As a Father Pitieth His Children: Reformed Child
Prof. David J. Engelsma
How are we to rear our children?
This is a question of great importance to many
Christian parents, as is evident from the popularity of the various
seminars on the family. It is an urgent question for us Reformed
parents, because of the Lord's covenant with us. God is the God of our
children, as well as of ourselves, and saves them by the blood and
Spirit of Jesus Christ. God brings them to spiritual maturity, and
prepares them for their places and work in His Kingdom, largely through
our rearing. We have taken a vow at their Baptism to carry out the
rearing of them in the Word of God, to the utmost of our power.
Especially for us, therefore, it is a burning question, "How are
we to do this?"
The single most important, most practical, and most
fruitful way of rearing our children is that we consciously take God's
Parenthood towards us as our model, and that we deliberately reflect the
Fatherhood of God in all our rearing of our children. As you would
expect, the answer to our question is found in the Bible. But it is not
to be looked for only in the relatively few passages that directly
address the subject of child-raising, passages such as
Deuteronomy 6; the book of Proverbs;
Ephesians 6:4; and the like. The answer to our question is given in
the Bible at large—in the entire revelation of God as the Father of
His people and of the manner in which He deals with His children. Just
as the secret of marriage is the reflecting of the union of Christ and
the church, so the secret of Reformed parenthood is the reflecting of
the relationship between God and His family.
God is Father of His people; this is the basic
relationship in which He stands towards us. Although this is more fully
revealed in the New Testament, it was made known already in the Old
Testament. When God was about to redeem Israel from Egypt, He told Moses
to say to Pharaoh: "Thus saith Jehovah, Israel is my son, even my
Psalm 103 makes explicit comparison between our fatherly attitude
towards our children and God's attitude towards His children: "Like as a
father pitieth his children, so Jehovah pitieth them that fear him" (v.
13). The New Testament reveals this fully. Not only in the address of
the Lord's Prayer, but also all the way through the Sermon on the Mount,
in Matthew 5-7, Jesus teaches us that God is our Father. Time and
again, the New Testament compares the acts of the Heavenly Father and
the acts of us earthly fathers. Luke's account of the Lord's Prayer does
this regarding the answering of the petitions of children: "If ye then,
being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much
more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask
Hebrews 12:1-13 compares God's Fatherhood and ours as regards the
discipline, or chastisement, of children: "If ye endure chastening, God
dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father
chasteneth not?" (v. 7).
God's Fatherhood is the original Parenthood; ours is
derived from His. He is the original Father in His own Being in that the
First Person of the Blessed Trinity begets the Second, as eternal Son.
He is the original Father in His relationship, in Christ, to His people,
whom He adopts as children and begets in His own image. Our parenthood,
derived from His, is called to reflect His.
If this is the basic answer to our question, it must
be clear that there is no easy way to rear children. Some have the
notion that there is a secret somewhere, which they may discover in the
latest seminar or book and which they can then apply, quickly and
easily, to their children and family-life. It does seem to me that a
book on Reformed child-rearing, written from the point of view that I am
proposing, would be helpful. The best that I have read are Abraham
Kuyper's When Thou Sittest in Thine House, Jan Waterink's
Leading Little Ones to Jesus (both of which are out of print), and
Andrew Murray's The Children for Christ. In any case, there is no
easy way. The right way is the difficult way of being like God in our
Taking God's Fatherhood as the pattern, we will love
our children. This is the heart of Reformed child-rearing—not
authority, not discipline, but the love of our children. In love, we
bring them forth and receive them from God; in love, we live with them;
in love, we teach them; in love, we discipline them.
For this is the essence of Fatherhood in God. In
love, God the Father eternally begets the Divine Son and lives with Him
the blessed life of the Godhead, in the Spirit. The Son is in the bosom
of the Father (John
1:18). The Father says of Him, "My beloved Son" (Matthew
3:17). In love, God chose, adopted, regenerated, cares for, and
disciplines His people, even as it was love that chose Israel and made
Israel God's son. When Moses accounts for Israel's being a special
people unto the Lord, the ultimate cause is: "because Jehovah loved you"
Romans 8, the comfort of the New Testament children of God is that
the beginning, the end, and the in-between of the ways of God towards
them is love: we are persuaded, that nothing "shall be able to separate
us from the love of God ..." (v. 39).
