Sabbath Reflection for July 25 (’14)
Children are not ours to control or dominate. We know children are a blessing from Yahweh (“LORD”) and that we are to train them up in the faith God has taught us (cf. Dt 6 and Eph 6:1-4). We are stewards of our children. They are not ours; they are the Lord’s, and we are privileged to raise them in the love of the Father who has first loved us. What does this have to do with fighting? We live in an age that barely allows parents to use spanking to discipline our children, where self-esteem is more important than virtue, and (oddly) where violence is a normal part of how our children entertain themselves digitally and where we endorse it as adults from our TV choices.
God has a different take. He agrees we live in a violent place, and he agrees there is a fight. But he commands us to teach and train his children, whom we steward, how to fight. He embraces violence, but not in the way we might think. In the famous “spiritual warfare” passage given in Ephesians 6, Paul gives us our source of strength, safety and security, the struggle itself, and the battle cry we must teach our children. All of us are in this battle, even our children. Satan does not recognize non-combatants, and God commands all of us to engage in the struggle.
First, in 6:10, Paul gives our source of strength. He says our strength is the Lord himself, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” How wonderful it is to tell our children it is not vegetables or milk that makes them strong against evil or Satan, but their Savior. It is his strength they need; not food and drink.
Second, in 6:11 and 13 we learn our source of safety and security is in God and his gifts, not in mama and daddy or a home security system. We need, v. 11 says, the “full armor of God”. There is armor. We really are protected by an actual defense. This is not imaginary Christian fairy-tale to make our kids feel safe. Moreover, it is the armor “of God”. It isn’t just real armor, but is His armor. His protection. His defense. Take heart! Paul says this full armor of God allows us to “stand against the schemes of the devil.” Parents, be cautious you do not talk about the world or the devil in a way that makes him out to be a boogeyman to be avoided because he will destroy us. Yes, we are warned that he is a lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8), but even there, we are told to be watchful and have clear minds. This implies we are not hiding but hunting even as he is hunting. The difference in the two hunters is clear: our God wins. Be cautious your children grow in the Lord knowing that he is to be feared far more than the devil, and that most of all, the devil is the one who should be afraid of God. We spend too much time worrying about haircuts, foundations, eyeliners, waistlines, jobs, muscles; we should be worrying about dressing in God’s armor to receive his source of safety and security. He has provided them as a blessing to his children.
Third, in 6:11-12, God is clear with us what the source of our struggle really is: 1) the devil’s schemes, 2) not flesh and blood, 3) the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers over this present darkness and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm. These are the same enemies—the same source of struggle—Paul gives in Colossians 2:10 and Colossians 1:15-20. In both, Paul is clear that Jesus is superior to them. While we know clearly the source of our struggle and the identity of our enemies, we also know the source of our victory and the identity of our hero. He’s the real superman.
Fourth, Paul gives us the sound of our battle cry. In the Civil War, southern soldiers had a “rebel yell” that was, apparently, a thing to be heard. The Christian battle cry is not a holler or yell, but a prayer. He says in 6:18 that we should always be praying, and doing so in the Spirit. These are our words of intimidation. William Cowper once wrote that Satan trembles whenever he sees the weakest of Christian on their knees in prayer. When we depend on our Lord for heroic defense and strength, perseverance and victory, he responds. Otherwise, Paul’s words are worthless and prayer is meaningless. But we know it isn’t. I wonder: are your children more familiar with the battle cry of your local sports team (“Hotty toddy!” and “Geaux Saints!” and “Hail State!” in my home state of Mississippi), or with a Christian’s most wonderful cry to his Lord: “Our Father, who art in heaven….”
Parents, steward your children well. Train them in the way they should go. Teach them of the source of our strength in Jesus, the source of safety and security in the armor of God. Be sure they understand the source of our battle and the identity of our enemies: we do not battle against pixies, but against real demonic forces who want to destroy us. Determine you will not raise children unfamiliar with the cry of the church: prayer. If you want to raise warriors in the faith, you can. Paul gives us a clear plan of battle and the promise that God will be faithful to it.
Heavenly Father, in Jesus’ name, we give you thanks for our salvation. Give us wisdom to be godly parents, training our children in the way they should live. Keep us from parenting our children by turning on the television, and help us to parent our children by turning them towards you. Bless us with your Spirit, Lord, by whom we draw strength for the fight.