By Dr Peter Lim
Some four years ago, I wrote on this topic. During the Children Dedication segment at our worship service last week-end I was prompted to revisit this subject. With some minor edits the following was what I wrote.
We all love our children and dote upon our grandchildren. We will do whatever it takes to give them a head start in life. For instance, to improve the odds that they get into a good primary school we are prepared to move house to within two kilometres of the school of choice. But when it comes to their souls’ salvation, are we as concerned? If we are, what measures can we take?
Children Dedication is a start; but it is only a symbolic gesture of our desire and commitment to bring our children up in the fear of the Lord and to walk in His ways. The church community is enjoined to be party to this collective effort in nurturing the spiritual growth of our children. However, there is a limit to what we can do. Most important of all, we cannot appropriate God’s free gift of salvation for them. Everyone has to make this decision personally. The truth is that God has no grandchildren! Our children and grandchildren will not be able to gain access into God’s kingdom via a proxy decision by us.
While faithful attendance in Kids for Christ (Junior Sunday School) will not ensure salvation it is a good starting point for the children to get to know and study the Word of God. In addition, as parents or grandparents we should augment such teaching by regular interaction with them on Bible stories. Although there is no particular age at which children can make the decision to accept our Lord Jesus Christ as their own personal Saviour, there is no harm in ascertaining with them once they reach school-going age. It is a fact that young children are usually more receptive to the Gospel. But we should never coerce or entice them into making a decision for Jesus Christ.
There is no guarantee that godly parents will produce godly off-spring. Let me cite some notable Biblical examples. Eli, the Old Testament priest during Samuel’s time had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. While they were priests in name, they desecrated the offerings brought by worshippers and had sexual relations with the women who served in the Tent of Meeting (1 Samuel 2:12-17; 22-25). As a result, their lives were ignominiously terminated by the Philistines who also captured the Ark of the Covenant during a battle. While Eli did rebuke them for their sacrilegious behaviour, he did not expel them from their priestly office (1 Samuel Ch. 2, 4). Eli’s successor, Samuel, the greatest and last of the Judges, and first of the prophets, fared no better in this area. The wickedness of his two sons resulted in Israel demanding for a monarchy (1 Samuel Ch. 8). Finally, though King Hezekiah was a great reformer, restoring godly worship to Judah, his son, Manasseh led the nation into the detestable practices of Canaanite idolatry (2 Chronicles Ch. 33). These indeed are sobering examples. But there are also notable instances where appropriate teaching and nurturing, transmitted through generation after generation, produced godly off-spring, such as in the case of Lois, Eunice and Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5).
There is much we can do to nurture the nascent faith of our children and grandchildren. Here are some suggestions. Firstly, we should walk the talk. There is no better role-model than our lives which according to the apostle Paul’s injunction should not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). Secondly, we should “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) knowing that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Thirdly, we should ensure that our young charges are well-grounded in God’s Word, the Bible, which is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Anecdotal evidence suggests that the spiritual dropout rate among the children of bible believing church goers is not insignificant. May God grant us patience, persistence and divine guidance as we set about this lifelong journey of nurturing the faith of our children and grandchildren.
May we be reminded by the adage from the book of Proverbs as we nurture the spiritual growth of our children and grandchildren – “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).