In his work The City of God, Augustine explains that all mankind falls into one of two categories: the city of God or the city of man. To be in the city of God is to have God as Father and Christ as Savior. A citizen of this city shares in the Holy Spirit. But to be in the city of man is to be an enemy of God, a stranger and an exile without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). In a time when the spirit of the age wants to chop up humanity into an endless array of intersectional divisions, it is refreshing to return to the fundamental division, the division of all divisions: the city of God and the city of man.
Now this series of posts is on parental horse sense so the paragraph above is simply setting the stage for the question: Which city are your kids in? You are in the city of God. Are they? You have God as Father. Do they? When you’re holding your little newborn, or helping that toddler walk her way across the living room, are they in the same city you are in? The answer to that question is yes, they are with you in the city of God.
Let’s say you’re sitting around the dinner table with the family and you’re singing the old Gaither hymn The Family of God. You’ve got a litter of kids from 14 years old down to the one year old in the high chair. The whole family sings the chorus,
I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God,
I’ve been washed in the fountain cleansed by his blood.
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the family the family of God.
Now, your fourteen year old blurts out before the song is over, “Hey, dad, is that true? Are we all a part of the family of God, even little Bobby over there in the high chair incoherently babbling along with us?”
My point is that you have solid biblical warrant to say, “Why yes son, all of us are a part of the family of God, including little Bobby. God is our Father, Christ is our High Priest, the Spirit is our Comforter. God is our God and we are His people.”
I recall reading a Christian parenting book many years ago which addressed how parents should speak to a child who had the wiggles during family prayer. The counsel placed the child thoroughly outside of the city of God. It ran along the lines of, “We understand that you don’t want to pray. And we’re glad you’re not faking it. We will pray that God changes your heart in the future. But for now, you have to sit quietly while we pray.”
That counsel, quite apparently, puts distance between parent and child. And that counsel flows from thinking that the distance is there. We (the parents) are in the city of God, while you (the child) are outside of that city, still in the city of man.
There are many texts that could underscore that our children are insiders. But one of the best ones is Isaiah 65:23 “They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them.” God speaks through the prophet saying plainly that his people are the seed of the blessed of the Lord. And then what about the offspring? The text is clear. They too are the seed of the blessed of the Lord. They too are children of God.
If a child is getting out of sorts, then the response is not to panic, or parent as if he is outside the camp. Rather this is just the time when you remind him who he belongs to, who his Father is, and what Jesus has done for him. You are a part of the family of God kid, and we just don’t do that kind of thing. There is a high calling on your life so let’s get on with repenting and believing.