What is the most quoted passage of Scripture in history? If you are like me your first guess might be John 3:16. I am flooded with pictures of football games with a giant poster in the endzone being raised by a man in a rainbow wig. But John 3:16 is not the correct answer. The answer may actually surprise you. It is Deuteronomy 6:4-9. It reads:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
It may be a surprise that this passage is the one that is most quoted. However, in the home of every Orthodox Jewish family this passage is repeated morning and evening. This passage is recited at Bar Mitzvahs as Jewish boys ceremoniously enter manhood.
It is important enough that it is the passage Jesus recited when asked what was the greatest of all commandments.
This passage is referred to as the Shema. The word Shema can be translated “witness”. God instructs parents in this passage to make witness to their children of the doctrine of one God and how we honor Him. The imagery of the signs being on their hands was to remind the children of Israel to remember the Lord in the work of their hands. