Monday, December 8, 2008

Proverb or Promise?

As I stated in my last blog, this whole Christmas month, our Sunday School lessons are on child raising, not Christmas. Can anyone detect my feelings on that? :-) Anyway, the speaker, someone I respect a lot, and a former pastor, made a statement I am not sure I agree with him 100% on. Concerning Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.". He said this was more a "proverb", than a promise. My reasoning, is if it is just a proverb, what about all of the other verses in the book of Proverbs that we quote as promises. "In all thy ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."

I asked my dad his opinion, and he has used the verse before, and took the liberty of changing the verse to what he feels might have been the original intent. "and when he is old, it will not depart from him".

I went to my online Bible site, BibleGateway, and read the verse in several different versions, and they all say the same thing. The Amplified adds something interesting: "Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it."

My former pastor, Rev David Blowers, preached on this subject a couple of times, and used what the Amplified Bible says in his message. I can't remember everything he said, but he made the point that every kid is different, and you have to raise each one differently - you can't just throw a child raising blanket over every child and they will all turn out ok. He also made the point that you need to touch the child's spiritual taste buds - make them see how good being a Christian is.

I am afraid if we throw this verse out as a promise, it will give parents something to hide behind when their kids do turn out badly. I do believe there are rare cases where a parent can do everything right, and their child not go the way of Christ, but I do think they are rare. I look at families who raise all of their kids to be Christians. Others, none of their kids take the way. Yet others, some of them do, and some don't. What is up?

Obviously, we all have a will, and no one can force anyone to take the right way, but you can disagree with me if you want, but I think for most of these families who lose their kids to the world, they didn't do 100% right in raising them.

Several months ago, while I was living in Indiana, my church here decided to try something new. Instead of the usual youth service in the main sanctuary, where many others would also attend, they were going to try a "youth focus" in the basement, only for teenagers. There was a meeting about it, and some were against it, and had their reasons. Several for it made the point that we are losing our kids, and need to do more to save them - and guess they figured this youth focus thing was the sure answer. Anyway, my dad stood up and made what I think was a good point and assessment: it doesn't start with the church - it starts at home. We aren't losing our kids because their isn't enough focus on them at church. We are losing them because of the home. Too many parents want to let the church and school have the responsibility, and then blame them if their kids don't turn out right.

There was a family that went to one of the churches I attended and had several children. Most of whom are not turning out too great so far. I can imagine, knowing the parents, that they wonder when they raised their kids the right way, why aren't they turning out right? But did they raise them right? This family missed church a lot. They were rarely in Wednesday night prayer meeting. They rarely made it to the youth meeting so their kids could be in it. Revival meeting? Forget that. Even their Sunday attendance was sporadic, though I assume they went to visit family a lot, but what kind of message were they sending to their kids?

As their daughters approached the teen years, they let them dress in ways that were not proper. Tight clothes, Fashionable teen styles that didn't belong in church. Is it any wonder their kids have wandered?

My parents didn't do everything right - rare is the parent that does, but I think there are areas that parents should be more careful in, that they aren't. One is friends. You cannot make your kids into greenhouse plants where they are at home all of the time, and only see their parents, but neither can you let them hang around with every kid they come in contact with. Many people go to even our church camp, and let their kids run free with whoever they want. You let your kids become friends with the wrong type of children, and it won't matter what you do in the home, you could lose them. Not every kid in your own church is the type of friend your child needs.

A friend of mine did something that would take tremendous guts, and may sound mean or un-Christian, but she gets this. One of her siblings has gone another way, far from what she was raised. My friend told her she didn't want her own kids hanging out with hers as a result. That she had changed, and knew what was right. Sound extreme? Maybe, but kids are the most important thing you can have, and the only thing you can take to Heaven with you. A former pastor of mine, someone I have zero respect for, did get something right occasionally. His kids were not allowed to go and stay overnight at friend's houses. We need more fences for kids.

Another area: criticizing and talking about church members and/or the pastor. I am afraid more of this goes on than we would know, and it can turn kids against the church, and God.

Consistency. Kids can see if parents aren't being consistent, and that can cause them to not want this Christian life.

As I stated, my parents didn't do everything right, and I was almost 12 when they became Christians. The friend issue was never a problem for me - I just didn't have any at all. :-) We had family devotions nightly, which is something all homes should do. We were in church every time the doors were open. As Mark Lowry says, "if they were washing the windows, we went to watch". If my parents did anything wrong in my raising that I could put a finger on, I'd have to say it was with my self esteem. I don't believe it is their fault. They had no idea how much I got picked on, and the opinion of myself that was forming in those teenage years. Looking back, I can see I needed more assurances of love and self worth. That might have helped, maybe not, but they didn't know, so I don't hold that against them.

Train up a child in the way he should go. Promise or proverb? I believe it is a promise, but compasses so much more than any of us realize.

And my final word: I do believe their are cases where parents do EVERYTHING right, and can lose a child, but it isn't the norm.