Loving our children consists of regarding them,
yearning towards them, and setting our affections upon them as
delightful and precious; of resolving to do them good, and not evil; of
carrying out this resolve in words and deeds of blessing; and of
establishing a uniquely close bond of friendship with them.
Our love for them is by no means merely a natural
feeling. It is much more than this; it is a spiritual grace, sought and
received of the Holy Spirit. As regards our natural feelings, we may be,
and often are, tempted not to love our children. We resent them when
they come. We feel quite hateful at times, especially when they are bad
or demanding. There may even be a strong inclination to dislike one of
our children. These things grieve the believer deeply. "What is the
matter with me?" he asks himself. "Do I lack the basic requirement of a
Christian father, or mother?" It is important, then, to remember that
love for our children is not merely a natural feeling, which we either
have or do not have, but a spiritual grace to be asked of God in the
Name of Jesus, who will give us all that we request in that worthy Name.
Titus 2:4 Paul instructs Pastor Titus to have the older women
teach the young women to love their children. The love of mothers
for their children in the church is not merely the admittedly powerful
feeling that is natural to women, but a far more powerful grace that
they receive through the teaching of the Word of God. Related to this is
that we delight in our children, not merely as our own flesh and image,
but as covenant children—God's children, children of the church. This
guards against an essentially selfish upbringing of our children, which
can go wrong in many ways, all ruinous. It also grounds our love,
empowering our love for the long, difficult haul.
We are to love our children in such a way that we
show them our love, tell them our love for them, and surround them with
the unmistakable proof of it. It is exceeding strange that there should
be any hesitancy here, in view of the fact that the gospel is nothing
other than the message and assurance to us from God Himself that He
loves us. God makes us to know His love for us; He tells us, again and
again, "I love you"; He has given us the proof of it in the cross of
Jesus. Strange though it may seem, there is a hesitancy of some parents
to express their love to their children, whether because they think that
this compromises their authority or because of the still more serious
weakness, that they fear to commit themselves, and expose themselves, in
the (always dangerous) relationship of love, even with their own
Once, after he had preached on the address of the
Lord's Prayer, "Our Father who art in heaven," stressing God's love for
us, so that, as the Heidelberg Catechism assures believers, He will not
"deny us what we ask of Him in true faith" (Q. 120), the pastor was
approached by an older woman of the congregation, herself the mother of
children. In tears, she told him that she had never thought of the
Fatherhood of God as love, but only as awesome majesty. It came out that
her own father had never told her that he loved her, had never held her
on his lap and thrown his arms around her, had never showed himself to
her to be anything other than a severe, frightening authority. Naturally
enough, her conception of the Heavenly Father was similar: an awful
Sovereign, hardly to be trusted, certainly not to be embraced, but
rather to be feared with a kind of terror.
On another occasion, at a pastoral visit, an old
father in the church expressed, with obvious sincerity, how much he
loved his children. Knowing something of the family relationship, the
pastor asked, "Have you told them of your love?" The old man admitted
that he had not done this. Told that he should do this, because God does
this to His children, he readily agreed, with happy results.
These, I fear, are not rare exceptions.
Of one thing, our children must never be in any
doubt; of one thing, they must be sure, absolutely sure—our love for
them. This is a crucial factor in the child's spiritual and
psychological development. Assurance of the parents' love for them as
covenant children of God gives a sturdy security; a healthy self-love
and sense of worth, in Christ; and a right knowledge of the Father in
heaven. Imagine that God would withhold from us grown-ups the assurance
of His love. Imagine that He would leave the impression with us that He
really hated us on account of our sinfulness. How miserable, how
anxious, we would be! How destructive this would be for our whole life!
This is no small part of the wickedness of the man,
or woman, who divorces his wife, or her husband, and forsakes the
children. It is an act of hatred and rejection, not only of the mate,
but also of the children—hatred and rejection that they keenly feel
and that will destroy them, unless God graciously prevents it.
It is especially necessary that we assure, and
reassure, our children of our love, when we discipline them. It is when
He disciplines His children that God must assure us of His love, as
Hebrews 12 makes plain. We are tempted to respond to discipline,
even though rightly administered, with weariness and fainting (v. 3),
with hands which hang down and feeble knees (v. 12). In the midst of our
disciplining, God must say to us, "For whom the Lord loveth he
chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth" (v. 6). The holy
anger and the pain do not indicate any break in the Divine love. If we
need this assurance, why should we suppose that it is any different with
The father must show love to the children, as
well as the mother. There is a notion that mothers show love and
sympathy, but that fathers are all sternness and authority. This notion
is not derived from Scripture.
