Mothers’ Encouragement Group
April 12, 2018
Plant Them and Let Them Grow #9
VI. You shall not murder.
Why is it so important that we have the law of God; why do we need it and why do we need to teach it to our children? We have spoken of the perfect beauty in which the Lord created man and the beautiful gifts with which He has endowed us, music being one of those gifts which we mentioned last time. Our personalities, the motions of our hearts, the ability to think and to choose, the very bodies in which all these things reside are gifts that the Lord has given to us to enjoy. Life itself is a gift from Him. To quote Mrs. Schaeffer: “Think of priceless inventions such as telephones, cameras, typewriters, and sewing machines, [she wrote this in 1973!] and the difference they make in life. It is impossible to compare these things with God’s invention of human beings, made in His image to think and act and feel, to have ideas and choose, to be creative and love and communicate¬—and to reproduce.” Ten Things Parents Must Teach Their Children by Edith Schaeffer p. 127. But what happened to God’s wonderful invention? We know all too well; my husband preached a very depressing sermon on Genesis 4 some time ago. From the same chapter in which we learn about the father of all those gifted in music, another gifted with animals and another gifted in metal working we also learn about the development of anger and jealousy, the desecration of marriage and of a man who terrorized his neighbors with hatred and murder, seeking power for himself. We know that because of the failure of Adam and Eve to obey the Lord in the very first instance it has now become not only difficult but actually impossible perfectly to obey Him without His own restraining and helping power in our lives. Sin, when unrestrained, grows and grows and grows making the lives it touches—which is every life—miserable with selfishness and fear.
This is a vitally important principle for us as mothers to remember when thinking about and dealing with our children: they are, every one of them, born with Adam’s fallen nature, a nature not only prone to sin but actually unable not to sin; there is wickedness in their every fiber and without our correction, curbing, teaching and training they can only grow up more and more hardened in that nature. We know this not only because we read it in God’s Word but because of the struggle we face within our own selves; we too were born with that nature that runs to sin, that would always choose the wrong, the self-serving, the power-grabbing, the scintillating, the easy path. If we are honest with ourselves we know this would always be true were it not for the restraining, correcting power of our Savior in our minds and in our hearts. Looking at our children and at their natural behavior is like looking into a mirror! And for their good, as well as for our own, we ought not to think about this sentimentally but truly, honestly and with courage. Correcting them with loving discipline is not an option but an absolute necessity if we are to drive sin out of their lives.
God, however, did create us to be happy and when He made Adam and Eve they were happy—perfectly and delightfully so—and when that original state of happiness was ruined God was not turned away from keeping that purpose in His world and in our lives. Hebrews 6 tells us, “When God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” Vss. 17-18. I have said this to you all before: that it never ceases to amaze me why God should care that we should be happy after all we—meaning the human race—did to wreck the lovely world He had made. But He did care and in order for Him to keep that purpose in us—that we might be happy—we needed two very big things from Him. First, we needed His law so that we might know what He expects of us, that is, what obedience to Him looks like; and then we needed His help to obey that law and that help we can only find in Christ. These things He gave us so that we might have the happiness He intended for us to have.
We are in the middle of discussing the second part of the Law (commandments 5 – 10) which expresses God’s heart and teaches us how He wants us to act towards our fellow human beings. We have said that if we ever doubted that “God is love,” here is proof: these commandments are nothing if they do not teach us how to love one another. We have been talking about the subject of the “soil” in which we need to be planting our babies, we have been talking about the all-important area of authority, of children needing to learn to obey their parents and to trust them for everything. When children are born they depend on their parents for absolutely everything—their life, their safety, their happiness, their comfort; they are so dependent that they don’t even know they are. Gradually they gain size, strength and independence and as they do, their need to trust and their need to obey become more obvious and more crucial. It is only—at least at the beginning of their lives—through this relationship with their parents that children learn who they are, what they are and what their Creator expects of them. We also spoke of how the fifth commandment has given us wonderful guidance in how to treat everyone who comes into our lives with love, kindness and respect no matter what their station in life may be or what our relationship to them is. As our WSC (Westminster Shorter Catechism), puts it: the fifth commandment “requires the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals,” that is, we are to honor and respect everyone we rub shoulders with whether they are older, younger or belong to our peer group. This is part of the beginning of what we need to teach our children.
