My Dear Friends and Blog Readers....
I was recently perusing a book William Wilberforce, A Hero For Humanity by Kevin Belmonte. A few ideas struck me while reading this which coincide with something my daddy and I were discussing late last night.
William Wilberforce was a single man until 38. He had always thought to remain a bachelor; however, when his cousin Henry Thornton got married, his "evident happiness" gave Wilberforce an excuse to think, and in a letter to a friend he quoted William Cowper (poet) saying that he 'began to wish "not to finish his life alone."' He stated his thoughts to a good friend Thomas Babington, who knew of a beautiful young woman named Barbara Spooner. He encouraged her to write to Wilberforce, and when Wilberforce "received her letter, he was charmed." They met on April 15th, and were engaged by April 23rd of the same year (1797). They were married by May 30th, he being 38, and she 20. Within ten years they had six children. Wilberforce, being a MP (Member of Parliament) for a seat in Yorkshire, was required to travel a great deal. Making speeches in the House of Commons and his "Great Object" namely the "abolition of the slave trade" took up much of his time. Being deeply involved in politics did not involve having leisure to sit at home by the fire reading a favorite book every evening. But Wilberforce found time to write above 20 letters per day, and have at least 6 hours a day devoted to studying the works of great philosophers, historians, poets, and literary artists. But he was often away from home....
One evening, when returning from one of his journeys, his youngest son was set on his lap. The child was quite young, and began crying when his father held him. Wilberforce, having the most tender heart, was anxious as to the cause of the child's distress, and the nursemaid informed him: "Oh, he has always been afraid of strangers." Wilberforce was a passionate man... he loved his children and his wife tenderly. His humane spirit is exhibited through the years of hard work that he put into the abolition of the slave trade, though obstacles like serious illness, weakness, poor eyesight etc constantly assailed him. He always thought the best of people, and was determined, even when they hated him, to find something good about his worst enemies. And so, we might imagine how hurt Wilberforce was when he perceived that he was as a stranger to his child. His elder sons noted a determined change come over his face as if to say: "I shall not suffer this to continue." And he didn't. He wrote to his friends telling them that he was resigning his seat for Yorkshire in order to "take a more active role in educating and rearing his children."
The Parliamentary seat for Yorkshire was a powerful one, and Wilberforce was a man of eloquence and persuasion... and yet, he gave all this up. Why would he sacrifice this great opportunity, just because his small child regarded him as a stranger? Soon the young one would grow up to realize, like his elder brothers, that this is part of papa's life... it was part of the his life. He must grow used to it. Soon Wilberforce would not be a stranger anymore. But the wise father saw that in order to develop a strong and firm Christian character in his children, and further to develop his own relationships with them, it was necessary to resign. But this did not mean he was done politically... His brother in law offered him a "so-called safe seat in Parliament as MP for Bramber in Sussex." This position was much less demanding, and so he could be involved in politics and yet spend all the time he wished with his family.
Wilberforce not only resigned from his seat in Yorkshire but he took upon himself the educating of his children. In the evenings they would read together, and often they would go for walks in the morning during which he would discuss what his children had learned in their reading. He developed firm relationships with his sons and daughters. Wilberforce wrote over two hundred letters to one of his sons. This was towards the end of his life, and only one child. He was no less reserved in writing to his daughters and other sons. Amid his social and political life, he yet found time to continue corresponding with his children on a daily basis! Once he pleaded with his daughter to "let him be her best friend.... to not be afraid to open her heart to him." She confessed in a reply that she sometimes felt a loneliness in her heart... a sort of emptiness. Wilberforce was not ashamed to tell his daughter that upon reading this he wept for her. This is the tender character of Wilberforce....
I realize that I've made y'all read all of this in order to get to the point.... :P
Over the years the family vision has decreased and changed, and now in our day and age, it has almost vanished, except for the precious few families who seek to live up to God's standards. The family vision used to be that fathers would teach their children the law of God, and teach them to teach their children, who would teach their children, who would likewise teach their children. Then you have this multi-generational vision of families faithfully serving the Lord. But modern parents have been deficient in this respect. Something called popular culture has taken the place of this vision. Children rebel against their parents by listening to music, reading books and watching movies that do not honor God or the things their parents have taught them. This distracts them from the vision that should be implanted in their minds, and their disobedience is not punished, which encourages them in the way their rebelliousness.
Most times it seems as though technology has taken the place of studying. A pastor remarked that the reason there are not many well learned preachers is because when they come to seminary, they have hardly read a single thing beforehand. Our current society is so caught up in popular culture and "what's hot" that it's become nearly impossible to see the family dream.
