by Fr. Karl Dietze
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” 2 Timothy 1:5
Paul’s second letter to Timothy reads like the testimony of a man who knows his days are numbered. Indeed, as Paul encourages Timothy to continue his faithful ministry, he also encourages Timothy to come see him soon (4:9). “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (4:6-7). Perhaps that is why Paul seems so reflective about Timothy. As he faces the end of his earthly ministry, Paul is writing to the young man who will carry on his spiritual legacy. “I am reminded of your sincere faith…”
There is something powerful that jumps out at me in this verse.
Here we see the power of a believing household. Paul commends Timothy for the sincere faith that “dwelt first” in his mother and grandmother. This doesn’t mean that Timothy didn’t have a faith of his own, but it seems to mean that his mother and grandmother raised him to know Jesus. This is one of the key missions of marriage and family. We hear it in our own liturgy for marriage. “The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind was ordained by God: for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord…”
It has become popular in recent years to let children choose their own faith. I would maintain that that misses the mark in at least two ways. First, as we hear in the marriage liturgy, Scripture teaches that one of the primary roles of families is to raise children in the knowledge and love of the Lord. It is God’s design. Second, we teach our children those things that we believe are of ultimate value. We teach them to take care of their bodies, we teach them to treat others well, we teach them the importance of education and knowledge. If we believe that “there is no other name under heaven among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), then why wouldn’t we teach our children to know and love the Lord?
I am convinced, too, that Lois and Eunice taught the faith to Timothy. Like it or not, parents are the primary faith teachers for their children. Parents need to know the content of their faith if they are going to faithfully pass it on to their children. That means that parents need to be active in growing their own faith so that they can both model the life of faith and teach its content. But lest we narrow this down to only parents, can’t we say the same is true of the extended “family?” We don’t raise children alone. We, the Church, are meant to raise them together in the fellowship of the Church.
Recent studies have shown that the most likely contributing factor to young adults staying in the church in their twenties is having significant adult relationships with other disciples of Jesus. That means that grandparents and extended natural family, as well as close family relationships, all play a powerful role in shaping young lives in Christ. That means that raising children in the fellowship of the Church is vitally important. We not only need to involve our children in the life of the Church, we need to teach them why such involvement (even if it doesn’t excite them any more than brushing their teeth or school) is so important.
If you have children of your own, what are you doing to raise them in the knowledge and love of the Lord?
If you have a relationship with the children of others, what are you doing to raise them in the knowledge and love of the Lord?
Fr. Karl ministers at Trinity Anglican Church