“When shall I start teaching my son about the Bible?”
A Christian mother asked this question of her new pastor.
“How old is he?”
“Six,” she replied.
“Hurry home, woman, you have already lost five precious years,” the pastor exclaimed.
This is not a joke but a matter of the gravest importance. Too many parents assume that little children are not prepared to hear and understand spiritual truths, and in their ignorance they fritter away golden years of opportunity.
The writer is fully aware that some child psychologists, even leaders in Christian education, feel and teach that children should not be subjected to spiritual instruction before they are six years of age. Some even deplore the telling of Bible stories of adventure and daring.
But the writer also knows that these children are a fruitful field for just such teaching and that they respond in a way which proves conclusively that these are indeed the golden years for Christian instruction. He knows this from experience.
The mind of a child does not operate in a vacuum. Even when he is only a few months old impressions are being formed and character developed. What a tragedy it is to permit this formative period to pass without making an impact on him for God and his Word!
The hearts and minds of little children are amazingly receptive to outside impressions, either for good or evil and when our Lord affirmed, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein,” he was speaking to those characteristics of a child which are so worth emulating by all.
We know of individuals who deplore telling children stories of violence which are to be found in the Bible. These usually depict heroism, divine guidance, and intervention and carry with them the implication of man’s dependence on God which thrill young minds and bring blessing to them and on through life.
When one considers the violence in the very unfunny “funnies,” on TV, and in the daily press, one is inclined to cry out against any effort to deprive children of stories about David and Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den and his three companions in the fiery furnace, to mention but a few.
Even more deplorable is the concerted effort on the part of some to protect children from the “gory” details of our Lord’s death on Calvary. Some persons to my positive knowledge have reprimanded Sunday school teachers for mentioning the “blood of Christ” to their children. And yet, when such children are subjected to the impressions of so much violence all around why should they be denied the story of the death of the Son of God, and the cleansing and redeeming blood which flowed from Calvary?
One of the outstanding characteristics of children is their simple faith. How wonderful, then, is the opportunity to instil in their minds the truths about Christ which will form the basis for their own faith in Him!
Lack of sophistication is another thing to be found in children which is a thing we are sure the Lord loves. The Christian world is beset by a desire to be sophisticated, so much so that the simplicity of the Gospel is only too often lost in a maze of worldly wisdom.
Not so with little children. Holding implicit faith in their parents and willingness to take the Scriptures at face value, their hearts are a fertile soil for spiritual truths and their simplicity is an example and warning to us who may value worldly wisdom too highly.
This lack of sophistication carries with it a receptiveness to the Gospel which should thrill those who witness God’s grace working in the hearts of little ones. Innocence in itself carries a challenge and a warning. Woe be it to any who either take advantage of innocence for evil ends or ignore its potential for good.
How then should Christian parents take advantage of the privilege and opportunity which is theirs?
That millions of children are born into unprepared homes is a tragic fact in each generation. Certainly to the Christian, it would seem axiomatic that the Christian home alone has in it the potentials for proper training. But that so many Christian homes fail in this regard is cause for real heart searching on the part of those involved.
Christ is the center of the Christian home and he must become the center of child training if it is to be effective.
One of the first problems one must handle is the psychology of the child. Even the very small will sense things he has never been told. They know whether parents are sincere in their spiritual aspirations for them or not.
It is little use to speak of prayer to a child if the parents are never seen praying. Little use to speak of the importance of Bible study if the parents are never seen reading the Word. Why tell of Christ’s love and transforming power if our children do not see the effect of His presence in our lives?
But all of these things can take place, and there can be fulfilled before our eyes the promise, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
It should not be forgotten that it is the way he should go and not the way he wants to go, for the truth that “foolishness is bound in the heart of a child” is self-evident to all who try to guide wayward little feet.
Fortunately, Christian parents are not left to carry out their task alone, nor do they lack the tools.
First, they have the privilege of praying for their children, as well as with them. God knows our weakness and our inability to train others for him. To that end he will give wisdom and guidance and the necessary grace to carry out the task. The power of prayer will never be understood this side of eternity. That God hears and answers prayer, that he reaches out often to bring help and blessing to our children should be an unending source of comfort.
Secondly, he has given parents his Word. That so many children now grow to adulthood but remain spiritual morons is one of the tragedies of our day. Even those coming from Christian homes know so little about the Bible because they have neither learned it from their parents nor used it in their daily reading.
In a very real sense the Bible is the foundation of true education. It is the reverential trust in God which is the beginning of wisdom. A child who goes out into the world with a knowledge of and love for the Holy Scriptures has the best preparation possible.
Young Timothy was raised amid surroundings we today would call utterly primitive. But he had the best training a parent can give: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
The Christian parent has the same privilege today.
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