June 17, 2007
by Michael Gilbert
(editor’s note: As today is father’s day, I wanted to share this open letter with you. Please know that as we solicit your help, we are striving to help you by the way that we are rearing J.M. To the Christian fathers who may read this letter, may God richly bless your special role as a father. For honesty’s sake, we should tell you that this letter is adapted from one written by Brad Harrub, but the sentiments were our own even before we read Harrub’s letter.)
An Open Letter to Those Who Will Meet Our Children
Dear Christian friends,
J.M will grow up, and one day leave home to build his own family. Elizabeth and I are doing our best to prepare him for that time. God blessed us with J.M. seventeen months ago…where does the time go? Lord willing, there will be more children, and we can hardly wait. But the time will come when they all will grow up and move away, no longer under our guidance and care. For this reason, we are sending this open letter to you.
We don’t know what day it will be, or in what town you will likely see him. But chances are, in this “small world” your paths will cross one day. I hope on that day, you will remember this letter and help us out.
Believe me when I tell you that we are praying for that day. For you see, as parents, we want nothing more than to hear Almighty God say to J.M., “Well done good and faithful servant…enter thou into the joy of the Lord” (Matt. 25:23). We want him in Heaven! His soul means more to us than all the material possessions on this planet. We are simply asking you to do all you can as a Christian to help us get him there.
Please do not think we are unloading our responsibility on you. This is certainly not the case. We know that children are like arrows in the hand of a mighty man (Ps. 127:4), and it has been with forethought and determination that we have launched him towards Heaven. In fact, we have centered his life around God and His Word from the day he was delivered into this world. Bibles do not collect dust on our shelves (including J.M.’s Bible). We try to seize every opportunity available to teach him about God, Jesus, and the Bible, and His creation around us. The importance of Jesus’ church will be ever before him.
We not only “talk the talk” of Christianity, but we humbly “walk the walk.” When the doors of the church building are open, J.M. is there. He has already attended worship in several states, seven or eight before he was six-months old. He will be raised at the feet of men whose Bible knowledge and Christian example are nothing short of exemplary. He will see his parents strive to promote Christ to a lost and dying world. We will urge him to guard his Christian example and stay away from sin, but there will come a day when mom and dad’s voices will not be heard as loudly as others. And, sadly, there will come a time when we will not load him into our Jeep to go to worship with us. And so, we ask for your help.
My wife and I do not subscribe to the idea of “political correctness.” Thus, even while he is still under our care, but in instances where he may be out of our sight, if you ever see him doing something he shouldn’t, correct him and, if need be, add a good swat as a reminder (yes, we still believe, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son, but he that loveth him chasteneth him in good season” (Prov. 13:24) and we beg you to lovingly chasten him in our absence). As he gets older, if he runs, plays, and acts like the auditorium is a gymnasium, block his path and rebuke him—remind him that tracks and playgrounds are for running. If J.M. looks sleepy or tired in worship, please ask him what was more important the evening before that caused God to take a backseat. If he is late to worship, tell him to buy a watch. If he leaves the auditorium during the sermon, kindly remind him to get “his business” done before worship begins. If he walks by without speaking to (or worse yet, almost knocking over) elderly members in the church, take him by the arm and nip the problem right then and there. If he appears to be passing notes or not paying attention, kindly take a minute to ask him what he learned in the lesson that day, and ask him why we worship. Do not be afraid to tell him if he is dressed inappropriately. And if for any reason you do not see him in a worship assembly that he should be in, please pick up the phone and call him (and us) immediately, to check about whatever might be wrong. For you see, we want him to be a true worshiper of God, not a half-hearted hypocrite. We want him to live faithfully to Christ.
If you have the opportunity to teach J.M. in school, or in a Bible class, please challenge him. I know many “specialists” warn that we should not push our children too hard, but we would like to see J.M. wrestle with a few problems. Part of learning is knowing how to think on your own. This lesson will never be learned if he is given the answers each time something is challenging. How will a child learn perseverance or diligence if he or she is handed everything on a silver platter? As parents and teachers, we must expect more from them, but be there for them when they sincerely need help. We must not accept mediocre performance, and we must not allow them to become bored with the process of learning. Please help motivate and educate them, especially in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).
We also do not buy into this idea of building our children’s self-esteem in an unnatural way. If J.M. loses at a sporting event, please do not immediately run out and buy him something. If he makes a poor grade, please do not curve it because he is nice. Some of the best lessons in life come at the expense of pain and tears. How will children ever learn to improve if they are rewarded for everything in life, even for mediocrity? We want J.M. to understand that life will not always hand him roses, and that he needs to be a Christian whether he wins or loses, in good times and in bad. We ask you to help us use times of adversity or setback to motivate him to do better, so that he can win in the future.
J.M. will grow up surrounded by love and complimented quite often. But we don’t believe some guy, selling bestseller “how-to” books about self-esteem, knows what is best for our children. Our nation is suffering from the self-deceit of the “me” image, convinced that “I” am the biggest, the brightest, and the best, not because of personal development and integrity, but simply because everyone around has always said so. A good self-image must be built on a good name and a worthy character. Call us old-fashioned, but we still believe God’s inspired Word knows what is best for us and for our children.
If you are currently rearing the child who will be J.M.’s future spouse, know that we are praying for you as well. We recognize that the values, character, and spiritual emphasis you are currently placing in your child’s life will one day greatly affect our own child.
J.M. is being taught that marriage is for life—period. And he will walk into his marriage able to quote God’s one and only acceptable reason for divorce and remarriage – fornication (Mt. 19:9). The Bible teaches “one man, one woman, for life” (Gen. 2:24), and divorce for any reason besides fornication is evil. We trust what Jesus taught on this subject. We hope and pray your children are hearing the exact same message.
We beg you to “do your homework now,” teaching your children to love God more than anything in the world. Maybe, as parents, if we focused more on loving God, instead of only “Thou Shalt Not’s,” then our children’s own hearts would be convicted when they face something God would not approve of.
As parents of J.M.’s future mate, your offspring will likely be one of the most influential factors in getting him to heaven. Please do not take your job lightly!
And finally, dear Christian friends, please notice what type of example and influence you are being for J.M. Even though he may sit by you in worship on Sunday, what message are you teaching him throughout the remainder of the week? Will he see you walking into the corner grocery for alcohol? Will he hear you belittle your family members or curse out the waitress in the restaurant? Will he watch you work overtime to buy more and more material things, and yet have no time or money for the Lord’s church? Will he hear you gripe and complain about the preacher and elders all the way home? Will he learn about your priorities and commitment to sporting events as he looks at Sunday night and Wednesday night attendance? Will he observe elders who enjoy the “title,” but are not strong enough to stand up for the Truth, especially if it means there will be confrontation? Will he witness preachers who claim to love God, but then act in a way that proves otherwise? We hope that when he looks at you, he will see nothing less than a Christian faithfully trying to serve our Almighty Creator.
The devil desperately wants our son. He would love nothing more than to have him as his own. However, he knows that as long as his mother and I still have breath in our lungs, we will be fighting for his soul—a fight that we do not intend to lose. And with you in our Christian family, we know that the devil will fail. We want you to know that we are eternally grateful for your help, and we ask for your continued prayers as we do all we can to get J.M. to Heaven.