An excerpt from my recent book, co-edited with Dr. John David Trentham, Practical Family Ministry
YOUR CHILD IS FAR MORE THAN YOUR CHILD
Viewed from the vantage of creation and fall, children are both gifts to be treasured and sinners to be trained. Yet no amount of training can ever raise a child to the level of God’s perfect righteousness. And even the best training may not result in a child’s perseverance in the faith; the popular text that declares “even when he is old he will not depart” is not an airtight promise to parents but a proverb—a pithy observation about how life typically works (Proverbs 22:6).
Every order of creation, including our training of children, has been subjected to frustration with the gap between the glory of God’s creation and the fact of humanity’s fallenness (Romans 8:20-22). The ultimate answer to this gap is not better education but a perfect substitute—and that is precisely what God provided in Jesus Christ. Through Christ, God bridged the gap between His perfection and humanity’s imperfection (2 Corinthians 5:21). The death of Jesus brought about the possibility of redemption in the present; His resurrection guaranteed the consummation of God’s kingdom in the future.
This truth introduces a radical new dimension to how we view children. To embrace God’s redemption is to be adopted in Jesus Christ as God’s heir, gaining a new identity that transcends every earthly status (Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 3:28-29; 4:3-7; Ephesians 1:5; 2:13-22). As a community united in Christ, the church becomes the believer’s first family. “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven, that person is My brother and sister and mother,” Jesus said (Matthew 12:50). Paul made much the same point when he directed Timothy to encourage “younger men as brothers” and “younger women as sisters” (1 Timothy 5:1-2). Because the church is a family, in instances where one parent is absent or an unbeliever, other believers may become that child’s parents in the faith (2 Timothy 1:2, 5; 3:15).
What this means for followers of Jesus is that every child is far more than a child. Every child is first and foremost a potential or actual brother or sister in Christ. Whatever children stand beside us in eternal glory will not stand beside us as our children or as our students. They will stand beside us because and only because they have become our brothers and sisters, “heirs of God and coheirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17; see also Galatians 4:7; Hebrews 2:11; James 2:5; 1 Peter 3:7).
Every child is an eternal soul whose days will long outlast the rise and fall of all the kingdoms of the earth. They, their children, and their children’s children will flit ever so briefly across the face of this earth before being swept away into eternity (James 4:14). If these children become our brothers and sisters in Christ, their days upon this earth are preparatory for glory that will never end (Daniel 12:3; 2 Corinthians 4:17–5:4; 2 Peter 1:10-11). That’s why our primary purpose for the children that we educate in our churches and homes must not be anything as small and miserable as earthly success. Our purpose should be to leverage children’s lives to advance God’s kingdom so every tribe, every nation, and every people-group gains the opportunity to respond in faith to the rightful King of kings.
A SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT PRACTICAL FAMILY MINISTRY
When the idea for this book was originally conceived, it was decided that all royalty proceeds from this book should go to Bethany Christian Services in Indianapolis and Louisville. By purchasing this book, you will have supported efforts to end abortion by caring for the physical and spiritual needs of women who are facing unplanned pregnancies.