"Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray." - Proverbs 22:1-21
When reading the Bible, genre matters. If you don't know what biblical prophecy's about, you might think the book of Revelation is a prediction of future history, and end up writing a foolish and profitable series of books about the end times.
You also might think the book of Proverbs contains God's thinking, instead of humans'. They say it belongs in the category "Wisdom Literature," but when I read lines like the one above, I'm fairly certain God shelves it under "Jokes and Humor." I mean, does anyone really believe that raising children is as simple as "training" them right?
I'm pretty sure God doesn't. Look at Adam and Eve. No matter what kind of parenting technique you like best, God tried it.
Love and nurture? Check.
Attachment parenting? Dr. Sears would approve.
Corporal punishment? Tried it.
And lots more.
And just look how we turned out. Sure, some of us, the saints and others, wound up golden children…the rest of us, not so much.
God's learned the hard way there's just no telling how the kids will turn out in the end, even when the parents are perfect. I think if God were to rewrite that line, it would say something half as pretentious and twice as difficult:
"Love your children hard no matter what, and somehow everybody'll get there in the end."
Holy God, you have loved us, and loved us, and loved us no matter how we've turned out or turned away, and that has been the saving of the world. Grant that we all might do the same with the children you've entrusted to us. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Pastor and Teacher at Plymouth Congregational Church, UCC, in Syracuse, New York, and co-editor, with Curtis J. Preston, of the Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ, published by The Pilgrim Press.