|Vol. 16 No. 6 June 2014||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Little babies don’t start out destined to be internationally notorious characters like Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler. Infants don’t start out to become rapists, murderers, burglars, drunkards or other derelict citizens of world society. Nevertheless, boys and girls do grow up to be enemies of God and man alike. Why is that?
Innocent newborns don’t start out their lives with any aspirations for themselves or of their parents for them to be the personification of evil. Yet, our world is rife with violent criminals, flagrant lawbreakers, warlords and villains. Why is that?
Contrary to the Catholic idea of “original sin” and Calvinism’s concept of “total depravity,” the Bible teaches that children are born without sin; this is true about all newborns. “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you” (Ezekiel 28:15 NKJV). Children do not inherit the sins of Adam and Eve or of their forefathers. “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20).
Instead, little children are innocent, thereby being suitable examples of the guiltless inhabitants of heaven someday from among the human population. Our Lord Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). However, eventually God holds souls accountable for their misdeeds or sins when they can discern between right and wrong (Hebrews 5:14) and have the ability to believe (John 8:24), repent (Luke 13:3), proclaim allegiance to Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10) and request baptism for the remission of their sins (Acts 8:36; 2:38).
Yet, why do some people become such sinful rogues that they excel in sin above their peers who may also live godless lives outside of obedience to God? Surely a number of factors contribute to such despicable and heinous demonstrations of iniquity.
A wicked environment in which a child is reared is a very significant root that underlies extreme rebellion against Almighty God. Largely, children become whatever it is to which they are exposed. This is true respecting world religions (e.g., Buddhism, Hinduism), denominationalism (e.g., Catholicism, Baptist) and ungodliness in general.
Yet, there are some notable examples of Bible characters who persevered in righteousness despite being surrounded by wickedness in their families. Josiah was such a person (2 Kings 22:1-2). One does not have to be the victim of his or her environment (e.g., ungodly nation or society, wicked family traditions, etc.). Souls are responsible for the choices that they make in spite of the environments in which they find themselves. “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Each of us is responsible for making correct spiritual choices despite an environment contrary to the Word of God in which he or she may be reared.
Mankind is “without excuse” for failure to acknowledge the existence of God, simply because every thinking mind can discern the necessity of a Designer God for the existence of the visible universe (Romans 1:18-20). Through general revelation that is apparent all around us, honest hearts are compelled to concede that God exists and is responsible for the creation of everything that far exceeds human capability to make. Then, armed with that initial awareness, one must seek out God, Who reveals Himself and His divine instructions through specific revelation in the written Word of God – the Bible.
One of the most important environments that critically affects childrearing is the home. Godly parenting is the single most crucial component that is necessary for successful upbringing of children. Furthermore, since Almighty God designed and ordained the home in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:21-25), it is to God through His Holy Word parents must turn if they are to know and to apply divine principles for rearing their children. No “How-To” book outside of the Bible could possibly provide more insight about parenting as God would have it to be.
Primarily fathers are obligated to provide the spiritual direction to their respective families (Ephesians 6:4; 5:22-33). Mothers participate in an essential way and may have more interaction with their children than do the fathers (2 Timothy 1:5), but God holds fathers accountable for the spiritual welfare of their families. Abraham was such a father who readily accepted his fatherly duty toward his children. “For I have known him [Abraham], in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him” (Genesis 18:19).
On the other hand, the prophet Eli and King David failed to execute their God-given roles relative to their children. “For I have told him [Eli] that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them” (1 Samuel 3:13). “Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, ‘I will be king’; and he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. (And his father [David] had not rebuked him at any time by saying, ‘Why have you done so?’ He was also very good-looking. His mother had borne him after Absalom)” (1 Kings 1:5-6). The results of insufficient involvement by fathers in the rearing of their children is tragic – often in this physical world and certainly spiritually.
Children can make bad choices that overrule the best of upbringing by godly and attentive parents. After all, the ungodly world spends more time with our children than do we Christian parents spend time with them (e.g., at school; at play; through media of television, radio, magazines, movies and music; sports, vocational pursuits, etc.). Chiefly parents but also elders, teachers and preachers must satisfactorily inoculate our children against wickedness. This must occur despite the lesser number of hours spent with family and communing with fellow Christians.
Christian parents, other family members and the church family must vaccinate children against sin in a concentrated approach to compensate for the greater amount of time they are with non-Christians daily. We need to pursue tenaciously the approach that God through Moses instructed Jewish parents to employ.
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
Though children can exercise their own freewill to countermand their godly upbringing, still the general rule is that young ones whose pliable minds are fashioned appropriately will maintain the course on which their parents set them. “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Begin early while children are very young and consistently guide your offspring along the pilgrim pathway toward the heavenly city. No mother holds her newborn child in her arms, gazes into his or her innocent eyes, and imagines that the little human that she carried for nine months and laboriously birthed will someday be renown for great wickedness – a Jezebel, a Hitler, a murderer, a thief, a robber, etc. Our children need parental help every day to thwart “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16), “passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25) and “youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22) in their lives. As urgently as any parent would attempt to protect his or her children from a ravenous beast, parents must rescue them from the throes of Satan who will certainly devour them if he can. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).