What would you say is the primary responsibility of a mother? To see to the needs of her children, right? And those needs go way beyond the physical of food and shelter, to the depths of their little souls.
From our mothers, we learn compassion and patience. We learn to be good sharers and good winners as well as good losers. But what good is all this “goodness” without a spiritual component?
Think of all the wonderful women who have had a positive spiritual influence on you, and you’ll know you don’t have to have borne children in order to be a mother figure — Sunday school teachers, aunts, neighbors, mentors. Titus 2:3-4 encourages the older women in the church to maintain a godly lifestyle in order to teach the younger women how to be good wives and mothers.
The most important lesson we need to teach our children is “Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so.” Second Timothy 1 shows the line of faith running from Eunice, who taught her daughter, Lois, who taught her son, Timothy, who became a local pastor. Each one had the opportunity to choose for or against a relationship with Jesus Christ, but at least they had the information available in order to make a well-thought-out decision.
We’ve all heard the argument that children are innocent and beautiful and good, and shouldn’t be told they’re sinful. (Anyone who has ever seen two toddlers fighting over a sippy cup would blow that theory out of the water.) No one, apart from Jesus, is inherently good. That’s the entire point of the Gospel. We’re all sinners in need of a savior, even little kids. In Matthew 19:14, Jesus said, “Allow the little children to come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.” Isn’t this the ultimate self-esteem booster? To know that Jesus thinks you’re special; that he loves you just as you are? That he’ll be with you always, even to the end of the Earth? Why wouldn’t you want your child to have this confident assurance?
Yet there are those who believe children should be allowed to grow up without any kind of “spiritual indoctrination” — in other words, don’t let them be brainwashed by Christianity, and when they’re old enough, let them decide for themselves. How old is “old enough”? And what if, in spite of their parents’ obvious desire to the contrary, they decide to become Christian?
There are no guarantees our children will follow in our footsteps. Madalyn Murray O’Hair, founder of American Atheists and instrumental in getting prayer banned from public schools, raised her son, William, to be an atheist. In 1980, he renounced atheism and became a Christian. His mother’s comment: “One could call this a postnatal abortion on the part of a mother, I guess; I repudiate him entirely and completely for now and all times … he is beyond human forgiveness” (Alan Wolfe of The New Republic in an April 12, 2004, review of the book “The Atheist: Madalyn Murray O’Hair” written by Bryan F. Le Beau). She remained estranged from her son for the rest of her life.
How could any parent feel proud of keeping their offspring from a loving relationship with Jesus Christ? No one would put their child on a raft and push them into a stream with a “hope you have a nice trip.” They’d make sure the child had a life jacket, a compass, some paddles, and some provisions. Jesus is all of these and so much more. And he pulls no punches on where he stands on this most important issue: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
Kids don’t need to be inundated with information overload on grown-up issues, so how do we as Christian moms and dads influence our kids for good and not evil? The greatest impact will come from our example. Remember in the old days how you didn’t say things in front of the k-i-d? We must keep our words encouraging and uplifting in front of our children. We should bring them to church and Sunday school with us, so they recognize that our relationship with God is of utmost importance. We need our kids to see that Jesus Christ makes all the difference in our lives.
As much as we’d like our children to follow in our footsteps, how much more must God want us to follow in his! Try it, and you’ll be blessed exceeding abundantly.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful Christian “mothers” who’ve made a difference in my life. Thanks, Mom, I love you.
Brenda J. Norris is assistant Sunday school leader and choir director at the West Lubec Methodist Church. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Voices is a weekly commentary by Maine people who explore issues affecting spirituality and religious life.