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Family Life | Building strong families – New Birth and Nurture!

We were so elated to finally hold our newest granddaughter last Tuesday! She is an answer to many prayers because our son and daughter-in-love waited and prayed for seven years to have her. Each newborn ought to be a welcome gift from God, regardless of how they look or how they came about. God puts high value on children because every person born in this world is made in his image (Gen. 1:26–28), he is personally involved in forming each child in the womb (Ps. 139:13–16; Eccles. 11:5), and he owns them (Ezek. 18:3–4; Ps. 24:1). W. Sibley Towner’s (2008, 317-18) study on the meaning of “image” refers to “relational terms” in relation to the Creator God, in relation to other human beings, and in relation with the created things.

Wayne Grudem (1994) explains simply that the words to the original readers meant that persons, which certainly include children, are like God and are meant to represent him, the understanding of which for a person becomes clear as one gets to know God. Children, as God’s image-bearers, are considered blessings and gifts from God (Gen. 1:28; Ps. 127:3–5; 128:3–6) that bring so much joy (1 Sam. 2:1–10; Luke 1:57–58; John 16:21; 3 John 1:4) even when pain is involved in childbirth (Gen. 3:16, Hosea 13:13, Is. 42:14, Rom. 8:22, Gal. 4:19). As such, Jesus freely welcomed children (Matt. 19:13–15, Mark 10:13–15, Luke 18:15–17), identified with them (Matt. 18:5), and had only stern warnings and rebuke for those who hinder them from coming to him (Matt. 18:2–6, 10; Mark 10:14). As God’s image bearers, infants and children already declare God’s glory just by their being alive (Ps. 8:2, Matt. 21:15–16), and surely have a part to play, just being children in God’s reign (Is. 11:6–9, Zech. 8:5). This is why parenting is a very challenging responsibility, as one is accountable to God for how one raises the child entrusted to parents.

This being so, the Bible highlights parental responsibilities with regards to the nurture of children. Parents are simply stewards to bring them up “in the training and instruction of the Lord” without exasperating or embittering them (Eph. 6:4; Prov. 22:6; Col. 3:21). God entrusts parents with the responsibility to raise godly offspring (Mal. 2:15), to develop qualities such as moral excellence, self-control, knowledge, brotherly kindness, perseverance, and love that will enable children to become resilient through the challenges they will face (2 Pet. 1:8–11; Gal. 5:22–23). Deuteronomy also gives prominent attention to what and how children are to be taught in the family and community contexts (Miller 2008). The new generation of people about to enter the land promised them needed to hear and obey the laws of God that would set them apart as a wise and discerning people (Deut. 4:1–2, 5–8), secure their well–being, and bring them blessings (Deut. 11:13–15; 22–25, 28:1–14). Parents are commanded to take God’s statutes, commands, and ordinances to heart, read them, and talk about them daily with the children as life presents itself throughout the day (Deut. 6:6–7; 11:18–19). They are to do so in a way that would arouse children’s curiosity and questions about the laws and statutes of God (Deut. 6:20–25). They are to pass these on to their children and grandchildren (Deut 4:9; 6:1–2, 4–9, 20–24; 11:18–21). The purpose is to facilitate remembrance and obedience (Deut. 4:1–2; 5:1–22; 6:1–9, 9:1; 10:12–22) that would ensure blessings (Deut. 5:32–33, 28:1–14), and to instill in them the fear of the Lord (Deut. 4:10; 6:1–2; 14:23; 17:19; 31:12–13) which becomes the basis for their wisdom and understanding (Prov. 1:7; 9:10).

Deuteronomy also encourages the family’s participation in the community assembly where God’s Word is read (Deut. 31:7–13) and where God’s works in their history is re-enacted to impress on them what God has done on their behalf (Ex. 12:1–12, 24–27, 13:8; Deut. 16:1–17). These weekly and annual feasts and celebrations are rich, sensorial, and experiential practices that are to be God’s means of grace to nurture the children so that they do not forget God and live in reverence of him who is involved in their lives (Exod. 16:23–29; 20:8–11; 23:19; 34:26; Lev. 23:3, 9–14; Deut. 26:5). The reality of a vital faith in God lived out in the natural rhythm and rituals of life at home and the family’s involvement in the community is part of what influences and nurtures children (Richards 1983, 23–24).

Since the family is the basic building block of any society, God has not kept silent about it. Young parents who desire to do well would benefit greatly from learning from the rich lessons and principles provided in the Bible.

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