Marriage is the end of individuality with the two becoming one to form a new two identical images with different goals, feelings and emotions yet moving in the same direction by helping each other to achieve a common goal. The birth of a child gives a new dimension with new dreams, visions and plans seeking their fulfillment through further surrendering and denying of self. Family thus becomes a unit where each person is helping the other find his/her optimal potential. Parents are entrusted with the responsibility that God had taken upon Himself in the Garden of Eden to “develop and nurture” Adam and Eve through daily meetings. A child is a blessing from God to the parents for fulfillment of His command of “Let there be light”. Divine Light must be shown to shine in the life of each and every ‘child of God’ to equip him/her to reveal this to others.
How to ensure prolonged good relationships? – It is generally said that the moment a certain degree of closeness develops the focus shifts from goodness of the individual to the warts and blemishes. This invariably leads to breakdown and separation from each other till the distance covers and conceals the fault lines. The story of two Hollywood stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor is replete with joining together, separation and getting together again. Richard supposedly remarked “You cannot keep striking two dynamite sticks together without causing an explosion”. Any relationship is doomed from the beginning itself where self assumes centre stage over exclusion of all else.
Apostle Paul in his Epistle to his fellow Jews provided the key to developing lasting relationships “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” Hebrews 10:24). This has to be a continuous and daily effort to encourage each other in any and every relationship- personal, family or professional- to look for ways to build up the other in love toward good works. Only this can help us in placing self behind the welfare and good of the other(s) to cement the association to a living and fulfilling relationship that will remain blessed by God. Every union must uplift and add something to the other and thus bring out the best in both. In joint families the old parents helped the young parents in caring for the toddlers, instilling love of God and toward each other through oft repeated bedtime stories thus providing much needed rest and privacy to the young couples. Their well thought out dispassionate advice managed to allay fears and smooth the frayed nerves due to added load of work and demands of a new born.
Lord Jesus commands “Do not judge or you too will be judged”. The Greek word “krino ot krinette” has been translated to mean as “judging” while the full meaning of the word is “to separate for punishment” as a form of condemnation after judgement. The Lord further clarifies this “Why do you look at the speck of dust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” ((Matthew 7:1-5). The saying- when you point one finger sat others four point towards you- amplifies this. To nurture strong relationships the only way is to surrender and “encourage each other to love and good deeds”.
Parents responsibility towards their children – The parable of talents by the house owner to his servants before departing on a long trip illustrates various factors of life. God provides us various gifts to be used for His glory and the earnings from the investments represent the manner in which we have utilized the gifts and enhanced their value. Children are one such “talent” given by God to the parents to earn rewards or damnation. Recently in Norway an Indian couple was forced to hand over their young child to the government caregivers under the charge of neglecting his care.
What should be the ideal way to bring up a child in fulfillment of God’s commands? “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6), is the basic principle laid down by the ‘wisest man’ king Solomon. In today’s society where governments and various other organizations have stepped into this “train up a child” procedure laying down rules that severely restrict the patent’s role in their child’s care and upbringing. Joseph and Mary present a beautiful example of child care since in addition to the Lord Jesus two of their other sons out of four, James and Jude, find mention representation in the Bible through their books. The whole atmosphere at home must have been such to encourage the young children to study and mediate on the Scripture to mould their lives accordingly.
The Jewish tradition makes a father responsible to teach his son a trade and some say even swimming since while swimming a child out of his element. The aim is to teach him skills to tackle foreign and potentially dangerous situations with ease. Children are made to handle social responsibilities of visiting and caring for the aged and the sick, participating in and comforting the mourners in a funeral and enjoying celebrations of marriage and other family events. The children are thus not only equipped to face all situations but also bond with relatives and other as close knit traditional family structures.
Three stages of Child’s development – In the Old Testament an individual was considered unfit to join the army before twenty years of age and priestly duties before thirty years. Lord Jesus discussed Scripture with the Jewish scholars in the Temple at 12 years of age and ‘everyone was amazed at His understanding and answers’ to their questions. His parents returned back after a day’s journey to look for Him and after initial questioning He “went with them and was obedient to them” (Luke 2:41-52). As per the education practices also a child is considered for ‘Primary’ education up to fifth grade or about 11-12 years; school graduation up to 18-19 or the teen years and college thereafter. Thus it is pre-teens, teenager and adulthood years of life for a child.
Training a child – The responsibility entrusted to the parents to teach and train their children is often misunderstood in terms of Biblical command “Whoever spares the rod hates his children” (Proverbs 13:24). Parents assume this to be the God given authority to physically abuse their children through beatings under the guise of teaching and educating them. The Hebrew word translated rod is ‘shebet’ which also means scepter (used by a king) and a shepherd’s stick. King Solomon probably meant all three to be used for training a child through different stages of his life. The word translated as child is ‘naar’ and the same word is used for Joshua when he is about 30 to 40 years of age. The training of children and the parental responsibility does not end at a certain age but continues all along.
A child before 12 years of age is too young to properly discern right from wrong and needs to be trained with a rod to help him form good habits that will sustain him for life. But a teenager reaches a stage where he is more affected by the ‘peer group’ and the urge to be seen and impress others is very strong. At this stage he is like a bull raring to go and can only be led into a particular direction with polite urging and guidance and the rod at this stage turns into a ‘shepherd’s stick’ that is used by the shepherd to guide and rescue his sheep from precarious situations but not to beat them. A teenager needs reassurance and polite guidance of love by the parents and a shepherd like rescue act very often- an act of love without condemnation for the Lord does not beat or scold the lost sheep but “When he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home” (Luke 15:5-6). An example of this is seen in David when he is sent by Jesse, his father, to carry food items for his three elder brothers in Saul’s army. David is snubbed by the eldest brother for enquiring about Goliath but his urge to do something does not end and finally he goes on to battle and kill Goliath (1 Samuel 17).
