Read Proverbs 4:20-27
20 My child,pay attention to what I say.
Listen carefully to my words.
21 Don’t lose sight of them.
Let them penetrate deep into your heart,
22 for they bring life to those who find them,
and healing to their whole body.
23 Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.
24 Avoid all perverse talk;
stay away from corrupt speech.
25 Look straight ahead,
and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
26 Mark out a straight path for your feet;
stay on the safe path.
27 Don’t get sidetracked;
keep your feet from following evil. (NLT)
We sometimes hear of parents saying they don’t want to force religion onto their children but rather want them to make up their own minds about it. On the face of it,this is wise. We can’t impose our faith on our children or grandchildren. They do have to make their own decisions about faith. We can’t guarantee we will agree with these decisions.
But this sort of thing becomes unwise when parents leave God and Jesus out of their nurture of their children. It is hardly fair to say that children must make their own decisions but then limit their capacity to make a decision. It is a bit like saying I want my child to make friends of their own but dare not introduce them to any potential friends.
Parents,of necessity,influence their children. Much along the lines of our text today. They offer the context within which a child grows. In avoiding control they cannot avoid influence. Their own faith,or lack of it,inevitably affects the child. No child grows up in a neutral religious or social environment.
Children must indeed make their own faith decisions. Parents can’t do that for them. But they can provide the context within which they can make a wise and informed decision. Surrendering the right to control the child does not mean abdicating the responsibility to influence the child.