Monday, June 16, 2008

Genesis 17:24-27 "Household Responsibility"

Genesis 17:24-27: Now Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. In the very same day Abraham was circumcised, and Ishmael his son. And all the men of his household, who were born in the house or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

These few verses give us an example of total obedience and total commitment. There was no turning back in those days. The field of medicine had not yet mastered the surgery of circumcision reversal or foreskin restoration. There was no doubt that the males in Abraham’s household so operated on that day would remain circumcised the rest of their lives.

I remember my teenage son wanting to get a tattoo on his back. In addition to giving him my best arguments on why I believed that was inappropriate for him, I indicated that once acquired, it could not be easily removed. For all intents and purposes, he would be stuck with it. As a courtesy to me he waited until he was much older to get one. Needless to say that even if he did want to remove it now, the cost and pain involved in so doing would be great. The tattoo will likely remain in place. My son is committed to its presence. [By the way, as I got older and wiser, I learned to accept it and while it is no longer anything that comes between us, I would still have a tough time condoning it.] The male segment of Abraham’s household made a decision that day to carry the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham and between God and Abraham’s descendants, for ever.

From before the days of Abraham, through the beginning of the Christian era, and on to today, the person of faith has to make a decision to yield full obedience and commitment to the One he says he believes in. That is the ultimate goal and following that goal until one’s life ends, is what warrants the ultimate prize in eternity. Yet, a great majority of us have failed to either fully comprehend this or have decided to totally ignore it. Today, many Christians are what William Wilberforce in his book, Real Christianity, would call “social Christians”. They want the social benefits of membership, but they have no real clue as to what a genuine relationship with Christ really means and demands of them.

In the early years of her marriage, my eldest daughter and her family lived in Dallas, Texas. She described for my wife and I the events that she and her husband attended and said they were surprised to find out that just about everyone there was a “Christian”. Several years later after getting to know many of them more intimately, she admitted the following on the telephone one day: “Dad, everybody down here is a ‘christian’. Why, you can’t get a job in the Bible belt without being one!” Commitment to God requires much more than wearing a cross on a chain around one’s neck.

Finally, I believe this passage of scripture also talks to us that are heads of households – whether as fathers in a traditional family unit, or as a man or woman who is a single parent. God asked Abraham to carry out His wishes on his entire male household. I believe that had the request involved something equally applicable to both males and females, God would have expected him to carry it out on both sexes. Except for those under eight days old, age was not a discriminatory factor either. And if Abraham was ninety-nine years old, I am sure we can surmise that he had some long-time trusted servants that were close to his age.

The point I want to make is undoubtedly part and parcel of a very complex area and I know that I may step on many toes in trying to express my position. I do, however, believe that heads of households have always had, as a key priority, the responsibility of seeing to it that all members of their households observe and maintain a faith in God. I am not convinced that God has changed His mind on that. I believe the Enemy can take those of us that would not feel any guilt if a child denies the faith and make us feel guilty. Similarly, he would take those of us that feel some personal remorse or regret in such outcome and try to tell us that it “wasn’t your fault at all, after all your son/daughter is an adult and has to make his/her own decision.” The Enemy will play us whatever way he needs to.

Furthermore, I do not want to imply that it is us that make all the difference as to whether or not one of our children grows up to “keep the faith”. Clearly, that is a matter between the child and the Holy Spirit. Yet, I do not want us to believe that what we do, or do not do, does not matter at all. From my own personal life, I can tell you that I compromised my faith where I should not have when it came to the upbringing of my children, my relationships with them, and my general modeling of the Christian life. Thankfully, God still chose to intervene in their lives and they are walking with Him as married adults today. But what if He had not or what if I had compromised or failed them much more than I had, to the point that the Enemy capitalized on their feelings and they rejected the God of their father? Would I have had no responsibility for what I modeled? I believe I would have and I believe I still do. My point, especially to parents of young children, is simply this – you can and do make a difference in how your children react to the God you believe in. You cannot take the approach that if they are meant to be Christians, they will be, regardless of how you behave. Having said that, I also know that if, for whatever reason, the Holy Spirit has not yet called them unto Himself, regardless of your exemplary behavior, there is nothing you can do about it but trust His ultimate wisdom.

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