Psalm 103 ascribes pity for his children to the father: "as a father
pitieth his children" (v. 13). Pity is love; but it is love in the form
of tender compassion for the weak and suffering. If our idea of
fatherhood does not include such tenderness, it is high time to change
our idea of fatherhood. As Father, God pities us.
Our love for our children must establish friendship
between us and them. This is what we must aim at and work for. This is
the effect of the godly love of believing parents, by the grace of the
Holy Spirit. We are, and must be, our children's friends. Life in a
Reformed home must be friendship.
Within this friendship, all of the rearing must take
place—the teaching, the discipline, even the exercise of parental
authority. If there is no friendship, the teaching, the discipline, and
the exercise of authority lose their Christian character and their power
for effective rearing. Only as my child's friend can I be his teacher,
his disciplinarian, and his lord.
This basic truth for child-rearing is learned from
God's Fatherhood towards us. God's love for us establishes the bond of
friendship with us—the covenant. God is our Friend; and He gives us
the privilege of being His friends. This is not incidental; but it is
the very essence of our life with God. Within the covenant, He teaches,
disciplines, and is our Sovereign. His teaching, discipline, and
sovereignty are covenantal teaching, discipline, and sovereignty.
Take away the Divine friendship; and the teaching, discipline, and
sovereignty are radically changed. Indeed, they become fruitless.
Just as the covenant of grace with us is established
and maintained by God alone, so the friendship in the home is the
responsibility of the parents. God calls us to see to it that the
relationship between us and our children reflects that between Him and
His children. He calls us to guard against a family-life that is nothing
but casual contact, or that is merely a cold, formal arrangement, or
(worst of all) that is an oppressive subjection of cowering underlings
by harsh overlords.
This is the truth portrayed in
Psalm 128:3: "Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of
thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table." It
is not an idyllic picture of family-life among the farmer-folk of old
Israel; but it is the teaching that the family-life of the people of God
is to be friendship. This is the "atmosphere" of the home; and the
"atmosphere" of the home is vitally important. Jan Waterink writes:
As a rule, the manner in which the family lives in
relation to God finds expression in the behaviour of the child. The
family atmosphere is often a more powerful means to bring lasting
impressions to the child's mind than many talks and nice stories.
(Leading Little Ones to Jesus, p. 20)
Waterink refers particularly to the threat to the
friendship of parents and children:
If there is one danger that threatens the very
foundations of our spiritual existence, it is the estrangement between
parents and children. It is really a tragic situation that the older
children are more frequently referred to with complaint than with
commendation (p. 96).
The power that creates this friendship is the Word of
God. It is the gospel that creates the covenant between God and us; and
it is the gospel that creates the covenant between believers and their
children. Therefore, it is essential for Reformed child-rearing that the
parents raise their children in a true church that faithfully preaches
the pure Word of God. This is essential for creating the friendship that
is the sine qua non of all rearing. Family-life flourishes in the
Psalm 128 indicates, when it goes on to say to the believing husband
and father, concerning the promise of family happiness, "The Lord shall
bless thee out of Zion ..." (v. 5).
The friendship between parents and children, thus
established, will have certain characteristics, patterned after the
covenant of God. We parents will give ourselves to our children and will
be receptive to them: we will speak with them, listen to them, and share
our life with them. For this, we will see to it that we have time for
them and actually live with them. Certain evils need to be purged from
our lives: mothers holding jobs outside the home, or jobs in the home
that harm the friendship; fathers not being home when they could and
should, on account of a desire for wealth, or recreation, or even too
many church-duties; permitting teenage children to live their entire,
non-sleeping life outside the home; the takeover of the few, precious
hours that the family has by television; putting the little children
outside the home at younger and younger ages. Fundamental to the life of
friendship is that we all be together - the wife as a fruitful vine on
the inside (such is the meaning of
Psalm 128:3) of the house (where the husband dwells), and the
children round about the table (where the father is sitting).