Fathers come home from a long day at work, but do they take the time they have to actively spend time with their children to teach them and develop relationships with them? When a lot of fathers in our modern world come home, their children are in their rooms doing loads of homework, or messing around with their technology. The father has things to do. The mothers have their own things to go to or work on. The kids are engaged in sports and activities with their friends that hardly any time is spent with their family. If such a life is continued down through the ages, how many generations do you think the family vision will last?
My point is, nothing will be implanted in childrens minds unless parents purpose to make time for their children. Wilberforce did. He was probably one of the busiest men his day, and yet look at the impact he had on his children! I am not saying that just because you do this all your children will be Christians... It is true that each and every person must experience what Wilberforce called his "great change." Each must acknowledge their state of depravity, and the fact that they're sinners, and that they need a Redeemer, and that God in his infinite grace sent one to atone for his people's sins. For "without blood there is no remission of sins." But it is the parents job to teach their children, and when their children grow up and have families it will be their job to teach their children what their parents taught them.
John Piper said an interesting thing about Facebook. It went something like this: "When we go to heaven, Facebook will be an excellent proof that there was time to read our Bibles and pray." I am not against the idea of Facebook (seeing as I have one) but this quote made me think. Every time I find myself heading to the computer, I try to stop and make myself think: "Is there something else that I should be doing? Something I haven't done yet?" Most times there is. I think that getting into the habit of reading in place of being on the computer during free time is a good rule. This will cut down on the time I waste on the computer, and it will also broaden my reading horizon. I will be learning and gaining intelligence, and these things will cause my mind to think. It will also free up more time to read my Bible and pray, which is by far the most important of all.
Technology and popular culture—and even the idea of age segregation—have all become preventives for children to learn the accurate law of God and His character. Not just some sugared up version that most of the modern day churches preach about. Our God is a God to be feared, a God to be worshiped, a God to be loved and honored and obeyed in every thing! He is NOT something that passively sits in the heavens and watches what everybody's doin' down there. God is also something else. He is El Qanna. This is the zeal that arises when sin threatens our relationship with God. He is a jealous God, and he will not let sin reign over us. Whenever we run from Him, he is faithful in chasing us down and returning us to Himself.
Apathy has replaced the zeal that fathers should feel for their children. When their children are heading off in the wrong direction, how far do you think most father's go to try and bring them back? How hard do you think they work before they give up? Or do some not even try at all? Is there such an apathy in their hearts that they don't even care where they child goes or what they do, how they spend their time and money? Think, O think of Wilberforce: "I am not ashamed to say that I wept when I received this news [of his daughter feeling a loneliness in her soul at times.]" There is such an absence of apathy there, there is such a presence of feeling and emotion that he felt for his daughter. In modern day world, there is such an absence of feeling and emotion, replaced by apathy and ignorance. The family vision has digressed radically. It is next to meaningless to most families. "Why should we care?" they ask.
Why should we? How do we answer these people? Because to us, the reason we care is because we have been faithfully taught by our fathers the law of God, and the importance therein. We know and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and from there we find our life. We desire to live our lives according to the law of God, and not the laws of a fallen and corrupt world. We desire to shine like stars in the universe, and to be a credible witness to the gospel of our Lord. This is why we care. We care because we want to honor God, and this is honoring God, because it is obeying his commandments. And how can they understand this if they have never been taught it?
Deuteronomy 6:1-9 says this:
"Now this is the commandment, the statues and the rules that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." [Emphasis added.]
I think we have a pretty clear picture of the Family Vision in this passage. How accurately do you think families today follow this commandment? How important do you think it is to them? Perhaps children do matter to their parents, but maybe the parents' personal lives matter more. This is self-centered. But no one ever said raising a family would be easy. It requires self-sacrifice, diligence, work, and sometimes even pain. But the reward is satisfying. Can you think of a greater reward than the pleasure of God? Can you think of a worse punishment than his anger?
My proposal is to reawaken the family vision... to thwart the ideas of popular culture, to defy the world, and return to honoring God by obeying the principles he sets down in the Bible. To begin studying the Scriptures for a new way of living that honors and glorifies God. For fathers to begin teaching their children in a God-glorifying manner, and for us children of the younger generation to not despise this teaching, but to treasure it... "Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head, and pendents for your neck." (Proverbs 1:8-9)
I pray that the passion in Christians to serve God, honor his commandments, and establish a firm family vision that will be passed down through the generations will be reawakened.
"My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart." (Proverbs 7:1-3)
Let us follow the example of William Wilberforce. He went against the social standards of his day in raising his children. Let us be passionate about truth, faithful in teaching our children, replacing apathy with enthusiasm, ignorance with knowledge, and folly with wisdom.
"...for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you desire cannot compare with her." Let us seek to be wise, not in the the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of God, following his standards, his rules, and his commandments only. We will only be faithful to one God.