Today we talk about the command not to murder. WSC: “The sixth commandment forbids the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor unjustly, or whatsoever tends thereunto” and “the sixth commandment requires all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others.” The Lord begins to tell us how we are to behave towards our fellow man in this commandment, seeing each other for the marvelous creations that we are, to respect the work that God has done in creating each one and to delight in the beauty and diversity that God put into each of us. It is the careful treatment of our bodies and the bodies of others that we are talking about here since it is those bodies that house all the wonderful things that make up a human being. It is through our bodies, when we are young, that we learn, and it is with and through our bodies that we love or hate one another, and through our bodies that we are in turn either loved or hated by others.
When our kids were growing up we had two dogs. Murray we had for close on eleven or twelve years and Simon for about half that. We were never very good at training our dogs and they added a lot of chaos to our life as a family; they also added a lot of love and fun, though I think they might have added more fun if we had learned how to treat them like dogs instead of like one of the children! I got some tips from a dog-lover in the congregation once after we had had our first dog for several months. It was obvious to her that Murray did whatever he wanted to do whenever he wanted to do it. [Sigh] She told me two things that I remember (and some others that were simply too hard to implement—like being consistent, hello¬—but who can do that when there are five needy, much more important, beings running around?!). The first thing she told me was that dogs, when entering a family, will figure out who the “alpha dog” is and that is the one person they are afraid of and will submit to; everyone else in the family he will try to dominate and unless each one wins his own battle he will be dominated by the dog. In our particular case, Murray figured out that he didn’t really have to obey anyone in our house except Rob! When I figured that out I knew I needed to take pains to make myself the other alpha dog in his life—but how? The second thing she told me was that dogs learn through their bodies and especially through their mouths. My now adult children have obeyed this rule with their dogs better than we ever did: never let your dog eat from the table your family is eating off of!! And never let him eat the food you’re eating. Not only is it not good for his doggie system but eating your food gives him the idea that he is equal to you; this is how it works in the animal kingdom—the control of food is the way to dominate another. Shucks, I don’t think this principle ever really sank in, if you know what I mean. But what I did do was to make Murray lie down in one place and make him stay there as long as I was able. Lying down is a posture of submission and staying is the forcing of obedience. This really did the trick for Murray and he learned to obey me at least moderately well! I remember, though, that when Simon came into our household his tough little heart was harder to impress and I actually had to get bodily down on top of him a time or two and force him to lie there and submit to me! Dogs learn through their bodies and so do children, especially at the very beginning of their lives.
Our bodies are wonderful, glorious inventions through which we experience all kinds of goodness, pleasure and learning, through which we express that same goodness, pleasure and learning. It is also those same bodies that bring us grief, pain and heartache, through which we bring grief, pain and heartache to others. Again we understand that something wonderful God made has been ruined by sin and again we know that God was not willing to leave our bodies in their ruined state. Mrs. Schaeffer puts it this way:
“The body one has when the forty-six chromosomes have multiplied and grown for nine months within one’s mother and then have become ready to live outside is so precious that when death entered the world through the fall, God had already planned the marvelous forming of the body of Jesus within Mary for nine months so that He could live, and die, and rise again to open the way for our resurrection and eternal life in our bodies. It was the excruciatingly important matter of our having our bodies for all eternity—changed, but the same bodies raised again—which made Christ’s resurrection as the first fruit so important. His resurrected body was the first fruit; ours will be among the fruit to follow. All our bodies will be like his resurrected body.” Ten Things Parents Must Teach Their Children by Edith Schaeffer p. 126.
