by Mike McHugh
“What’s your name, little boy?” asked a traveling salesman to a child who was playing in the yard he was approaching. “Johnny Go Away,” said the child. “Come on now,” replied the astonished visitor, “that cannot be your real name!” “Oh, yes,” responded the young lad with a confident tone, “that’s what my daddy always calls me.”
How powerful are the words of a mother or father, for good or for ill. The language and demeanor of parents, can either bring a child hope and introduce him to Christ, or they can bring a child to tears and utter despair. Dr. Theodore Graebner, a former director of Concordia Seminary, once told the following story:
“How often we underestimate what a single word may do! This thought first occurred to me when I heard of an old man whose special delight was in the word “Come!” It was through this word that he had been led to Christ.
He was still a child when he lost his parents. A well-meaning woman received the boy into her home and determined to educate him. But she did not use the right approach. Her favorite command to this lad usually involved the word “Go!” She would often say, “John, go to church.” Yet when the young boy was not eager to go all by himself, the elderly woman would call him a wicked little sinner. Seldom did the woman actually go to church herself, however, and this point was not lost on the young lad. Thus he grew up with a dislike of the church and of the Word of God.
Later in life, he married, and soon a great change took place. Marie, his new wife, would say: “Come, John, let us go to church!” Or: “Are you too tired to attend Bible class tonight? Come, I will go with you!” At other times she would request: “Come, John, read to me from the Lutheran Witness magazine. I will sew, while you are reading!” There was something irresistible in that gentle call to, “Come.”
One evening John was reading the Bible and came upon the words: “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Marie!” he called, “the message in this Bible reminds me of you, and my heart is warming to its gentle call, in a manner I have never experienced before.”
“Why, John,” said Marie, beaming with joy and laying her arm around his shoulders, “that is splendid news. But what do you mean by saying that I am like the message of the Bible?”
“Well, I mean that your gentle call to follow Christ is not anything like what I heard while growing up with my foster-mother. She used to say: “Go!” But you say: “Come!” And that is just the type of message that I am beginning to find so attractive in the Bible.”
Later he found other passages containing the Gospel invitation: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Or this one: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money: come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
At other times, John would read: “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” And finally: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom which is prepared for you from the beginning of the world.”
In the providence of God, John’s wife died at an early age. Her last words on earth were these: “John, I am going to the Lord; you must come too, so that we can meet again. Promise me that you will do your best, with God’s help, to teach the children by precept and example to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.”
As often as John found the word “Come!” in his Bible, he was reminded of his beloved Marie, as well as the still small voice of the One who is the great lover of his soul. John was eventually given the grace and strength to raise his children in the way they should go. The secret to his success stemmed from his willingness to be an imitator of God; the One who is gentle, longsuffering, and gracious. The fact that John learned the importance of modeling the character of his Heavenly Father, made him all the more aware that many parents fail in the training of their children, because there has been too much “Go!” and too little “Come!”’
No, parents cannot regenerate their children, nor convert them. But parents can and should live before their children in such a way as to encourage them to follow Christ. One of the most important Bible passages for Christian home educators comes from Ephesians 6:4, which reads: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” This verse admonishes parents, and particularly fathers, to recognize the importance of utilizing a parenting style that is both just and loving, so that children will want to stay submissive to godly authority. In other words, the goal of Christian parenting is not merely to keep children under control, but to patiently nurture one’s offspring to the point where they desire to remain subject to God’s government.
Parents who are committed to nurturing their children, will work diligently to develop an atmosphere in their homes that will inspire children to remain loyal to the biblical values that they have been taught. This style of parenting is often just as challenging as other approaches, however, the key difference is that parents who adopt the directive contained in Ephesians 6 will ultimately be able to attract children to their cause, rather than repel them. When children are guided, and yes, disciplined, by parents in a gracious manner the end result is commonly that such youngsters end up not merely learning how to obey their parents, but recognizing their need to honor them.
Which approach will you decide to take when it comes to the training of your own children?
Copyright 2008 Michael J. McHugh
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