We have already seen that marriages are covenant entities. This is no less true of the fruit of such covenant unions. The family is not established by custom, or by legislation. The family is established and defined by the Word of God alone.
And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly (Job 1:4-5).
In this text, Job does not offer sacrifices because of a feeling of guilt, or to cover for his parental failures. This practice of his is actually described as an example of his righteousness. He does this because he knew the nature of his responsibility. But notice how far he extends his responsibilities. He stands before God on account of what any of his children might have done in their hearts. Job is not a man to make excuses.
Parents frequently struggle with the issues surrounding personal responsibility because the individualism of our age has taught them to think of responsibility in either/or terms instead of both/and. But parental responsibility and the responsibility of children are not to be understood as two billiard balls which cannot occupy the same place.
We tend to think, “Either he is responsible or I am.” Or sometimes we divide the responsibility—50/50, or 70/30. But it must always, we think, add up to 100. But covenants are historical and hierarchical. Responsibility of this kind does not divide, but multiplies and ascends.
Certain key principles are essential in order to come to understand this.
This is preserving personhood—the assumption of covenant responsibility by parents does not diminish the personal responsibility of each child for everything he does and thinks; rather, it strengthens it. Beware the false dichotomy between individualism and “patriarchalism.”
It is not condemning, but liberating—as Job considered the situation, his assumption of responsibility meant that he knew exactly what he was supposed to do. This thing is hard, but not difficult. It is simple to understand, which is good, because it is hard to do. Swallow your pride, which is hard to get down, and then stand up and do a very simple thing.
We see in this the point of unity—apart from this covenantal thinking, adversarial thinking develops in the family.”
You are over there, and I am over here, and we each have our perspective.” Covenantal thinking is the biblical basis for being able to say we.
We understand the sacrifices—Job offered animal sacrifices because he lived prior to the coming of Christ. We plead the sacrifice of Christ to accompany our prayer, but the content of our prayers taking responsibility should be the same as his.
Every doctrine lives as it is applied, and no other way.
Obedience—this is simply a question of having an obedient mind. This is not a technique, it is a mind of wisdom. Wisdom is not canned; responsibility cannot be freeze-dried. Distinguish application from mindless conformity.
Decision-making—after a decision is made, then the entire family can say, for example, that “we are doing thus and such.” This is only possible because “we decided to do it.” The fact that the decision was made through the covenant head does not affect that unity. If my head decides to go somewhere, my feet go too.
Before the Lord—but the best place to put these truths into practice is in your prayer life. Notice that Job did not use his covenantal understanding as a foundation for nagging. He did not show up at the kids’ places, saying, “Now you all know how responsible I
feel . . .” He sacrifices before the Lord, and stands before the Lord.
Anti-covenantal, pietistic thinking works this way: “I caught my son using porn. That’s not how we taught him. He should know better. How could he .. .?” Covenantal thinking works this way: “Father, it looks as though lust has a foothold in our home. We come before You in the name of Jesus to confess our fault in this.”