|Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
With the recent SCOTUS rulingand the likely avalanche of lower court decisions, along with runaway cultural zealots like Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian – who recently decided to ignore the First Amendment and place a gag order prohibiting Christian business owners from voicing their sincerely held convictions regarding participation in a so-called same-sex marriage ceremony – there is a branch of Christian study that’s likely to be thrust to the forefront of all others.
It is the study of apologetics, the defense of the Faith.
Until recently, in most churches apologetics has been relegated to either post-Sunday school backroom discussions or precollege youth ministry. Now it’s likely to be everywhere, from adult Sunday school classes to the exposition of the Sunday morning sermon. And that’s a good thing!
To be honest, apologetics should have been present in all those places already.
However, one ministry I’m afraid could be left out of this new attention given to loving God with all of your mind (Luke 10:27) is the children’s ministry. It’ll be easy to assume small children aren’t capable of comprehending the often complex and mind-stretching nature of apologetics, so these programs will likely begin at the still very much needed high school level.
In other words, it will be difficult to convince local churches to substitute paintings of Anselm and Thomas Aquinas for Noah’s Ark and Daniel in the lion’s den.
Unfortunately, those in the culture interested in imposing their will on your children will not be so naïve.
This inconvenient truth will leave parents of very young children with the awkward decision to either completely shelter their kids from the attacks of the culture (an impossibility) or do their own training.
Parents will be either forced to remove their children from public school – an option that’s not available to everyone and will be the likely target of many legal battles as the culture begins to see private education and homeschooling as a threat to their agenda – or to leave their children to the whims of government sanctioned propaganda.
Sadly, most parents will have no choice but to accept the former.
Just as cultural change is forcing the church to love God with her mind again, so will it do to parents, becoming at that point part of the manifold grace of God, a blessing in disguise. Anytime God uses a perceived evil to sanctify His church and make her more beautiful we should praise Him because truly, you, as PARENTS, are the first apologists your child should ever meet.
As parents striving to raise their children in the fear of the Lord, we’re all familiar with the passages in Deuteronomy instructing God’s covenant children on the importance of raising their covenant children under the law of God.
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 11:18–19, ESV)
There are three ideas I’d like to offer as parents responsible to teach your children to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength. If you’re familiar with this passage, then it’s likely you are familiar with the first two actions that Moses, the human author, and God, the Divine author, of this passage require of you.
First, as parents, we are to love God’s law in such a way that it is integral part of all our lives. For the ancient Jews, actually physically writing God’s law across the forehead and wearing it around one’s neck was a constant reminder of submission to God’s ownership and sovereignty and the constant every day, all of the time, living out of God’s law.
The same should be no less true for us.
Our children shouldn’t be able to distinguish our lives apart from our love and understanding of the law of God. There should be no separation between secular and sacred. All is God’s, and any effort to instruct our children to love him with all of their minds will be an exercise in futility without this cohesiveness.
Secondly, we are to be teaching our children to love God and his commandments all of the time. We are not to delegate our responsibility to the Church, the Christian school, the parachurch organization, the youth group, or any other substitute. Furthermore, daily devotions are not sufficient on their own. We must always be diligently looking for ways to teach our children God’s Law. Who can deny that our culture provides us with a plethora of opportunities to instruct our children? Why then would we diminish those opportunities to 15 or 20 minutes of Bible reading at night? Of course we shouldn’t!
Finally, but probably the most overlooked truth taught in this passage, is that this passage is not merelytalking of memorization or even of life application. Moses is instructing the children of Israel to love God with their minds and therefore to teach their children to do the same. It’s easy for us to believe that when Moses says to place these things on our hearts and our souls that he’s referring merely to the act of memorization, but that isn’t true.
Both the word heart(לֵבָב lebab (523b); from an unused word; inner man, mind, will)and the word soul (נֶפֶשׁ nephesh (659b); from an unused word; a soul, living being, life, self, person, desire, passion, appetite, emotion)in this message are referring to a deep love with the emotion and deep understanding with the mind.
Although memorization is a great place to begin doing this, it is only a beginning and in and of itself not sufficient. Charles Simeon explains this in the classic Horae Homileticae, “Abraham was particularly commended for his care with respect to this: and the injunction in the text, confirmed by many other passagesl, requires that we should “diligently” perform this duty. Nor should we imagine that the mere teaching of children to repeat a catechism will suffice: we should open to them all the wonders of redemption, and endeavour to cast their minds, as it were, into the very mould of the Gospel.]”
Although “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV) is a kind of go toverse for apologists who intend to convince Christians of the necessity of apologetics, this command in Deuteronomy from Moses is really the heart of apologetics, to know what we believe and why we believe it, to love God with all of our minds.
As a parent, you must realize the great responsibility God has given you to raise His covenant children. Because God instituted the family first as His tools to begin shaping His present and future Kingdom, it is you, not the Church, who stands as the first and greatest influence on how well your children will love God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength.
Although the church is responsible for the teaching and preaching of the Word of God, in the lives of children it stands as a mere extension of the home.
So, if you’re looking to your pastor to save your children from the culture, stop it. If you’re looking to your youth pastor to influence your children into buying into Christianity and resisting the temptation to assimilate into a godless worldview, forget it. If a Sunday school teacher is your first line of defense against what is being taught in your children’s elementary school classroom, you have misunderstood the role of the Church. Parents are the first apologists your child should meet, and in the words of your little ones, YOU’RE IT!