Littleton hit just a little too close to home for us. We lived and ministered there in the early 80's, about the time two young men who took life from so many were given life. We courted there, made our first home and had our first child there, graduated from seminary there, and returned there after three years in missions. We just moved back to Colorado and, even though we're 40 miles down the interstate now, the news of Littleton felt like our neighborhood.
It hit close to home not just because we lived there, though, but because it dramatized so clearly what we began discussing in last month's column - the principle that "whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." Last month, we looked at what we sow in our children's minds. This month, we need to look at what we are sowing in their hearts. We live in a culture that is freely sowing seeds of godlessness, violence and hate. Our goal, though, is to overcome evil with good by sowing seeds of righteousness that will reap godly young men and women.
The Heart Leads the Head
The young men in Littleton were very intelligent, probably more intelligent than many of our own children their ages. But their minds were broken and afflicted, much as Isaiah saw in Israel: "Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted." It's important to remember that the real goal of our instruction with our children isn't just academic achievement - it's development of godly character and faithfulness to God. A mature disciple of Jesus Christ with the desire and ability to learn is much more useful to God's work than a well-educated but immature Christian. God starts with the heart, and that is where we must sow the very best seeds.
The Apostle Paul, after Jesus, was the greatest teacher of Christian truth, yet the goal of his instruction was not increased knowledge, but "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Tim. 1:5) He contrasts that goal with the goal of others in the church who were being seduced and distracted by matters having to do only with knowledge and learning. Paul knew, and was reminding Timothy, that the heart leads the head. It is the heart that must be dealt with first.
That, I believe, is why the Parable of the Sower indicates that good seed needs good soil, too. "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word and retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." (Luke 8:15)
Where does a noble and good heart come from? I am convinced that we can cultivate goodness and nobility in the hearts of our children with biblical instruction, prayers, habits, noble stories, and the patterns of a godly life. When God's word comes into the soil of a heart so prepared, it takes root and grows.
Sowing Seeds for a Whole Heart
In light of the Littleton tragedy, the question we all must face is, "How can I send my children into a broken culture with a whole head and a whole heart?" The shapers of our culture have "sown the wind" of wickedness and unrighteousness, and our children will "reap the whirlwind" of their evil and folly in increasing measure in their generation. Only those children who leave home with whole heads and whole hearts will be God's tools to preserve righteousness in the broken culture they inherit.
One more principle is important as we sow in our children's heart - if we sow bountifully, we will reap bountifully. (2 Cor. 9:6) Frankly, sowing seeds in our children's hearts is much more difficult and demanding than sowing them in their minds. Yet, by the Spirit, we want to sow as bountifully in their hearts as we are possibly able. These are a few of the seeds we are trying to sow to insure that our children grow up with whole hearts.
Sow the seed of love. A child loved bountifully by parents will have no cause to seek fulfillment and affirmation elsewhere. Sowing love bountifully means lots of talking and listening, sympathizing, hugging and touching, time, and togetherness. The soil of the heart is hardened, though, by harshness, coolness, strictness, criticism and indifference.
Sow the seed of inspiration. A child looks at life through the lens of home. If that lens is shaped and colored by a sense of biblical calling and mission, he will pick up on it. Inspiration is sown through discussion about and prayer for ministries and missions, books and movies about heroes of the faith and of history, and the constant reminder that God has a purpose for your family.
Sow the seed of truth. Your children need to hear biblical truth about their relationship with God - their sin, and his forgiveness and grace. They need to hear why Christianity makes sense of their lives. They need to hear a biblical perspective and response to the issues of the day that cause them to wonder, and even doubt. They need to hear this truth from you.
Sow the seed of faith. Jesus praised the faith of little children. There is already a willingness to believe that can be cultivated through discussion, prayer and the Scriptures. Seeds of greater faith can be sown in your child's heart through personal testimonies of your own walk of faith, challenges to believe God for the "unbelievable," and discussions about the reasons for their faith (resurrection, reliability of the Bible, creationism).
Sow the seed of service. Jesus came to serve. If Christlikeness is our goal for our children, we must sow seeds of ministry and service in their hearts. That means involving them in outreach ministries to non-believers, going to nursing homes, helping with a meals-on-wheels program, helping you with a Bible club outreach to the neighborhood children, and giving to missions.
Sow the seed of seriousness. The Bible often warns us to be "sober," or serious about life. Many parents are afraid to address serious matters for fear of stealing the "joy" of childhood from their children. But sowing seeds of seriousness in a child's heart will give him the ability to be serious when it is necessary as a child and as an adult.
The twenty-first century and the third millennium are upon us. Let's be sure we are sowing seeds in our children's hearts and minds that will prepare them for their walk with God as adults in an uncertain time. If we do, we will reap the reward of a "well done" when we see our Savior.