Writing to free the prisoner of one idea, crossing the bridge of paradox to truth, serving the legacies of Chesterton and Lewis who defended their faith in Christ
Gentlemen, Start Your Engines…
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”— 1 Corinthians 5:20
None of us are born reconciled to God. Those who do not know God are divided from God because they have no relationship with Him. In the case of the children of those who do have a relationship with God, it is not as simple as bringing them along to church. Frankly, there is some crucial spiritual flight-training we are responsible to our children for to help them become reconciled to God and this essay is going to discuss why that is so and what needs doing.
I recently received a gentle but frank observation from a friend who acknowledged a spiritual complacency is more often the state these days within the home that professes being Christian. “We are divided in so many ways,” he said. And while this comment was inclusive of many different “gaps” needing our attention such as multiculturalism, collaboration, Bible-reading, and the general peace, it worked its way back to the common thread of reconciliation.
My response to him was led by a discussion of the questions this issue points to: Why do we have an anti-reconciliation culture? How did we get to this point? There are a thousand minor reasons, but in the larger scenario, the source harkens back to an historical period long before our present day. And as the saying goes: If you don’t know where you’ve been, you’re not going to know where you’re going. So to capsulize…
Early church history, explains a lot. The “Great Schism” put the Church as many know it on a path of a “divorce” culture: separation as a course of solution. Sects formed over every disagreement. Families broke apart. Divorce became ever more prevalent. Now put into practice “first principles” and we can trace that back to our original separation from God. With each new separation new constants got established under the guise of reformations. Sects and denominations continued to form, giving us a “1000 minor truths” as Chesterton observed, (which is why sects and denominations appeal to certain groups and personalities) but each on their own, history demonstrated, were lacking in the fullness of truth. A decrease in spiritual integrity began to work itself into each group as a consequence and the maxim began to work itself out with increasing speed in the Church: the farther away each got from the original body, the spiritual strength degraded commensurately. In short, we have fallen into the present habit of allowing others and trends to teach and inform our young rather than adhering to an unchanging tradition of faith (as Paul speaks to and taught by our early church fathers) in which we were to play that same role in each generation. That is the reconciliation concern of the Church at large. But while that is being worked through, what of where you and I are now? What is our identity?
Our identity in Christ is one of holiness. That is the identity we must return to that was the subject of so much recent controversy. It is that identity that must be handed down to our children by their fathers in the home, and on the road, and in school, and in every other pursuit and activity. How then does this get done? It gets done with a discipline of first things: making reconciling to God the primary purpose of our lives, building and deepening a relationship with Him by getting to really know Him through His Word and handing that down to our children in such a way that it clearly demonstrates that we are delighted with Him and all the things we get from Him only because they come by Him. We need to show our children that given a choice, even if in hardship, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Regarding this identity of holiness, one thing I am very grateful for now in retrospect, is that I had a great deal of discipline in Bible reading. I was able, as a result, to go through the Bible many times as well as become familiar with several different translations. It formed a life-long habit in me to read the scriptures everyday. When I pray the spiritual armor on me and my family (even though at present some are in ‘the far country’), part of that request is that I am asking for the sword of the spirit. That’s His word. How can I expect it to be sharp and ready to defend my family and me in my defense of God if I don’t “practice” with it? Praying then for these things holds us accountable to ourselves and to God if we have a sound working conscience. Discipling our children then involves a personal study with them weekly, showing them how to pray, teaching them like an eagle shows its young how to fly: they carry their young in the air on their back so they get the feel of current, that it won’t let them fall if they work in harmony with it by wing. This is how God taught the nation of Israel (Deut. 32:11,12) This was how I was taught by my spiritual fathers and mothers, even when I was older. And as the scriptures say: “..it did not depart from me.” Now I did not always make the wisest choices, but when I didn’t, that discipline and God through the Holy Spirit were there to pull me back into our relationship even closer.
Now how do we make this a lot easier, a lot more effective for our children?
Parents have the primary responsibility. As parents, you and I need to understand this is more than making our kids go to church, its about creating relationship with their Heavenly Father. There is a need to understand why He is to be worshiped as well as loved. That is what reconciliation is about. That is our mission: to get our kids reconciled to God first, stating clearly why we are separated from God and our responsibility in the cause of that separation. Then the impact of the love He is mercifully showing us through Christ has fertile ground for the Holy Spirit’s work in them to sink in. Then the other stuff comes. But there is something that needs to be said for which this essay is being written and I will try to be as gentle as I can in saying the following: It is not the primary mission of the youth pastor, or our children’s friends, or even our minister to teach this fundamental truth to our children, to plead with them to be reconciled to God, to train them to serve and worship our Lord and Savior. It is our responsibility. When we are successful (and God will bless our sincere efforts) Church then becomes a meaningful place to express their own love and worship for our God within the Body of Christ in holiness. God is wooing our children each and every day of their lives. He is a constant pursuer for their affections, but in discipline along with love and holiness. (Hosea) That is our example.
The father in the home is the first physical representation of what our Heavenly Father is going to be for and to our children. What kind of picture are you and I demonstrating to our children to match up to who our Heavenly Father is? Does it tell of our gratefulness and appreciation for for who He is and the entire breadth and depth of the scriptures? It’s crucial. It affects our children being reconciled to God.
So I would say if you will pardon my boldness for we especially truly need you fathers (and this is Indiana, after all)…
Gentlemen, start your engines and get it done.
Till next time.
God bless you. M. S. Reed, 2008, Dilseacht, le gra go deo