I learned many things from my parents. I picked up the love of fishing and the disdain of working on cars from my dad. I know how to darn a sock and sew on a replacement button from my mom. I carry personality traits from both and I suppose it’s up to them as to which traits of mine came from which parent.
I can see the same thing happening with my own children. One has picked up the joy of reading and writing. One enjoys sports. All of them are mischievous and I suppose I must claim that trait, too. I see my wife in them with their characteristics of compassion, gentleness, awareness and natural beauty. For many of these attributes, I don’t remember making a conscious decision to pass on these traits to them. It just happened.
My wife and I do have a responsibility of the most serious kind regarding what we pass on to our children. As you might guess based on the nature of this column, this responsibility involves developing a devotion to God in their hearts. I’m not speaking of an awareness of God, but an understanding that making God the center of their lives is the most important thing they can ever do.
According to Malachi 2:15, God “seeks godly offspring.” He doesn’t seek smart offspring, athletic offspring, famous offspring, socially connected offspring or wealthy offspring. God wants my children to be like Him – holy. When I recognize the reason the Lord blessed me with children, I realize I have a job to do with my children. The terrifying aspect of this job is I only have one shot to get it done right with each of them.
But how? Have you ever asked yourself that? How am I supposed to get my children to choose holiness? Is it done by talking to them about the importance of God? Yes, that’s certainly one way and a way which God encourages.
“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). But talking to my children and even reading the Bible to them isn’t the most critical part of this process. I cannot expect them to embrace something unless they see me embrace it too. If I want my children to be holy I must seek holiness. If I want them to trust God I need to trust him more than my bank account. If I want them to make God the most important thing in their lives, then they must see it in me.
Where am I when the saints assemble? Am I apologizing about my language? Am I talking bad about people at church? Is my Bible opened daily or left untouched on a shelf? Do I tell them the stories of the Bible or leave that to someone else? My children will not always listen to what I say; however, they will always watch what I do. Solomon knew this and embraced it. “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways” (Proverbs 23:26).
There is no better way for my wife and me to encourage holiness in our children’s lives than to exemplify lives of holiness ourselves. Yes, they will see my shortcomings and will undoubtedly continue to point these out. However, if my children only learn one thing from me, I hope it is because they “imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Jeremy Morris, his wife, and children attend the church of Christ in Lees Summit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.