After attaining the age of adulthood the individual is ready to face the challenges of life but will require showing the way at certain stages of life. The book of Esther clarifies the use of a scepter by the king and anyone, including the queen, could come into the royal presence once the scepter was raised as permission. The parents of an adult son or daughter may have to restrict free entry for everything to enable them to learn to take decisions but point them towards the right way through a discussion to train and equip them for future. Thus at this stage it is more of guiding than directing and that too without being judgmental for the married child is now also head of his family and there is an equal status which must not be altered during the process of guidance.
How is a child disciplined? – The Hebrew word used for discipline is ‘muwcar’ meaning chastening, correcting or discipline and probably does not mean corporeal punishment. The instructions on bringing up children are further defined “Fathers, do not provoke your children; but bring them up in discipline and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). The Greek word used for discipline is ‘paideia’ which means instruction that takes one to full maturity and for admonition is ‘nouthesia’ translated as warning for teaching or properly setting the mind through God inspired warning to improve reasoning to reach solution. The opening command to not provoke the children further substantiates the message to lead children on to a path of proper development through God inspired correction in love and not physical thrashing. This implies that even harsh words that are likely to encourage a child to aggressively oppose any suggestion must be avoided.
Apostle Paul provides an illustration of this way of parental teaching when he taught the Thessalonians during his stay with them. “You are witness, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless our conduct was among you who believed. For you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. We encouraged you and comforted you as we urged you to walk in a manner worthy of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12). This is the ideal example of fatherly teaching and disciplining the children.
Children’s responsibility towards their parents – Parents desire and prays for the best of everything for their children and these prayers start most of the times even before the two get married when they start planning for their life together. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist pronounced blessings on his son while declaring his name “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; to give to His people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins” (:Luke 1:76-77). Isaac’s age when Abraham was commanded by God to offer him as a sacrifice at Mount Moriah is believed to be around twenty five years as per Josephus while others have it from five to twenty five. Isaac believed and obeyed his father even to the point of being tied up and placed on the wood for offering. A difficult task for a son! He, however, believed that his father was doing it all for his good and parents’ invariable plan for their children the best of everything.
Children are commanded to ‘honor their parents’ and all commands in the New Testament are related to Christ’s conduct for He set an exam0le for us to follow. Honoring of parents provides the qualifying reason also for this command “that all may go well with you and you live long” (Ephesians 6:1-3). Thus the reward for honoring is a long and fruitful life of abundance as promised by God. Lord Jesus obeyed the Father to become man and die on the cross after all the sufferings and could pray for His reward “Father I have glorified You on the earth now restore to Me the glory that I had with You from the beginning” (John 17:4-5). And God the Father had no hesitation in accepting the prayer to raise His Son from the dead and seat the ‘Obedient Son’ on His right hand on His throne. Lord Jesus fulfilled His obligation to His earthly mother also by entrusting her care to His trusted disciple John just before declaring the ‘finishing of His Divine mission on the earth’ (John 19:26-27).
Relationship with siblings – The scope of relationships was further enhanced by Lord Jesus by declaring “Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister” (Luke 3:35). In the Old Testament we have the examples of Cain murdering his brother Abel, Jacob cheating his brother Esau and Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. David’s oldest brother scolds him for enquiring about Goliath (1 Samuel 17:28-30) and even Lord Jesus is taunted by His brother who do not believe Him (John 7:3-5). Lord Jesus on the other hand changes the boundaries of all relations to include all the needy. He even goes onto say “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and then defines the neighbor in the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan”.
Lord Jesus is our High Priest in heaven and in that capacity He intercedes for us before God the Father (Hebrews 4:14) and as our Advocate He not only receives our petitions and makes them presentable before God but also pleads our case. In like manner we are commanded to “Encourage one another to love and for good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). God warns us also about our conduct towards one another “You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. You sit and testify against your brother and slander your own mother’s son” (Psalm 50:19-20). The believers are warned about unanswered prayers by the Lord that if one is offering a gift (prayers, thanksgiving or material sacrificial offering) before God and remembers a pending dispute with his brother, go first to resolve that. Only after that we are commanded to present the offerings- since the same will otherwise be rejected by God (Matthew 5:23-24). Believers are required to look after others’ interests also and do nothing in deceit (Philippians 2:3-4).
The Jewish society deliberately exposes their young ones to all situations, good and bad, to provide them skills to fight odds while placing their trust in others. Israel aims at having families that nurture relationship to form safe community with sufficient space for children and grown-ups alike to enjoy freedom and trust. This trust is then evidenced in all spheres of their daily life while facing the most hostile environment all around.
The CEO of a company in Ludhiana prefers Christians for employment in his organization over other for their honesty and dedication. A railway Travelling Ticket Examiner operating out of Guwahati is known for his honesty in an otherwise very corrupt system and is recognized as a true believer. In all relationships the key is to live out the Gospel and present a testimony before others to recognize the effect of following Christ. All relationship at personal or professional level will automatically fall in place.