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Parenting in Babylon

We are on our way to Babylon and it won’t be long before we arrive. Since Steve McAlpine’s article last year, I have watched as heated-debates have swirled around me, and Babylon isn’t far from my mind. For the first time in my life, I have felt the force of the conflict between the culture I live in and the church I belong to, and it has begun to look as if the freedoms I’ve grown up taking for granted are under threat. 

After sharing an article on the Biblical view of marriage on Facebook, I was quickly reminded that the view I was promoting was not the view of the cultural mainstream; more than that – it was not even a view that the mainstream culture considered acceptable for a person to hold. As I kissed my toddler and preschooler goodnight tonight, I wondered how on Earth I was going to raise them in Babylon. Are we as Christians doomed to be in exile? Are we raising children who will be outcast and demeaned for holding fast to God’s word? How do we raise them to love the world but not be of it, when it can feel at times as if the world (or at least some powerful representatives of it) would prefer us to be cast out from it and excluded altogether?

1. Continue Living Life

As these issues swirl around us, gaining momentum and crashing into our homes, we are to continue living life.  While in Babylon, the nation of Israel were given specific instructions: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.” (Jeremiah 29:5). Simply put: continue to go about your daily toil and work. As we parent, we aren’t to cower in fear; we aren’t to withdraw into our little communes. We are to continue to live, realizing that just as Israel needed to be ready for living in Babylon long-term, so do we. Get ready for the long haul: Babylon is not going anywhere and unless Jesus returns, our children are going to be raised in this culture, whether we like it or not.

2. Continue Building Family

As a member of a Christian mothers’ discussion group, I quite frequently find myself reading comments along the lines of: “the world is too evil, so maybe we should stop procreating.” Israel were instructed by God to continue to have children, raise children and encourage grandchildren: “Take wives and have sons and daughters, take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiple there, and do not decrease.” (Jeremiah 29:6). Why should we continue to build our families? Because with every daughter or son that God gives us, we are granted an opportunity to raise a child in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

3. Seek the Welfare of the City

The Israelite exiles in Babylon were also instructed to seek the shalom (Hebrew meaning peace, welfare, blessing) of the city. They were to pray to the Lord on behalf of the city to which they had been sent (Jeremiah 29:7). Our cities need the grace that flows from the cross. We need to be known as people who seek to love our neighbours, as an overflow of the grace we have been offered. We need to model this to our children and teach them how to love the Hindu in the house across the road, the gay couple next door and the Muslim two houses up. Why? So that through our love they will see the love of Jesus, holiness of God and mercy of the cross.

4. Teach our Children

We are to know, treasure and teach the truth of the Bible. As Israelites were originally instructed:

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 11:18-19.

As parents, we need to meditate on God’s word, so much so that it naturally comes into our conversation when we are walking to school, sitting down for colouring in, talking about our day over dinner and up comforting a child in the night. As our children (and neighbours) see and hear God’s word ingrained in our day to day, they will see God’s word is something we believe and are serious about. We don’t abandon God’s word to fit in with our culture; we stand out from our culture, where necessary, to stay true to God’s word.

5. Raise Children for the Kingdom to Come

As the culture comes smack bang up against our biblical beliefs, it is important that we recognize we too need to be counter-cultural. Jesus stood out. His teaching was radically different to that of the day and He spoke with great authority. Jesus didn’t publish a list of tips for how to make a slightly-less-idolatrous, slightly-less-immoral Roman empire; He called people to leave everything behind and become disciples for His Kingdom. 

We are to raise children who recognize we will be hated by the world (Matthew 10:22) and that is okay. Our children need to live in light of eternity, for our true home is heaven: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20). Just as the Israelites waited eagerly for God to deliver them and return them to the promised land, we too need to be waiting with great expectations for our promised Kingdom. If life were too comfortable here, what need would we have for heaven? Instead, we are to live and raise our children with eternity clearly in their minds. Yes, it may be uncomfortable living in a culture where we are hated, but in the long run, we will be immeasurably blessed.

Image: Gates of Babylon (flickr)