In a message on “common sins” in the household, it would be easy to focus on those common sins which everyone knows and acknowledges to be sins—complaining, fighting, etc. But the point this morning is to take a step or two back, and address some of the problems which set up the temptations for the garden-variety sins. Sins that we know to be sins are not as dangerous as sins that we believe to be virtues.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, And the heart of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:5–6).
The New Testament teaches us that this prophecy was fulfilled in Christ. John the Baptist came before the Lord came, and the point of his ministry (remember, a ministry of preparation) was to turn the hearts of fathers and children toward one another. Note also the alternative, which is a curse upon the earth. When fathers and mothers are honored, when things are spiritually healthy in the home, the result is blessing in the land. When fathers are harsh with their children, or when mothers are, the results are devastating. When the family breaks down, everything breaks down.
But simply having “traditional family values” in theory does not prevent such breakdowns. In recent years, some of the great moral failures have come from the traditionalist camp. The population of our church is such that thoughtful and biblical consideration of these sorts of temptations is an urgent necessity. How we educate and rear our children is a matter of central concern to us—we are dealing with hundreds of souls. This means that some plain dealing is pastorally necessary, whatever the issue— e.g. whether we are talking about homeschooling or about day schools like Logos, we have to think biblically.
COMMON ROOTS OF PARENTAL SINS:
We often deal with sins only when they bear fruit at the branch’s extremities. A lot of spiritual energy could be spared if we were willing to consider some of the root problems. Spiritual Neglect—those who do not know the condition of their own souls are in no position to shepherd the souls of others. “Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14). Parents, take care that you do not neglect the state of your own soul. How is it with you and God? Busyness is not holiness.
Defensive Isolationism—“Wives, submit . . . Husbands, love . . . Children, obey . . . Fathers, do not provoke…” (Col. 3:18-21). The point here is not the content of Paul’s exhortations, but rather to note that they are given in the context of the church. We live in community; we are not a club of isolated individuals. This means that we are involved in one another’s lives, which in turn means that we are involved with one another’s children. We all takes vows at the baptisms here, which means something important. It is not a ceremonial ritual.
Many parents falsely assume that they know their children better than anyone else in the church. It would be more accurate to say that parents could know their children better if they studied the Word, and their children, with biblical wisdom. If they did, then they would know that “faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov. 27:6 ). And the way it shakes out is that most parents know their children better in many areas, and complete strangers know them better in others.
Ignorant Isolationism—Just as sin seeks out the darkness (John 3:19), so sin, on the same principle, seeks lack of accountability. But Paul is blunt in his application of this principle. “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12). This is sadly a common problem among those who homeschool. Consequently, when problems arise, they are not often identified until it is too late to do anything about it.
Presumption—far from neglecting community, this is a sin which relies entirely on “community.” “All we have to do,” it is thought, “is enroll our children in Logos, attend church, make sure that we hang around enough, and everything will turn out all right.” No, it won’t. When parents do not exercise a godly and wise oversight of their children, bad things regularly and routinely happen, regardless of the community in which the children live, and regardless of the school they attend. The best school in the world is no substitute for godly parents.
Chasing after fads—“that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Eph. 4:14-15). These fads we may divide into two categories— those which fit this description from Ephesians exactly, and are necessarily destructive in their effects. All anti-biblical legalisms would fit into this category.
But we must also include those things which could be fruitful and constructive if approached with wisdom—courtship, homeschooling, and the rest of it. But stampedes never bring wisdom. Bad things implemented stupidly do a lot of damage. Good things implemented stupidly do even more damage. Reformation is never brought about by plugging some formula. This includes educational formulae. It includes childrearing
When you imitate the wise, you grow from the inside. When you copy the wise, nothing much happens. You wind up copying the wrong things entirely. Instead of imitating a godly father’s patience, you wind up copying what kind of minivan he bought.