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The State and the Family

In our society, a lot is said in the media to arouse viewers and get attention. Talking, for example, news about children being allowed to have abortions or change their gender without their parents’ consent is intended to make everyone go crazy. The number of people affected by any such issues is statistically zero.

The reality is that the state serves an important role in the work of parenting because when children will not listen to their parents or yield to parental discipline, they usually run into the law. The law, by God’s mercy, is a safety net that stands between disobedience to parents and damnation.

While most Christian parents will be working to save face and avoid discussing the real trials of parenting, there are many times when children of good families, who do not obey their parents, learn to check their ways by running into the discipline of the State. This is a wake-up call for most kids and checks the foolishness that is promoted by fantasy-world media, entertainment and childish ideas about the world. Kids quickly learn that the rules are not just made up by Mom and Dad an enforced artificially. Many of the rules are the law.

In ancient Israel, this was established by God in the laws of Moses. We read:

“If a man have a stubborn and unruly son, who will not hear the commandments of his father or mother, and being corrected, slighteth obedience: They shall take him and bring him to the ancients of his city, and to the gate of judgment, and shall say to them: This our son is rebellious and stubborn, he slighteth hearing our admonitions, he giveth himself to revelling, and to debauchery and banquetings: The people of the city shall stone him: and he shall die, that you may take away the evil out of the midst of you, and all Israel hearing it may be afraid.”

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

Now, modern people will read this an respond in the usual anti-Semitic way, calling the ancient Jews “barbarians”, “fanatics”, “savages”, etc. — but that is not suggested by this law.

The stated purpose of this law is not to kill bad kids. The ultimate purpose of this law is to prevent children from destroying their lives by fearing the law: “that all Israel hearing it may be afraid.” How many sons, disobeying their parents, and heading down this course of destruction persisted in it to their death? We hear of no such cases in the history of the Jews. That is the purpose of this law.

Disobedient children, who scoff at the commands of their parents, set themselves on a course of self-destruction. It’s only a matter of time before the effects begin to manifest themselves, and these effects can be permanent, even fatal. The threat of the law of Israel warns children that their parents aren’t the only opponent they face in their desire to do evil. They are warned that if they will not listen to their parents, they will be punished by the state.

They must obey.

Again, while our media and entertainment industries, for some reason, are allowed to tell our children the opposite, the law stands ready to punish them just as it did in ancient Israel. The mode of enforcement is not the same, but the effect is.

Parents are often grieved by the experience of dealing with disobedient children, but this happens–and it’s no fault of the parents. Disobedience is easy to understand when you consider the lack of experience children have in the world and the misleading messages that are received from secular society. It takes time for children to learn the truth and these can be painful, expensive lessons. If children will not listen, there’s nothing parents can do. If the children press beyond the limits of parental authority, they’re going to run into the law–and that’s a good thing.

Now, “running into the law” doesn’t necessarily mean being killed by police officers. It may mean being sued for not paying bills and receiving a summons from the sheriff. It may mean having a car repossessed. It may mean receiving speeding or parking tickets. It may mean being arrested for a fight. What’s important in all of this is that disobedient children will learn in their youth that there are consequences to the behavior their parents warn them against and that these are enforced by authorities beyond their parents and outside their homes.

Parents, rather than being terrified of or embarrassed by these consequences, should be encouraged to see that their authority is not some artificial authority that exists in their own imagination. It is real, and it is backed up by the State. Learning this is part of the normal maturation process for children, and a normal part of the experience of Christian parents.

St. Paul explained this:

“Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation. For princes are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good: and thou shalt have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to thee, for good. But if thou do that which is evil, fear: for he beareth not the sword in vain. For he is God’s minister: an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil.”

Romans 13:1-4

Getting checked by the law is an important phase of our children’s growth as adults and is common because they are being challenged to learn to make the right and rational use of freedom. Most Christian parents try to deny their children any freedom and pretend that their children’s behavior in that deprived state is good, but it’s not. It’s merely delaying the real challenge of parenting, which is leading children to use freedom for good and not evil.

God bless your families,
Mr. William C. Michael
Classical Liberal Arts Academy

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