I volunteer as a pastoral care teacher at my son’s school’s parent support group. Not too long ago, the pastoral staff collected prayer requests from the Primary 6 boys. To our surprise, the prayer requests were not merely for the up and coming PSLE. Instead, a substantial number of prayer requests were for the well-being of their families – for parents not to quarrel, not to have affairs nor get divorced.
It is sobering for a Children’s Day bulletin message to start on such a note, but we must never forget that our children’s welfare and happiness are tied to the marital union and codes for the family which God instituted. In Ephesians 5:22 – 6:9, Paul gives instructions to the Christian household. First, 5:21-24 reminds husbands and wives to submit to each other out of reverence to Christ. Next, 5:25-33 emphasizes the bond of love and respect in the family and at length reminds Christian spouses that they’re on the same team (5:31 is specific that even in-laws do not share in that most intimate of bonds). Only after these instructions on how the family should be led are there comparatively brief, but equally important, instructions for parent-child relationships and relationships with household staff.
How we raise our children must be seen in the context of God’s order for the family. How we live as a family must be seen in the context of God’s order for marriage. And how we live as husband and wife must be seen in the context of God’s order for our relationship with Him.
The above passages raise two lessons for children to grow up well. First, there is a clear hierarchy in the household – Christ, spouse, children, staff. If this hierarchy is out of order, the household falls apart. The structure makes sense and this hierarchy must be maintained. Second, a household is built on love and respect. If love and respect for Christ and for each other do not exist, it is a house divided. And as Christ reminded us, a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25).
In living out these principles, there are of course challenges faced by every generation and every society. There are two we seem to struggle with in today’s Singapore.
First, the struggle with priorities. In the quest to provide for our children, we as parents need to be watchful over our priorities. Children require much toil, time and attention, but this must not come at the expense of time and attention to our spouses. There is a tipping point where if we are honest with God, we must admit that our secular work or even the day to day running of the household and children, have overtaken our spiritual lives as well as the physical and emotional needs of our spouses. When that happens, we expose ourselves to the evil one, who will seize a foothold for temptation.
Second, the struggle with sin. Do not be deceived and do not deceive yourself. We are all prone to be tempted. When we give way to temptation, sin enters the family in the form of addictions, lies or adultery. It is like trying to keep a smouldering coal under the carpet. Suspicion, defensiveness, weariness at keeping up appearances will burn a hole through the carpet. Ultimately we end up hurting the nearest and dearest to us, our family, our children, and most of all, we grieve God.
We need to pray and be vigilant to uphold our children, our families, our marriages, and our precious relationship with our Heavenly Father who underwrites it all.
By Joseph and Linda Leong (YCKC Bulletin 28&29 September 2013)