The home needs to be a place where biblical faith is understood, practiced and encouraged, with this in mind it is beneficial to remind ourselves of what we are actually imitating in Hebrews chapter eleven. Too often this chapter is read with both eyes fixed on the people mentioned rather than on their faith. When this happens parents concern themselves more with the question of whether or not their children are imitating good behaviour and manners (which are important) rather than the imitation of faith as they should be. Hebrews chapter eleven is about witnessing and imitating the faith of those who have gone before us. When we read that “by faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents…” we recognise that it is not speaking about the faith of Moses at all but rather the faith of His parents. How then do we imitate this kind of faith when it comes to raising our children? What do we do by faith for them? What measures do we take by faith to protect them from the world they live in?
If children are to imitate the faith of their parents, which they are, whose faith are the parents to imitate? The scriptures are not silent on this point, they are to imitate the faith of their leaders (Heb 13:7 “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith). In the same way, parents receive their teaching and leading from their leaders in faith, their children will imitate this act of faith by receiving their teaching and leading from their parents. When parents are conscious about speaking the word of God to their children and if their children are imitating their faith and not just their conduct, they recognise that the faith their children will need to live a life following God will come from the word of God (Rom 10:17) which is being spoken to them in faith.
when yes is no and no is yes
Paul warns the church against making premature judgements and this applies to parents and the parable that Jesus told about two sons. One saying that he would do what the father asked and he didn’t and the other saying that he would not but in the end did, while not about parenting as such. It nevertheless addresses the fact that change does occur in the lives of children and that their first answer cannot always be taken to be true in either case or what might have been true at the moment can be false in the next. Sin is not just an issue for parents it is also an issue for their children and their parents.
The Father’s Responsibility
What then is the father’s responsibility regarding his children’s sin? Many might say that this is something we must leave to God and this in one sense is true if you’re talking about removing it, but even this doesn’t allow the father to take a back seat when dealing with his children’s sin. For those whose mind has gone straight to the issue of discipline must remember that the Lord God deals with our sin through the atonement accomplished by Christ and it is no different for our children. Therefore before we think about graceful and corrective discipline we must imitate the fatherhood of Job.
Job chapter 1:1-5, explains with clarity a father’s role and responsibility before God and on behalf of his children. Since marriage is a covenant it follows that children born within this covenantal union are covenant children, if indeed the parents belong to God. Job was blameless and upright, one who feared God and who turned away from evil. He had seven sons and three daughters and he would hold a feast with them and early in the morning Job would rise and offer burnt offerings according to the number of his children. His reason is because his children may have sinned against God and cursed Him in their hearts, he doesn’t know if they have because the heart is deceitful above all things, it is something which only God can understand.
What do we learn form the fatherhood of Job? We learn that he does what he does because he is a righteous man and that his children are his responsibility. He does not see the sin of his children as their issue and something which they alone must deal before God, they must, but their personal responsibility before God does not diminish or remove his responsibility as their father to come before God and offer sacrifice for their sin. The new covenant father does this by coming to God on the basis of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
It can be tempting to believe that a father cannot be responsible for the sin of his children that he knows nothing about, but this is nothing more than thinking like an individual rather than as the head of a covenant family. Job offers the sacrifices he does on the basis that his children may have sinned against God and cursed Him in their hearts. The point being made here is that Job doesn’t know if his children have sinned against God or not, they may not even know themselves, and this provides all the more reason for doing what he does. He does not tell his children when they have sinned “that if they have made their bed then they must lay in it”, to say this would be to divide the family. When his children sin he does not say it is their problem, he says it’s our problem and we must deal with it before God.
When the father handles his responsibility faithfully, his children will see what he does for them and he will never need to tell them just how responsible before God he is for them, and so he will avoid producing in them the feeling that they can get their father into trouble with God. What the father does for his children will have its effect without it ever having to be discussed around the table because God sees what we all do in secret.
Knowing what a family is before God will allow us to see that blame and accusations belong to the doctrine of individualism, whereas faithfully fulfilling the responsibilities as a family member is an act of faith and which is pleasing to God, for without faith it is impossible to please him. The way fathers and mothers imitate their faith to their children is structuring family life according to what the scriptures teach, and in doing so enjoy the accompanying blessing of God.