Our families are under siege. The battle is raging and the most recent casualties are at our schools — Columbine High School, Santana High School, and El Cajon High School. The names of children make up the list of those who have fallen in battle.
What is happening? Why does it continue? Very simply, enemy number one, Satan, has determined to infiltrate and sabotage our families. This is the battle. How do we respond? We look to the Bible for answers — only God's Word can guide us safely through the enemy's landmines.
We can have strong families; we can parent our children in a way that leads them to godly, healthy lives; we can survive the enemy's salvos, but only if we will parent by the right book — the Bible! The Bible is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). The Word of God is "sharper than any two-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12).
His Word translates the language of parenting to our families — we just need to take the time to read! We read in 1 Samuel 2-4 about Eli, the priest of Shiloh. Even Eli, a priest, one who was supposed to live his life for the Lord, failed to set a good example for his own children. We see this fact in the text. By the time he got around to disciplining his sons, the damage was already done. His sons had no respect for their father and were out of control. Because Eli didn't live as a positive example, his sons followed a direction that opposed the Lord.
We can learn two valuable lessons from Eli:
1) Parents should consistently lead children to embrace godly values and biblical truth. Eli failed to enforce this basic principle. By the time he heard of his sons' disobedience to God, he was "very old" (1 Samuel 2:22). In other words, he was completely out of touch with his sons. He had no clue that they lived completely apart from God. Parents, let's learn this lesson: If we want our children to live healthy, godly lives, then we must start by setting the example! Parents must consistently lead their children to love the Lord. How do we do this? We must start early and stay late.
Children need to see the "right" things in order to follow them. So parents, teach your children what the Bible says, and then live it. It is a goldmine of instruction, but without action, we miss the power of the Bible's truth. Teach children the truth of the Bible: that Jesus loves them as they are, that God is real, that we can know and do right regardless of culture, that the church is good, and that God has a wonderful plan for their lives. Start early with this instruction, and stay late. As parents continue to walk alongside their children through their lives, even when the children grow into adults, the example still stands. Parents who build strong families will lead their children to embrace the values and truth of God and His Word.
2) Parents must correct children in love. The Scripture is clear. Eli neglected his role in correcting his sons. So, by the time he got around to it, it was too late. Parents should always correct their children in a timely fashion and in love. Loving correction in a timely fashion for the good of the child strengthens both the child and the family. And children will see the love if their parents have intentionally put the Lord first in the family. Parents must put the Lord above any other event or extra-curricular activity. The love of God is the best example for the children to see. They will respond to parents' correction if they see that God is first in the family.
These are only two of a multitude of powerful lessons straight out of God's Word: parents, lead children to embrace godly values and biblical truth, and correct in love. Two simple statements, extremely powerful results. The battle is real and the war rages. But our families will see victory when we parent by the right book — the Bible.
Claude Thomas is pastor of First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas, and chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.