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Rearing Godly Children in Difficult Times

It is not uncommon today to hear older Christians who have already reared their children comment somberly in the presence of young prospective parents, “I certainly wouldn’t want to be bringing up children in times like these.” It may be innocently done, but it is not helpful. These already anxious young people do not have a choice of times in which to rear children. For them, it is now or never.

Candidly, from the short term perspective, these are certainly not the best of times for the family. Much has happened in this century that serves to tear at the fabric of domestic life. We have become a city rather than a rural people, living in the anonymity of teeming urban anthills where no one knows or cares who his neighbors are. Our increasing mobility had made us a “nation of strangers” and the once supportive influence of an extended family of grandparents, uncles and aunts, has been lost. Even the homemaker mother has been gradually disappearing before the increasing power of industrialization. Today, for the first time, most American women of childbearing years are working outside the home.

Along with these important social and economic changes, there has been a significant philosophical shift. Our society has been increasingly secularized. Biblical values that once had at least some influence on our institutions have been largely set aside. From a world in which certain values were cherished, even though often violated, we have moved to one which denies that absolute values exist. Out of the passionate individualism, which arose during the Vietnam War era, has come a hedonistic pursuit of personal fulfillment which is heedless of the consequences to others. Marriage and family commitments are seen as less important than the “finding of oneself.” Drug abuse and mindless sensuality abound.

And to this already frightening equation must be added the insidious factor of television, which has the ability to instantly, universally and powerfully infiltrate this moral and spiritual corruption into every American mind.

But if this analysis of our times is accurate in the short term, it certainly does not obtain for the long one. From a wider perspective, current circumstances do not present nearly the challenge to rearing children that past ages have. A few examples will suffice to make the point.

How would you have liked to rear children in the days of Noah, when the whole world was convulsed by violence and every human heart, save two, was wholly set on evil? In spite of the loneliness of their task (you think you’re in the minority!) and the ridicule, which it must have brought, Noah and his wife reared three sons not only to trust the true God in the midst of a moral cesspool, but to influence three young women into the same commitment.

What chances of nurturing children in righteousness would you have given Jewish parents during Israel’s abject bond servitude in Egypt when even your infant children’s lives were under threat from an all-powerful state? Amram and Jochebed reared two sons and a daughter in these very circumstances. In order to save the life of Moses, they were compelled to sacrifice the joys of seeing their youngest child grow daily into manhood and were not even allowed to openly claim him as their own. But the little time they were granted with that son was so well used that he never forgot who he was and, at last, chose affliction with God’s people over the pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:24-25).

The New Testament world was no great advance over that of the Old Testament. Fully half the people of the first century Roman Empire were slaves. Human life was cheap and murder was frequent. Divorce was easy and generally accepted. Unwanted infants were simply exposed to die and the females were frequently saved by the enterprising and reared as prostitutes. Every variety of corrupt pagan religion and superstition flourished and was woven into the work-a-day world of all the people. Devotion to some god or goddess was linked to every job and every social occasion. And yet in a world like that, in the midst of an intensely pagan city, a young Jewish girl, married to an unbelieving Greek, reared her son to be one of the great gospel preachers of the early church. With no synagogue in Lystra and only her mother to help with Timothy’s spiritual training, Eunice not only succeeded in rearing a godly son, she succeeded magnificently!

And so, when anxious young people approach me with concern and ask if I think it is possible to build solid marriages and rear godly children in these “difficult times,” I simply take them by the hand, look them in the eye, and tell them, “Absolutely!” All that is required is that they be willing to pay the price of a surpassing love for God and a deep love for one another which guided the parenting of those successful fathers and mothers who have gone before us.