A key priority for every parent is to regularly remind our children what we believe, why we believe it and how this has shaped our lives. My reflections on this topic have been helped in recent times by re-reading 2 Timothy and by my reading (and recent review) of Ted Tripp's book 'Shepherding a Child's Heart' (see my previous post here). While I have some concerns about his book, it is difficult to dispute that the focus in parenting should be on the child's heart, rather than just their behaviour.
In the midst of the cut and thrust of family, it is easy for parents to fail to look beyond behaviour to the rebellious heart that produces it (Luke 6:45). Our primary effort should be to ensure our children internalise the message of the gospel, so that as they grow older they will "choose this day whom (they) will serve" (Joshua 24:15). A key part of our role is to remind them of the things that we were taught by faithful men and women. As we "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David..." (1 Tim 2:8) we are to remind our children of these things and why we believe them (1 Tim 2:14). Remembering and reminding - two key tasks for parents!
This may be a daunting task for parents, but there is a great word of encouragement in Paul's second letter to Timothy, particularly for those who have seen their children resisting the truth that they have taught them. Just as Paul trusted in God for the well being of Timothy, so too parents have to trust in God for the spiritual well being of their children. While it is our task to remind our children of the truth that we have taught them, we do this in the power of God. We remind our children to “Follow the pattern of the sound words” (2 Tim 1:13) that they hear from us, as we read and study the Bible together and as we share our faith in the midst of life; but our children cannot guard this truth in their own strength. The “good deposit” can only be guarded “…by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us”. Is there any wonder that Paul “constantly remembers [Timothy] in his prayers night and day” (v3)? He thanks God for Timothy's faith (v3) because ultimately Paul knows that it is God who made Timothy into the man that he is.
Paul challenged Timothy never to be ashamed of his faith in Christ (2 Tim 1:8-10) but to hold to this faith no matter what the cost and follow the pattern or standards set for him by Scripture:
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you (2 Timothy 2:13-14).Family apologetics, like all apologetics must be prayerful, and done in the power of God. We need to seek God's wisdom for the words to share with our children and the power of the Holy Spirit to work within their hearts. This is the nature of the task set before us as apologetic parents.
Readers interested in thinking more about the nature of apologetics should watch out for our next edition of Case magazine which has as its theme "To give a reason". This will be out in September