By Dennis Loots
One of life’s most precious joys is the gift of a child. When a husband and wife are blessed with children there comes with that blessing great joy and awesome responsibilities. Christian parents acknowledge that their child belongs to God first and then to them. They are, in fact, raising God’s children. This means that their primary responsibility is to teach, model and instruct the child in the Christian faith, praying that at the right time they will make their own decision to follow Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Sunday Schools and other church programmes have a role to play but they do not, and cannot, take the place of the parents.
In the Old Testament the responsibility for raising children God’s way rests squarely on the parents. In Deuteronomy 6 we read: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deut 6:6,7
The picture presented is of parents loving and obeying God and, as a result, making the things of God a normal and everyday part of their interaction as a family. In our driven and busy world this is a great challenge. When God’s people see their children as a gift and recognise the high calling of parenthood, dedicating themselves and their children to God becomes a very meaningful experience.
This dedication begins in the hearts of the parents and works itself out in the way they conduct their lives and their homes. But it also finds expression in the Church when parents bring themselves and their children before their church family to publicly declare their dependence on God for this great task. Faith in Christ is personal but not private. Parents need the love, support and prayers of a church family as they seek to raise children God’s way. “And she said to him, ‘As surely as you live my Lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life will be given over to the Lord.’ And he worshipped the Lord there.” 1 Sam 1:26-28
Parents follow in Hannah’s footsteps as they give back to God what God has given to them. Dedicating children is both a personal act and a public ceremony. Through this act of dedication Christian parents make a commitment before God and the church, to dedicate themselves and their children to God’s Will, to raise their family according to God’s Word and to conduct their homes in a way that honours God.
They are asking God to strengthen them and to help them in this task. Some families ask a good friend or family member to be godparents to their children. For many this is simply a traditional arrangement in case something should happen to the parents. But when it is seen in the context of Christian commitment, it is an opportunity for those godparents to develop a relationship with that child, to support the parents and to pray regularly for the family, continually asking for God’s blessing and protection.
The dedication of a child is not a substitute for the child himself making a personal commitment to Christ. It is in fact an undertaking to give the child every opportunity to understand that responsibility and to make that commitment. In the act of dedication, parents are expressing joy and gratefulness to God for the amazing gift of a child. They are making a personal and public commitment “to train up the child in the way he should go.” What a joy it is for Christian parents to bring their children before the God of love, to dedicate them to the Saviour and to ask that His Grace, blessing and love would be evident in their lives.
Dennis Loots is the senior pastor of Somerset West Baptist Church. Call 021 852 1810 or see www.swbc.co.za for more.