Moved by Compassion: A Heart for World Missions
Child Sacrifice, 2010 Style
INTERSECT (Where the Bible Meets Life) is a regular column of ONE Magazine featuring Dr. Garnett Reid, a member of the Bible faculty at Free Will Baptist Bible College. Email Garnett firstname.lastname@example.org
How much are your children worth to you? What price would you put on their lives? Would you dare risk their souls? Tucked away in the folds of Old Testament narrative is the short, sad story of a man named Hiel. Evidently this firebrand got so caught up in Ahab’s sweeping initiative to mainstream idol worship in Israel that Hiel’s sons paid for it with their lives (1 Kings 16:33-34).
“At the cost of his firstborn . . . and of his youngest son,” Hiel spearheaded the rebuilding of Jericho, the moon goddess’ worship center. In pursuing this project he thumbed his nose at God, so to speak, directly defying a divine demand to leave Jericho in ruins (Joshua 6:26). The graves of his boys said more about the man than the rebuilt city ever could.
How despicable can a man get? Surely we would never dream of sacrificing our kids to pursue our own agenda, especially if we think our quest a godly one. Would we?
“I Smell Death”
“I smell the beginning of death coming for evangelical Christianity,” I recently heard D. A. Carson comment. He went on to add the condition qualifying that assessment: “If we don’t prioritize winning our young people to Christ.” We must not assume a generation raised on Veggie Tales and schooled in the pledge to the Christian flag is necessarily secure in Christ.
Eunice or Eli?
Scripture repeatedly calls us by precept and example to this most basic of all missional goals. God’s intent in choosing Abraham was to ensure that Abraham’s children would carry on his legacy of covenant loyalty (Genesis 18:19). Believing families in Israel were to instill faith in their children through purposed teaching and holy living (Deuteronomy 6:6-8). According to Paul, a lifetime of learning the ways of God from Lois and Eunice brought Timothy to the place where he embraced the gospel personally (2 Timothy 3:14-15). Standing against these purposed parents were Eli and Samuel, leaders both. But their sons apparently ended up outside the covenant (1 Samuel 2:12; 3:13; 8:3, 5).
Let’s Be Specific
So what should Christian parents do to help children choose to follow Christ? Don’t expect your faith to suffice on their behalf. And we certainly can’t choose the gospel for them. Yet when we intentionally saturate our homes with biblical thinking and consistently practice the lifestyle biblical thinking fosters, the more likely they are to embrace faith. I offer the following strategies as suggestions not guarantees.
Talk about the gospel with them. Be direct. Be clear. Be persistent. Check to be sure you know what the gospel is, then look for segues to tell it to your kids.
Pray for their salvation. Pray daily. Pray with passion. Call their names before the Lord. Expect Him to answer.
“Grow” your children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” as Ephesians 6:4 insists. The word translated nurture suggests training or working hard to achieve an end. Admonition speaks of how and what we think. Challenge and correct their ideas with what the Bible says. Don’t let your kids get away with lazy thinking that just buys into what they’re hearing from friends or popular media. You may have to read up on those trends yourself, and find out what solid writers and bloggers with a biblical worldview are saying. It’s not that you want to come down with a heavy hand and risk “provoking your children to wrath,” as Paul says. But you do want them to know that being a Christian is a sensible way to live.
Be sure they see you live out the gospel consistently. Tragically, too many parents who like to think of themselves as Christians have signed off on the cost and the consistency required to actually be Christian. All our talk about the gospel amounts to a great big zero if our lives fail to back it up.
Though not writing from a Christian viewpoint, Mike Males’ comment packs a wallop: “The deterioration in middle-aged adult behavior has driven virtually every major social problem over the past 25 years.”
Let it be true of your home and your children that in years to come when they ask, “what do these stones mean” (Joshua 4:21-24)—that is, what is our family’s faith all about?—your answer will sound a note of rejoicing and not regret. That’s a dividend well worth any price. Incidentally, Hiel means “God lives.” But his boys died.