Only if we have time for them and live with them can
we know them, personally, individually, and thoroughly, so as to be able
to teach them. Parents must teach their children the Word of God. God
rears His children to spiritual maturity by teaching them His Word;
accordingly, earthly parents are called to bring up their children "in
the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph.
6:4). It is not enough that we see to it that pastors teach them the
Bible in the church and that school teachers teach them in the light of
the Bible in good Christian schools; but it is also necessary that we
ourselves teach them. Parents must teach their children the stories of
the Bible; they must read and explain the Bible to the children; they
must go over the catechism with them. But they can, and must, teach
their children the Word in less formal ways, when the opportunities
arise in the natural life of the family. Their duty is nothing less than
to teach the children to live wisely in the world, in all of life—to
fear the Lord; not to love money; not to envy; to honour the teacher,
even though the child may not like him; to live chastely as regards sex.
The main truth that parents must teach their children
is God's redemption of them from their sins by the cross of Jesus
Christ, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus' blood, received and enjoyed
through believing on Him. Every father and mother must be able and
ready, having perceived the distress of the child and having carefully
drawn out the confession of the sin that burdens the child, to speak the
gospel of grace to the child's troubled heart.
A third characteristic of the friendship between
godly parents and their children is that it is a life of peace. The
family-life of God, both within the Trinity and within the church, is
characterized by peace. This is an outstanding feature of the
family-life sketched in
Psalm 128. Father, mother, and children live together peacefully.
Peace is demanded, when the children are called "olive plants," for
olive plants, we are told, required a peaceful environment for growth.
Parents must promote peace. They must see to it that there is peace
between husband and wife. The spiritual unity of husband and wife is
necessary. Then, they must live together without fighting. Bickering and
tension between husband and wife destroy the children. Parents must
maintain peace between themselves and their children, as much as
possible. Where there is love for, and friendship with, the children,
peace may be expected. It is kept by good teaching, proper discipline,
and mutual forgiveness. Parents must work for peace in the church.
Parents always at war with the church - with the pastor, with the
elders, with the rest of the congregation—will reap a bitter harvest
in their children. Unnecessary conflicts in the congregation will take
their toll in our young people. Parents must make every effort to
cultivate peace among their children themselves. They do this by
teaching them mutual love; by disciplining them for hatred and fighting;
by warning them against envying each other; by showing them how to
forgive and reconcile; and the like.
If there is to be peace, there must be order. God is
a God of decency and order in His life with His people, as
I Corinthians 14:40 teaches. Therefore, a household of disorder and
uproar is "her huis van Jan Steen," to use a proverbial Dutch
description of a chaotic household, not a house of God.
There must be order in the family-structure itself.
Father is head of the home; mother is in subjection, for God's sake.
Disorder here is ruinous to child-rearing. The danger is not only that
mother is a barely disguised rebel, but also that father neglects to
exercise headship. Both father and mother are the authority in the home,
to be honoured by the children; and the children are the subjects, to
give honour and obedience. Friendship does not rule out, or undercut,
the authority of the parents. In the eternal covenant of grace, God is
Friend-Sovereign; and we are friend-servants. In the
covenant of the family, parents are the friends in authority; and
the children are the friends under authority.
There must be order in all the life of the home:
rising and going to bed; time of meals; working six days and resting on
the Sabbath; doing school-work; practicing music lessons; learning the
catechism; brushing teeth. What saves this from a harsh, rigid,
burdensome, militaristic order is the friendship which this order
serves. Obviously, bringing about this order demands the time, the
energy, and the presence of the parents.
When this order is the law of God ordering the life
of the family (and it must be), the friendship and atmosphere of the
home are holy. The covenant-life of the Heavenly Father with His
children is a holy life. "Holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for
93:5). God calls His children to be holy. But He calls them to be
holy, "for I am holy" (Lev.
11:44-45). So it must be with us earthly parents. We are to train
our children in holiness, as we ourselves are holy.
Parents must teach their children to be holy.
Holiness, not earthly success, is the great goal we have for them. We
strive to reach this end by teaching them the law of God. These
commandments are the "words" that Jehovah exhorted Israelite parents to
teach diligently to their children, in
Deuteronomy 6:6ff., talking of them when they sat in their house,
when they walked by the way, when they lay down, and when they arose.
