Most of us are familiar with Dr. Luther’s introduction to the Chief Articles in the Small Catechism: “As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.” As important and necessary as the weekly gathering of God’s people is around Word and Sacrament, and it is necessary, as good as Midweek and Confirmation classes might be for us all, Christian faith and life is begun, sustained, and fortified at home.
Even before a child is baptized, Dad and Mom talk about their soon-to-be born baby’s baptism. Even before the little tyke was even conceived, grandpa and grandma were praying for him. Even before her parents picked out her name, her heavenly Father wrote her name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. And most certainly after their little bundle of joy is baptized, Dad and Mom have the God-given responsibility and duty to raise their child in the way she should go so that when she is older she will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6).
Dad and Mom, it’s not your pastor’s responsibility to teach your children. It’s your responsibility (Eph. 4:6). And since this is “Steadfast at Home” which doesn’t just pertain to children but to husbands and wives, we might as well go as far as the Apostle. Husbands, it’s not your pastor’s responsibility to teach your wives, it’s yours. So St. Paul writes, “If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home” (1 Cor. 14:35, ESV). Of course, Dr. Luther knew this as he wrote that “the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.”
Now obviously if the head of the family is the mother for one reason or another, then the responsibility falls on her. But even here, she is not alone but does indeed have a pastor, a father, to whom she can turn.
So now we know. It’s not the pastor’s responsibility to teach our families. It’s the responsibility of the head of the family, most usually the father of the family. Just as Adam was responsible for Eve, and so for her children, so you, Dad, are responsible for your wife and children’s instruction. But far from this being some pre-enlightenment idea of an overbearing patriarchal society where woman and child were oppressed, this way of doing things given by our heavenly Father is wonderfully beneficial. First of all, it mimics the way God does things.
God the Father teaches His family. He doesn’t let us, His children, figure things out on our own, hoping we’ll see the light and choose life over death. He instructs us. He doesn’t leave our instruction up to chance, but takes an active interest in it by giving us the Church, the Scriptures, and the Sacraments. We receive all instruction from our heavenly Father. So the head of the family being given the responsibility to teach and instruct the family isn’t outdated, it’s godly. Dad teaches his family.
But this doesn’t mean Mom doesn’t play a role. To the contrary; Mom, you teach (instruct) your children to listen to the instructor. From you, Mom, your children learn what it means to submit. Not to be walked on, but to honor their father by listening to and walking in his instruction. Mom, teach your children what it means to listen in quiet obedience and in all humility and reverence, as St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians (14).
Secondly, by Dad teaching the family and making sure his children are taught properly, it forces him to engage the teaching. By teaching, Dad himself will learn. He will learn why we must attend the Divine Liturgy. He will lean the importance of Daily Prayer. But mostly he will learn that our faith, our life in Christ, isn’t a Sunday-only event to be shelved, but is an everyday faith that effects our family life, our work, and our leisure. Dad will learn what it means to be a father.
And finally, by Dad taking the responsibility (even if Mom has to do the teaching when Dads away on business or otherwise unavailable), the children will learn the most valuable lesson of how to live in a family and be godly dads and moms themselves. Our kids today, with the babysitters and time thieves of TV and video games, not too mention the barrage of garbage they get from the Internet and mobile devices, are thereby learning how this world wants them to parent, which is to not parent. The first thing you can do, Dad and Mom, to give your kids a future and a true trust fund, is to teach them the faith handed down to the saints by sitting them down at home and teaching the things of God “as the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.”
Associate Editor’s Note: With this posting, we welcome Pastor Lovett to our regular contributors here at BJS. A little more about Pr. Lovett:
Pastor Lovett serves the Church of God in Hoisington, KS, were he lives with his wife, Kristi, and three children, Joshua (9), Sarah (4), and Kristopher (2).
Pastor Lovett is a graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary (2006), and majored in history. He also received a BA in philosophy from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, after serving in the United States Navy for four years.