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In This World But Not Of This World

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My eldest son, Elijah, celebrated his 8th birthday last week. I caught myself processing this for a while. Eight years ago seems like yesterday. As the expression goes: time flies so fast. Facebook rubs it in our faces further with the “Memories” feature of the site – showing photos that were posted several years ago

. I am simply astounded by how fast time goes by! I admit I get teary-eyed at times. For one, I miss the days when our kids are still “babies”. I can be in denial and say they are still our babies until now but the smell of their breath in the morning tells me otherwise. They grow up and physically change every year. It is inevitable. Secondly, we are filled with gratitude for the opportunity to raise three boys who, at least with my two elder boys, love the Lord and recognize the role of faith in the family. What grace is this given to flawed individuals like us!

With all the emotional, physical and mental changes that my kids are going through, my wife and I are mindful that their spiritual development must cope with those changes. They must be spiritually nourished since their interests and perspective in life are gradually shifting.  We are mindful of this principle: Instead of merely protecting our children from the world, parenting requires that we prepare them for the world. It is our mandate. There is no substitute for preparation. We have to prepare our children for the challenges posed by this world against their well being.

We believe in proactive parenting. Admittedly, we also discipline our children. We believe in imposing discipline (the use of the rod, included) as an integral part of parenting. But even before we figure out the when and how of imposing discipline,  our first duty as parents is to train and teach our children. If discipline is done apart from training and teaching, we will produce rebellious kids. Training and teaching set the premise and context for proper discipline. Hence, reactive parenting is a big no-no.

Why is it necessary to train our children? Have you ever heard the saying “The world is our classroom”? The idea of that statement pertains to an education achieved by

exploring the things around us, particularly nature. Author Cindy Ross came up with a book entitled “The World Is Our Classroom: How One Family Used Nature and Travel to Shape an Extraordinary Education”. The title, in itself, explains the big idea of the book. That statement also forms part of our homeschooling experience specially for the science subject. Science involves observable data. Hence, the best way to study science is to get our senses connected to our surroundings, nature included. Similarly, family travel is always an opportunity to learn about culture and history.

On the other hand, I’d cautiously confine the statement “the world is our classroom” to the study of science. I refuse to adopt this same principle in teaching spiritual truths and values to our children. The world is a dangerous place to get our learnings about truth and morality. The secular culture can greatly influence anyone exposed to it. Parents are no exception to this danger. How much more with our children!

Instead of letting the world shape the values of our children, we do the shaping as

 parents. This will equip them to dismiss anything that is not in accordance with sound spiritual doctrines. “The home is our classroom” is the approach we adopt in the moral upbringing of our children. The Bible is our main “textbook”. My wife and I acknowledge our imperfections. We can and we will always be fallible in our teachings and actions. On the other hand, God’s Word is infallible. We can be certain that our children can never go wrong if they grow in love and obedience to the Bible.

Hours before His arrest to be crucified, Jesus uttered the following prayer for His disciples:

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 17:14-16)

Jesus knew (because He is God) that after His death and as Christianity grows, the disciples will face a lot of opposition. Hence, He petitioned God the Father to protect them. True enough, the disciples were persecuted on account of their faith. They were falsely accused, subjected to severe penalties, their members dispersed and they were martyred for their failure to renounce their belief in Christ. It

is only by grace that we no longer face the same type of persecution in the Philippines for our faith.

Nowadays, persecutions exist in different forms. It may not cost one’s life anymore (except in countries where Christianity is strictly prohibited) but it will cost one’s reputation. The principle remains the same: the world opposes the righteousness of God. You stand for biblical truth and you will find yourself in the middle of opposition. Morality is no longer defined by an absolute standard but by the practice of many. Truth is no longer objective but subjective.

This is the kind of world that our children will be facing as they grow up. If they have a weak foundation as to biblical truths, they will be misled and deceived. If we fail to teach

them anything at all, they will be ruined. Eternity is at stake. While we believe that it is only God who can transform the hearts of our children, we must not be remised in our duty to teach and train our children. If we do not influence our children, they will be influenced by someone else. Parents are in the best position to influence their children; it is a “crime” to abdicate this responsibility and advantage to someone else.

1 John 2:15-17 has this to say about love for the world and love for God being in complete contrast to each other:

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

We can classify what we teach our children in only two categories: Love for the world or Love for God. There is no middle ground. We all commit the mistake of leaning towards the first category. We know better as we realized (and as we grow old) that we should have chosen (or we must choose) the second option. Do not let your kids undergo the same ordeal that we went through without presenting them this truth –  they may be in this world but they should not be of this world.

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