We just passed April 4 which is the date our family remembers the birth and death of our beautiful Moon twins, Rob’s and my first grandchildren, born in 2009. This experience will always be vivid in my mind—so many moments of awe and surprise; was the Lord really taking these beautiful children away from us? It was excruciatingly hard to believe. One of the moments that is forever etched in my heart is when a member of our extended family made it possible for Josh and Bryonie to choose a headstone for the twins’ little grave. I will never forget how Josh’s shoulders relaxed with an exhale of breath as he said, “It’s okay now; there is the witness…” On the stone they put “Ebenezer & Hannah Moon. Awaiting the resurrection.” How I look forward to the day when we shall all meet them again and then live in joy together in perfect, resurrected bodies.
We cannot talk about this subject without at least mentioning the wonderful way God created new bodies to be made, giving us a part in bringing new human beings into the world—another incredibly amazing and wonderful condescension of our Lord when He could have decided to make everyone the way He made Adam in the very first place. Instead, He made the whole mysterious thing of sex, of romantic love, attraction, and communion, drawing one person of one kind to one person of the other kind and knitting them together for a life of helping one another through this world and on to the next; and the wonderful fruit of that knitting together, each new life that comes from that attraction, we are to cherish and protect. Mrs. Schaeffer again:
“….How marvelous is the work of God in creating human beings who could reproduce, who could have children from their physical oneness, children who would have eternal life one day, but who would also become adults and form new families, form the next generation.
“Children are a gift of the Lord, the Bible tells us over and over again, and to treat the priceless gift of their lives entrusted into our hands lightly or carelessly is horrible to contemplate. If human beings are held accountable for the life of their fellowmen, being held accountable for the life of one of these precious gifts is staggering! Come to Psalm 127:3-5: ‘Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.’ ” Ibid. p. 126
“….Each human being has potential for being involved in bringing a new being into existence. How awful to treat a new human being as a kind of counterfeit piece of matter that isn’t of any value at all. But even more, how terrible it is to forget that God the Creator has said that children are an inheritance, and a reward of His, given as a good gift.” Here she quotes Psalm 128:1-4, 6: “Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD…May you see your children’s children!”
“This picture the Psalmist gives to be sung with fervent voices…upon the lips of the Israelites, and ours, is one evidence of a fulfilled life showing forth the answer to the question Who am I? I am one involved with life, life in the form of generations, caring for each other, bound together in a day-by-day communication, seeing each other, exchanging ideas in conversation, handing down traditions, but most importantly, making truth known to the next generation. Physical life is a precious commodity. Out of it comes the sweetness of the Beethoven piano trios, with a violin, cello, and piano bringing forth gorgeous waterfalls of music flowing not only over the ears of the listener, but through the whole ‘sounding board’ of the physical system—made by God to respond to music as well as to hear it! In today’s society, it is likely Beethoven would have been aborted. Our society does nothing to protect even the normal unborn life, and he had a succession of abnormal older brothers and sisters and unlikely family genes….” Ibid. p.127.
Abortion, murder, suicide, the taking of life that is not ours to take—how does it begin? I think we can say that murder is anger gone wrong, in some cases, very wrong and it begins in our hearts. The Savior put it this way: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matthew 5:21-22 Jesus is telling us that anger turns to hatred and hatred, without check, will lead to the taking of life, whether it be ours or another’s.
Hear me now; anger itself is not what is wrong. Anger is a human capacity that we were created with; anger is part of God’s personality and He created us to be like Himself; He created us with the capacity to be angry. When anger is rightly aroused it prompts us to say, “that is wrong and something must be done about it!” When we see an injustice happening to another and especially to one less fortunate and we are not angry that too is sin; we have become indifferent which is the refusal “to preserve the life of others.” (WSC) We have demonstrated the fact that we really don’t care about the welfare of someone else.
