“Train up a child in the way he should go, then when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).
It’s been a busy week watching how some parents have been training up their children. First in Portland, Oregon a young man enters a crowded shopping mall, opens fire, kills two persons, and then himself. A few days later another young man, this time in Newtown, Connecticut, warms up by killing his mother, then travels a few blocks to an elementary school, opens up fire, kills 20 children, six adults, and then himself. All the smart people want to blame any variety of things, from mental instability, to too many guns, to an abstract understanding of evil, meaning they’re still embarrassed or clueless to even know what evil is. I’ll propose that our children have simply carried out the lessons we’ve taught them.
The admonition to train up a child in the way he should go is a command in ethical and moral behavior; that there are absolutes in life that all parents should ingrain in their children at an early age, so that as they mature they will grow up to be decent human beings. Failure to do so is to engage in neglect and impress upon the child that right and wrong are matters of opinion, while all forms of behavior are relative. It’s an admonition that fewer and fewer parents are taking seriously, which is part and parcel of why we keep seeing sinful tragedies likes those in Oregon and Connecticut this past week.
But the problem of neglect is even bigger than dad and mom failing to teach Johnny or Suzy that killing someone is bad because God said so. As is the case in all moral and ethical behavior, as goes the Christian Church, so goes the culture, and right now (and probably for the past 200 years), the dearth of sound biblical preaching and teaching among professed Christian leaders has contributed to a dumbed-down church body, meaning that when sinful tragedies do happen, very few have a clue what to say in response. Or when they do say anything, it is usually either tailored by Christless humanistic commentators or is so bereft of depth and confession that it leaves many in a state of agnostic stupor. And that, in turn, is again taught to our children, who turn around and act it out later on, perhaps not by killing someone, but by engaging in any one of a number of other sinful acts: various kinds of theft, illicit sex, putrid talk, cheating in school or at work, doing drugs, bullying peers, intimidating and physically abusing teachers, disrespecting authority figures, etc., etc., etc.
So, until a whole lot of people figure out that God has spoken on the topic of training up children in the right way, and take His counsel seriously, then the further we, as a society, continue to wander away from that counsel, the more of what took place this past week in Oregon and Connecticut are going to happen. God is not mocked; for what a man sows, this he will also reap (Galatian 6:7). The same principle applies to society. We’ve taught our children how to murder and they have learned the lessons well. We’re reaping what we’ve sowed. We can either now learn the lessons they’re teaching us by repenting of our neglect or we can expect an exponential growth in heartbreaking tragedies in the days ahead. The choice is ours. What are we going to do?