The social media in China has been buzzing recently over a wanted poster that appeared on the Zhenxiong County Police website. The poster described the criminal activities of a 17-year-old gang member, Ji Qinghai. It also pleaded with the public to report any information on his whereabouts.
Public response to this poster, however, has been nothing but ridicule for the police. Admittedly, it’s sad that such a young man should have to be punished for such violent crimes. But why all the criticism aimed at the police department?
Well, it appears that, when preparing the “wanted poster” for Ji Qinghai, the only photo police could obtain was one from his days in preschool. That’s right. A wanted poster with a four-year-old child appeared on a police website.
Will this earn Ji Qinghai the nickname “baby face” or “the kid.” I don’t know. But public reaction was, “How could such a sweet-looking child be capable of such heinous crimes?”
Yet, today’s most vicious killers were once sweet-looking little children. It’s a disturbing reality that every child has the potential of becoming a towering saint or a loathsome sinner. Parents can do certainly do their part in steering their children in the right direction. They can sow the seeds of love, kindness, and patience in the hearts of their children. As the renowned psychologist, Dr. Dorothy Law Nolte, put it,
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn. If children live with hostility, they learn to fight. If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive. If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves. If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy. If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy. If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence. If children live with tolerance, they learn patience. If children live with praise, they learn appreciation. If children live with acceptance, they learn to love. If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves. If children live with sharing, they learn generosity. If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness. If children live with fairness, they learn justice. If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect. If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
Train in the Ways
King Solomon summed this up in his proverb, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Yet the Scripture is also careful to remind us that human parents are limited in the influence they can exert on their children. Samuel the prophet and judge certainly must have had a godly influence upon his sons. Yet we are told that they were unfaithful to the LORD (1 Samuel 8:1–5). King David had his own problems with wicked and unruly children (e.g. Amnon, Absalom, Adonijah). And look at the “generational roller-coaster” exhibited in his descendants. Righteous King Jotham fathered wicked King Ahaz who beget righteous King Hezekiah who raised wicked King Manasseh. Sometimes I wish the New Testament had given us such family detail on the lives of the apostles. Did they have difficulty with their children? The Scripture is silent on the matter.
The bottom line is that parents have an obligation to teach and train their children in the ways of the Lord and to nurture them in Christian love (Ephesians 6:4). But ultimately they must commit their children to God–who is their Primary Parent–and pray for them.
God is able to do for their children what the parents can never do. Only God can soften their children’s hearts, open their eyes, and draw them to Jesus Christ. Only God can reveal Himself to them and save them. Only God can execute His plan for their lives and open the right doors of opportunity. So the greatest thing parents can do their children is to pray fervently and faithfully for them.
The way I see it, a parent can have great confidence when praying for their children. First, remember that God could have placed your child in the hands of a billion different parents. But He chose to place your child in your hands.
And He did so for a purpose. He knew that you, as a believer, would be deeply concerned for the soul of your children and would therefore pray for them. Since the Scripture clearly teaches that He desires all people to be saved (e.g. Ezekiel 33:11; Matthew 18:12–14; Luke 15:1–31; 19:10; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9), you and God are in agreement in your desire that your children come to believe in Jesus. Isn’t it, therefore, rational to conclude that God’s intent is to use your prayers as part of His means of bringing your children to Christ?
Therefore, pray for your children. See it as your God-given obligation to do so. Trust in God’s love for both you and your children. Keep trusting in God and praying, even though you see no answer to your prayers. It is possible that you may not live to see your children turn to Christ. But that is typical for many Christian parents. Like the saints of old they “die in faith,” going to their grave without seeing the answer to their prayers (Hebrews 11:15). But though you die, your prayers are remembered before God and He is already working on the answer. The answer will come in God’s time. So keep praying.
Dear Father in heaven, bring me to my knees in prayer for my children and my family. Help me to see the seriousness of this obligation and help me to be faithful in executing it faithfully and fully. Amen.