In some of our conversations about disciplining children I have heard mothers say, “We must never spank when we are angry!” and I have often thought to myself, “That surely must be right but I know myself—I would never have spanked at all if I hadn’t been angry.” What’s the difference? The book that I am reading just now, Good & Angry by David Powlison explains it this way: “What is anger? It’s the way we react when something we think important is not the way it’s supposed to be.” We are moral creatures; we make evaluations about everything—“ourselves, others, weather, animals, ideas, dinner, God, prices, current events, you name it” [ibid p. 42]—this is the way God made us to reflect Himself. It is how we know to turn away from evil and choose the good. The trouble with us is that 99% of our anger has gone wrong and instead of using it to stand against evil in the world—wrong that is done to the defenseless or, in the case of our children, wrong that is in them, being indulged by them—we use it to stand against the wrong we perceive has been done to ourselves. Sin has turned it into selfishness. Please don’t hear me say that the anger I had towards my children was always in that 1% of righteous anger—I know it wasn’t—and I know that my anger against their sin gave me the courage I needed to correct them. We are not to be indifferent towards them or towards their behavior since that is not “preserving their life.” It is not “loving them into Heaven.”
We are to care for our bodies as well as the bodies of our children and we are to take care to treat the bodies of others with kindness and respect. This is such an important rule that God put the direst of consequences on the taking of someone’s life and established nuances in its communication so that what was in a man’s heart might be judged properly and punished justly. “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.” Exodus 21:12-14 We understand by this the very great value God places on the life of a human being and He wants us to know that it is only He who is allowed to take a life from this world. We also understand that God judges our motives; He sees into our hearts and expects us to be discerning about what is in our own hearts as well as, in whatever way it is possible, to discern the motives of others. It is important when we are correcting our children that we work hard to discern what their motives are in their disobedience: was it something they didn’t understand or was it something they did on purpose or something they just plain didn’t want to do? Did they run into their friend on purpose because they were angry or did they lose their balance and thoughtlessly fall into them? There is guilt in each of these scenarios but the correction required for each needs to be different. Remember how Jesus, in the Matthew 5 passage we quoted earlier taught that what is in the heart is what is most important and discerning that often requires much wisdom and cleverness. “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Vss 23-24 How might this direction be applied in the lives of our children?
The commandment not to murder strikes at the very heart of who we have become since Adam’s fall, doesn’t it? Sin has made us completely selfish and self-centered beings. This is what we need to teach our children from the very earliest possible moments so they may begin a habit of thinking kindly, mercifully and generously toward others. Hear some stern words from our Savior: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-19
So what are we talking about; what is it we are to be teaching our children? Surely they are not in danger actually of killing one of their fellows (I suppose there might be some doubt about this from time to time!). Well, we are talking about the opposite of anger gone wrong, of hatred, of selfishness and self-interest; we are talking about love. Children can get this easily, especially if you put it in the context of “The Golden Rule” that is found in Matthew 7:12 or Luke 6:31: “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” This was illustrated very clearly to me a few years ago when Rob & I were in Chattanooga and had a short visit with the Wykoffs. I had bought some little containers of play dough as part of Peter’s third birthday present and he and little Bryonie and I were making pictures in it with the molds that came in the kit. Bryonie was quite proud of the little things she was making but every time she held one up to show Peter he took his finger and smashed it, making her cry. I believe he thought he was being funny and making a joke, not wrecking her play on purpose to hurt her or make her mad (trying to discern motive here), but one rebuke after another was not making him understand and she was getting more and more upset. Finally he held up a picture he had made and I stuck my finger in it, wrecking his creation. In that moment his face went from surprise, to hurt, to understanding and I hardly had to say anything else. The next time she held something up for him to see he said, “Oh Bryonie, that’s beautiful!” Of course, if his parents had not already laid the groundwork I’m sure the lesson would not have happened so quickly or so well—we completely skipped the anger and the crying stage!
Learning to share is huge for children. Like dogs who protect their food dish from other dogs children protect their toys, even if they aren’t particularly fond of them. When other children come from another home and want to play with their toys then their protective instincts are high and there is a great opportunity for parents to teach them that the happiness of someone else is much more important than holding on to their toys. “People are more important than things,” is something I used to say to my children often—not particularly clever but says the truth in a plain, understandable way.
