Needed – God-Governed Homes

Thomas Vanden Heuvel is pastor of the First Christian Reformed Church of Chino, California. He is a former president of the Reformed Fellowship board. He writes: “Parents are servants of the Holy Spirit; and, as His instruments, they are to nurture their children in the Christian faith and godliness. How is this done? The Holy Spirit oversees it. He governs the whole process. He anoints parents to be prophets, priests, and kings in the home.”

A history professor at Harvard University said, “The Western family is rapidly approaching its third violent crisis. This crisis will be the third manifestation of mass disregard for the family in Western society. The first occurred in Greece; the second in Rome and facing these crises, neither the Greek nor the Roman civilization was able to survive.”

Time magazine reported : “. . . to a startling degree the American parents have handed the child raising to educational institutions that cannot or will not do the job” (Time, Dec. 15, 167, p. 30).

What is the reason for the breakdown of the home? Many studies have been made on the subject, but the analysis of the senior judge on the highest court in Brooklyn, Samuel S. Leibowitz, is of particular interest. He writes:

“We judges are all sickeningly aware of the terrible fact that teen-agers are replacing adults on the dockets of criminal courts . . . but our awareness is tinged with hopelessness. The Senate sub-committee on juvenile delinquency has announced that ‘we are losing the battle against juvenile delinquency.’

“There is a feeling of despair, almost panic . . . . It seemed to me that something down deep, simple but basic must have disappeared from our way of life to have caused this revolt toward crime among our young people. But what is it? For several years I searched through the debris of the young ruined lives brought before me, trying to find the lead, but without results.”

Then the judge went on to say that he went to visit the country which had the lowest juvenile delinquency rate, Italy, to see if he could find a clue that would help him discover where we had jumped the track. And he did. Here are his words:

From all parts of Italy, from every official, I received the same answer: the young people respect authority. They have a respect that starts in the home and carries over into the schools, the city streets and the courts. I went into many Italian homes to see for myself what the experts were talking about. I found that even in the house of the poorest laborer, the father was respected by the wife and the children as the head of the family. He was the leader of that family, and ruled his brood with varying degrees of love and tenderness and firmness. His household had rules to live by, and the child who disobeyed was punished. . . . Thus, from the ancient wisdom of the Italians who have the best behaved teenagers in the western world, I found the nineword principle that I think can do more for us than al the committees, ordinances and multi-million dollar programs combined: Put Father Back at the Head of the Family.”

The Bible places the responsibility of child training squarely on the shoulders of the parents. Deuteronomy 6 says, “And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way and when thou liest down and when thou risest up.”

The parents have an office. They are called to this office by God when He gives them children. The prayer in the Form for Baptism says, “Wilt thou always govern this child by thy Holy Spirit, that he may be nurtured in the Christian faith and godliness, and grow and increase in the Lord Jesus Christ. . . . ?”

Parents are servants of the Holy Spirit; and, as His instruments, they are to nurture their children in the Christian faith and godliness. How is this done? The Holy Spirit oversees it. He governs the whole process. He anoints parents to be prophets, priests and kings in the home.

Let us look at the office of parents in terms of parentprophets, parent-priests, and parent-kings.


Parent-Prophets – Edith Schaeffer in her excellent and novel approach to the family in her book, what Is a Family?, has a chapter entitled “Relay Race.” She describes the passing of the truth from one generation to the next as a relay race. The runner must give the baton to his partner before the partner can run with it.

So the parent is a prophet. It is the parental duty to instruct. Psalm 78 speaks of this: “He appointed a law in Israel which he commanded our fathers that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should arise and declare them to their children.” This is the relay race of truth. The Word of Cod is passed from one generation to the next.

Notice the purpose from Psalm 78:7: “That they might set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” So the truth must be put to work. The children must remember the works of God by looking in the past; they must put their hope in God for the future. And they must keep His commands today.

As parent-prophets, parents must communicate with their children. This communication does not just happen; it must be cultivated. Right here is a major problem. In a study of twentyone European countries, it was reported that a problem of “non-relationship” has developed between the two generations. They can no longer converse. They use different terms, have a different set of values. They co-exist without communication.

A Time essay (Dec. 15, 1967) on “Being an American Parent” sees the problem of communication in divided living. “Families have lost unifying economic functions—all the heat is on parents, but fathers typically work in distant offices, leaving mothers to raise the sons with insufficient fatherly support. Too many mothers are preoccupied with their outside activities—everything but the children. Studies show that the father absence has baneful effects (especially on boys), ranging from low self-esteem to hunger for immediate gratification and susceptibility to group influence.” “Hippies commonly flee from father absent homes in which despairing mothers either overindulge their children or overpressure them.” One college freshman said: “The big thing is that my father makes more of his work than it really is, leaving us the crumbs.” A bitter Navy daughter recalls, “I despise my father. He was never there. He was in the Navy 120 years.”

How can parents bring their children up if they are not together and if they do not communicate? It is impossible. No wonder Paul said that mothers are to be keepers of the home (Titus 2:5).

How can parents be good parents? As Moses said in Deuteronomy 6, what God wants is 6rst of all to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. These words of God must be in our hearts. These must be taught to our children.