Well may Reformed parents ask themselves, "How often do we talk with our
children about the law of God?" But let us be sure that we teach the
as the expression of the fear of the Lord and that we teach obedience to
the law as thankful love to the children's Redeemer. Obedience does not
serve only to keep them out of earthly trouble; nor is it mere
conformity to the rules of the church.
Parents can teach holiness to the children only if
their own lives are holy. I am pleading now, not for perfection, but for
integrity. How can we exhort the children to be holy, or expect them to
be holy if we do exhort them, when our own lives are worldly—this
world always comes first and God's world, second; when our own lives are
covetous—our hearts are set on fame, money, and things; when our own
lives are full of the pleasures of the world—night after night we amuse
ourselves with "the unfruitful works of darkness" on television; when
our own lives are drunken—we drink too much in order to quiet our fears,
to drown our sorrows, or to live it up at indecent parties; when our own
lives are lives of hatred—envy, fault-finding, backbiting; when our own
lives profane the Sabbath—our outward keeping of the Lord's Day is a
cold, dead custom, or we easily neglect worship for our own convenience,
or we devote the hours between the services of worship to worldly
Before He told the parents of Israel, "teach them
diligently unto thy children," Jehovah said to the parents themselves,
"And these words ... shall be in thine heart" (Deut.
6:6). There is no cheap way to teach holiness. Jesus flayed the
Pharisees, who "bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay
them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one
of their fingers" (Matt.
23:4). Even the worldly poet saw the fatal weakness of a call to
holiness by the unholy, for in his Hamlet Shakespeare has
Ophelia say to Laertes:
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven:
Whilst like a puff'd and reckless libertine
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede
(And heeds not his own counsel).
The warning of Andrew Murray should be heard:
The greatest danger to Christ's Church is not
infidelity or superstition. It is the spirit of worldliness in the
homes of our Christian people, sacrificing the children to ambition or
society, to the riches or the friendships of the world. (The
Children for Christ, p. 40)
In the interests of the holiness of our children,
discipline is necessary, a firm discipline.
Discipline is no enemy of parental love for their
children. Rather, love demands discipline, if this love for children
reflects God's love for His children. The experience of every believer
convinces him of the truth of this, for the Heavenly Father disciplines
every one of His children. Scripture teaches this emphatically. It is
the powerful doctrine of
Hebrews 12, not only that the God who loves us also chastises us,
but also that it is exactly His Fatherly love that chastises: "For whom
the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he
receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with
sons ..." (vv. 6-7). God's discipline is severe: rebuking, chastising,
whipping. This is the figure; the reality is sickness, poverty,
persecution, and death. It was not yet unto blood among the Hebrew
Christians, but it might come to this. Because of the severity of the
discipline, the chastised were discouraged, wearied, fainting, ready to
throw in the towel and quit—their hands hung down and their knees were
The purpose of God with this discipline is our
profit, "that we might be partakers of his holiness" (v. 10). For the
rearing of us, instruction alone is not enough, not even when the
Teacher is God and the teaching, His Word. Our depravity is so great,
that chastisement is needed, in addition.
Earthly parents must learn from this aspect of Divine
Fatherhood. A love for our children that is lax, that withholds
discipline, is not the love of God for them; in fact, the wisdom of
Proverbs says that it is not love at all: "He that spareth his rod
hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (13:24).
It is not an imaginary danger in our permissive age, that there are, in
the church, children and young people who have everything they desire;
who may do as they please; and who are unrestrained, except by some
Eli-like pleading that has no teeth in it.
Parents must start early, showing that disobedience
to God's Law, including disrespect for parental authority, is sin and
chastising wilful disobedience to that Law in appropriate ways—a
rebuke, a slap on the hand of the very young, a spanking on the rear of
the older child with a stick. If nothing else motivates parents, let
this move them, that without the holiness produced by discipline also
the covenant children shall not see the Lord (Heb.
It is necessary that our love discipline; it is
equally necessary that our discipline be administered out of love. In
the very passage in which He stresses the urgency of discipline, the
Lord points out, and warns against, an all too common failure of us
parents in the discipline of our children. Referring to the earthly
fathers who corrected us and to whom we gave reverence, the apostle
says, "For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own
pleasure ..." (Heb.
12:10). This is contrasted with God's chastising us for our
profit. This rings painfully true to the experience of us parents.
