These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4
These words, taken from the Old Testament and the New Testament, are only a couple of the many references in the Bible to the responsibilities of parents and children in a family. The biblical image of a family establishes a standard for families that is no more attainable than righteousness can be earned by works of the law. Nevertheless, the image of family that God sets before his people in the Bible is the standard Christian parents try to achieve. Christian parents believe that they have the obligation to teach their children what is right and what is wrong, both in word and deed. They believe that children have an obligation to love, respect and obey their parents. Christian parents work diligently to help their children mature during the many years it takes to become adults, and they look forward to the day when their children will stand on their own two feet as adults with responsibilities for their own families.
The sense of obligation to teach and protect children until they reach adulthood means that Christian parents expect to tell their children what to do and they expect their children to do what they are told until the children are adults. The culture of the USA assaults that principle in many different ways. Most recently, the right of a parent to have authority over a child’s behavior has been removed by a judicial act that makes “morning after” contraceptives available over the counter to females of any age without a prescription. The federal government has decreed that a parent not only does not need to know if a child receives such a drug; the federal government assumes that the child can understand and maturely accept the risks associated with the ingestion of the drug. In fact, the federal government believes that a child can understand and accept and self-manage sexual behavior at a level of maturity that will act on the knowledge that this medicine is not recommended for daily use.
Parents who hold the view that a child is not likely mature enough for adult responsibilities until around 18 years of age find this government policy difficult to accept. Christian parents don’t want to hold their children back from adulthood; they want their children to be reared in such a way that the children are ready for their adult responsibilities when the time comes for them to accept them. Christian parents know that rearing a child to understand the responsibilities that accompany sexual activity include teaching about the meaning of sexuality, the risks of promiscuity, the meaning of life, the sanctity of life, and especially, the sanctity of the sexual union between a man and a woman. It is hard enough to teach these things in the normal confusion of daily life. The task of teaching the Christian view of sexual morality becomes exponentially more difficult when children are immersed in media that say that a child has a right to engage in sex whenever it appeals to him or her, and that having engaged in sex, the female child who doesn’t want to get pregnant as a consequence of sex has the maturity and the right to obtain and use a “morning after” contraceptive as she wishes.
This situation is part of the ongoing conflict between the Christian worldview and the secular worldview.
The secular worldview says:
- Sex is natural, and because it is natural, it is good.
- Human beings experience sex on many levels and in many ways. Children should be taught all about sex in order not to fear it or misuse it. (One wonders how a child, or anyone, could misuse sex if anything goes, but that is a different issue.)
- Sex is so desirable that people cannot control their need for it. Children should not be taught to control their desires, but only to handle the consequences.
- STD is a possible unwanted consequence of sexual activity. Children should be taught how to prevent it and how to treat it if they forget to prevent it.
- Pregnancy is a possible unwanted consequence of sexual activity. Children should be taught how to prevent it and how to treat it if they forget to prevent it.
The Christian worldview says:
- Sex is God’s gift to humans. It is natural and it is good.
- The gift of sexuality has a purpose in God’s plan for humans. Sex is granted for both joy and procreation with the boundaries of a committed relationship between a man and a woman.
- Promiscuous sex is a perversion of God’s gift, whether between same or opposite sexes.
- The power of sexual desire is a power for good when used under discipline. It is a power for evil and destruction when not controlled.
- Abstinence outside marriage is the only sure way to prevent STD, prevent pregnancy, and protect the gift of sex for its fulfillment in the marriage relationship between a man and a woman.
- A fertilized egg, which quickly becomes an embryo, is the beginning of human life, which is so precious in God’s sight that he condemns murder. Human-ordered destruction of an embryo is the same thing as murder – the willful human assumption of power over life and death that belongs only to God.
- Unplanned and unwanted pregnancy does not justify murder. There are ways to deal with the pregnancy that honor God’s gift of life and God’s authority over all human life.
Faced with the secular view of life and family, Christian parents have a serious challenge. Whining won’t help. Prayer will. A Christian who believes that God is actually sovereign over life and death and all things through the end of time must believe that God will bless his commitment to rear children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord despite all the obstacles the world throws in his path. The Christians living in the Roman Empire faced both cultural restriction and official persecution. Christ’s church survived. Through two thousand years of rejection and resistance by Satan through people motivated by Satan, the church survived. Parents who want their children to grow up in the faith must strengthen their own faith and become more deeply committed to living their faith. Words of faith must be modeled by lives of faith. That is how children will learn to accept the authority of their parents and to live their own faithful testimonies.
The science so revered by secular thinkers has uncovered a truth that might comfort Christian parents: No matter how it looks, children actually listen to their parents more intently than to any other voice in their lives. This means that Christian parents who simply do what their faith leads them to do will have the single most powerful influence in their children’s lives. No matter how daunting it looks, God’s design built into human beings poises each little baby to look for and obey his or her parents.
The free availability of “morning after” medications for girls of all ages is an atrocity. It is one more nail in the coffin of a moral culture. It is one more fiery dart launched against the legal rights of parents to rear their children in their own moral and spiritual code. (This is, by the way, a right protected by the Ninth Amendment of the US Constitution, but as some have said, we appear to be living in a post-constitutional age.) Despite the appearance that evil is winning the culture wars, Christian parents need not despair. Be strong in the faith. Be obedient to Christ. Speak your faith, teach your faith, and pray your faith. Your children, believe it or not, are watching.