Communication is the key. Many parents have no idea what their children think or feel or believe because they have never given them a chance to express themselves. There must be an openness between the generations. “Spend time—not money” is good advice.

A prerequisite for healthy communication is a pleasant atmosphcre, understanding, and openness. This atmosphere must be built. Capitalize on special occasions like birthdays, graduations, sport events, concerts. Spend time with the children at bed-time. Work on projects together. Enjoy free time together. Show the children they are important. Then within this mutual trusting and sharing relationship, communication is natural. Share the gospel of Jesus Christ in a personal way. Make sure nothing interferes with regular church attendance and with a useful observance of the Lord‘s Day. Parentprophets will make sure the children know their catechism lessons and will see to it that they attend a school where Christ is honored in the classroom.

Parent-Priests – Not only are parents prophets, they are also called of God to be priests. The parentpriests must teach their children to pray.

The story is told of a father who never learned to pray audibly. He, his wife and two children heard a sermon on the need of parents to teach their children to pray. So at Sunday dinner time he decided to pray aloud with his family. He got started, and soon he got stuck. His daughter snickered, his son did too, then his wife laughed, and soon he himself laughed too. They ate dinner. But that afternoon he felt very sad at what happened. He went to his room and on his knees he wrestled with God, confessing his sins and the sins of his family. He pleaded with God to help him pray and to help him teach his children to pray. That evening before supper, he called his family together. He said, “I’m going to pray again.” They all kneeled in the kitchen and he began to pray. He confessed his sin and the family’s sin and asked God to make him a better father and to help him lead his family to God. When he finished the children and wife were weeping as they put their arms around him. Parents are priests to lead in worship and prayer, and to teach their children to pray.

Parent-priests must also be sensitive to their children’s needs. The needs change as children get older. Edith Schaeffer has a chapter entitled, “The family is a Shelter in the time of storm.” How wonderful to have a family in times of need.

Psalm 61:1–3 is a picture of what God is to His family: “Hear my cry, O God, attend unto my prayer. From the ends of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.”

Earthly families should be that to us. They are the tower, the rock, the shelter for us. God guards us and governs us through the family. Our family is meant to be a solid dependable “ear” that will hear and understand. The parents are God’s priests to their children. They represent the heavenly high priest in the home.

As priests, parents must show their children what it means to sacrifice. In Romans 12:1,2, Paul tells us to present our bodies a living sacrifice. What does this mean? It means giving ourselves in full surrender to the Lord. It means saying: “I am not my own, but I belong to my faithful Savior.” It is like being a seed which must fall into the ground and die, then it will bring forth much fruit. We’ve got to show our children that by surrendering ourselves to Christ we really find ourselves.

Our attitude toward contributing of our time, talents, and money to the church and the Kingdom causes will reflect our view of sacrifice. Our children learn by what they see. Our service in the consistory, school board, Bible school staff, Sunday School staff, Bible Study groups, choir, Cadets, Calvinettes, will reveal our concept of sacrifice. Being a seed in God’s garden involves being ready for anything that is God’s plan for us. It may mean being willing to be buried to our own dreams and desires, or our own plans and preferences for the sake of God’s call. We can be planted again and again. Each time we can say: “Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee.” As John Calvin said: “My heart I offer Thee, Lord, promptly and sincerely.”

Parent-Kings – Parents are also called to be kings. Standing in the place of God, the parent has authority. Parents rule their family first by exhibiting in their lives Christian conduct. The law of God must first of all be in the parentshearts.

The parent-king rules by love. The children feel free to come to them with their problems; and when they receive the counsel they feel at once that it has been drawn from God’s Word. They know their parents as people of God.

As kings, the parents guard their family from harmful influences. They are watchmen on the walls of the home. One parent seeking to be a faithful guardian of the child‘s mind, placed this verse on the television set: Philippians 4:8, “Whatsoever things are: true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report think on these things.”

The kingly parent is concerned about who his children associate with, who their friends are, where they go, and when they will be home.

The Book of Proverbs is a handbook on being a parent. It presents profound principles regarding discipline.

Discipline comes from being a disciple. “Children become disciples of their parents who enjoy and back each other up, whose mutual respect and trust and praise for work well done helps children draw a positive picture of themselves.”

Discipline must always be done in love. Limits must be set, stated, and then enforced without exception. Letting a child get away with something he knows is wrong or dangerous makes him feel his parents dont love him—and rightly so. In Seattle, a permissive fathers 14-year-old daughter who had been slipping out at night to date a paroled convict was straightened out only after a community-relations officer bluntly told her father that he had to show some stern authority. “The girl was screaming, ‘Help me: make me stop this,’” said the officer. “What she wanted was security—a dad behind her. She wanted to go to bed with a teddy bear—not an ex-convict” (Time, Dec. 15, 1967).

Solomon says: “Chasten a son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (Prov. 19:18). “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Prov. 29:15).

Parents are office-bearers of the Holy Spirit who governs the children through them. Christian parents are prophets, priests, and kings who share the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

What our nation needs is God-governed homes; Christian families who are the salt and the light in every community.