making sure that His mother was going to be taken care of.
That is part, if you like, of the deal of honouring your father and your mother: taking care of them and seeing that they’re looked after.