Setting an example of kindness and love in your home that your children can see, experience and then produce for themselves in little, or even big, ways is another way to turn that “self-preservation” into caring for others. When I was 18 my parents sent me to L’Abri in Switzerland before starting college. We did not really understand what L’Abri was or how it worked. I think my parents were hoping to give me a spiritual “shot in the arm” since I had graduated from a secular high school and was headed for a secular college. When I think of all I had to learn there and how I had to grow up in independence and confidence I am amazed that they had the courage and the foresight to send me, a single young woman, travelling to Europe by herself. What I found when I got there was a collection of family homes, each lived in by a couple alone or a couple with children of their own. Each home hosted, for weeks at a time, students of all ages who were seeking answers to spiritual and philosophical questions. I lived in Chalet Beau Site with six or seven other girls in the home of Barry and Veronica Seagren. We kept to a daily schedule as well as a weekly routine. In the first weeks a Brit named Donald lived there while the Seagrens were on holiday. He came by at 6:30 every morning, knocked on our door and yelled in his charming British accent, “Wakey, wakey! Rise and Shine!” When Barry got back it was just an unwelcome bang and, “6:30! Time to get up!” We had chores to fulfill during the hours we were not in the chapel listening to tapes or hearing a lecture. Everyone worked, everyone helped with meals and every chalet served its own family meal each evening hosting 8 or 10 students. Were the students grateful? I’m not sure; I certainly wasn’t. For me it was a fun, exciting adventure and I learned a lot in the personal understanding of my faith but I was almost completely unaware of the sacrifice those families had to make to include students every day in their family life. I even remember feeling somewhat resentful after learning that each couple had a “day off” from keeping students in their home. (What did they need a day off for?!)
I told you that story to illustrate the selfless hospitality and love that was shown by Francis and Edith Schaeffer to students that their girls brought home from college with them—students who were truly confused and wanting to know if life made any sense. Edith cooked for them and Francis talked to them about the truth of the Bible and the need for the Gospel in their lives. They slept on their living room floor when they had travelled too great a distance to get home and when they got up there was breakfast and prayer and more discussion. The entire family was involved—so much so that when the Schaeffers’ three daughters married they did the same in their own homes with their husbands and children. This was the beginning of L’Abri Fellowship. I am not saying that every one of you needs to start some kind of ministry! but I will say that the hospitality you show to others who come into your home will be caught by your children; and if there is no hospitality, or grudging hospitality, that too will be caught by them and if hospitality is anything it is certainly loving someone else more than yourself or at least more than your own comfortable order.
If we want not to murder we need to cultivate its opposite virtue—love. What is love? It is “patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way (that’s a biggy for children!); it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” I Corinthians 13:4-8 It is the absence of these things that leads to hate, and so to murder, someone else. Hear this application taken from one of Charles Spurgeon’s sermons. He is addressing how Christians ought to be able to love, and not to hate, other Christians:
“We shall, as we ripen in grace, have greater sweetness towards our fellow Christians. Bitter-spirited Christians may know a great deal, but they are immature. Those who are quick to censure may be very acute in judgment, but they are as yet very immature in heart. He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more; he overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in his own case. He does not expect perfection in the creature, and, therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it…When our virtues become more mature, I trust we shall not be more tolerant of evil, but we shall be more tolerant of infirmity, more hopeful for the people of God, and certainly less arrogant in our criticisms.”
― Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons Vol. 1-10
And finally this: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:12-17.
This little song gives this material a childlike twist and has a catchy tune. I
remember well singing it with my mother when I was a child.
Jesus Bids Us Shine
Anna B. Warner/E.O. Excell
From Let Youth Praise Him, #134
Jesus bids us shine, with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.
Jesus bids us shine, first of all for Him,
Well He sees and knows it, if our light is dim;
He looks down from heaven, sees us shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.
Jesus bids us shine, then, for all around,
Many kinds of darkness in this world abound,
Sin and want and sorrow—we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.