How often are not our screams of rebuke and our blows of chastisement,
personal rage and displeasure, with no purpose in the child's welfare
We are inclined to overlook that, in those places
where the New Testament expressly addresses the duty of parents in
Ephesians 6:4 and
Colossians 3:21. Scripture warns fathers against provoking their
children to wrath.
Colossians 3:21 adds, "lest they become discouraged," i.e., broken
in spirit. This evil is the abuse of parental authority - the exercise
of authority cut loose from love; a harsh, selfish exercise of
discipline. Many children are ruined by laxity; I wonder whether as many
are not ruined by this tyrannical, love-less rule. Every disciplinary
act must be done by us parents (and by the Christian school teacher!),
consciously, out of love for the child as covenant child of God. Every
disciplinary act must be done, consciously, with the purpose that the
child be turned from sin unto holiness. Every time the parent raises his
hand in discipline, he must remember that his hand is the hand of God
(cf. the Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 104).
Concerning this discipline, parents must be patient.
Patience is a marvellous perfection of God in His dealing with us
sinners; and it must characterize us. Our children are sinners; they are
bad sinners—no one knows this like a Reformed believer; we also know
whence they came by their sinfulness. Without becoming tolerant of sin,
we must be patient with our sinful children. Thus, also, we will have
hope, when, at times, we do not see the fruit that we desire in them.
Parents ought never to lose control of themselves in
discipline, not even when the children have sinned grossly. It is
possible for us virtually to destroy our children with rage, with
condemnation, with ridicule, and with beating. We should call to mind
our own plea of the Heavenly Father, in
Psalm 38:1: "O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me
in thy hot displeasure."
Rebuke must be wisely mixed with praise of the
children when they do well. Some parents refuse to praise, or reward,
their children, as a matter of principle. This is a mistake. Let God,
once again, be our example: He praises and rewards His children, for
doing that which is their duty and for doing that which He Himself works
in them. We all know that this is a strong incentive to obedience, glad
obedience. So it is with our children. Praise encourages them. How
discouraging, if all they ever hear from us is criticism. God is the
best Pedagogue: not for nothing is the Fifth Commandment the first
commandment with promise (cf.
If we are willing to discipline, we are ready and
eager to forgive, when, by the discipline, the Holy Spirit has worked
repentance in the child. We must express forgiveness to the child, "God
forgives you; and I forgive you." Then, we must forget about the fault.
Finally, if one of our children, when he grows up,
shows himself an ungodly young man, or herself, an ungodly young woman,
who despises and rebels against our admonition, we must follow the "way
Deuteronomy 21:18-21" with him, or her: "... Then shall his father
and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the eiders ...
and they shall say unto the eiders of his city, This our son is stubborn
and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a
drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that
he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall
hear, and fear." The Israelite parent brought his wicked child to the
elders, to be stoned to death. Today, in the church, parents are to
bring their unruly child to the elders, to be excommunicated out of the
church and to be cut off from the fellowship of the saints, if he does
not repent. Never are Reformed parents in the position that they wring
their hands helplessly; never may they allow the church to be corrupted
by unbelieving, lawless young people.
We love our children as covenant children, for God's
sake, not at the expense of God's glory. Our friendship with them is in
the Lord Jesus, not regardless of Him. Not every one of the children of
believers is a covenant child of promise (Rom.
9:8). When one's own child, by unbelief and unrighteousness, denies
Christ, the parent faces the choice: my Christ or my child; and he
chooses Christ. Then Christ sends the sword into our very family "to set
a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her
mother ... and a man's foes shall be they of his own household."
Whoever, then, "loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of
me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me"
10: 34-39). Of course, the resort to church discipline may have as
its happy outcome the child's repentance and salvation; and for this the
parent never ceases to hope and to pray.
This is Reformed, biblical child-rearing: love them;
live with them in friendship; and discipline them, taking the Fatherhood
of God as pattern.
If God's Fatherhood of us cost Him His own Son, we
cannot expect our child-rearing to be easy, painless, and cheap.
But it is possible. Good rearing and a good
family-life are possible, still today. It is required of all parents who
name the Name of Christ. The possibility is not ourselves, not at all.
The possibility is the blessing of God—sovereign, covenant
grace—besought fervently in prayer, for "except the Lord build the
house, they labour in vain that build it" (Ps.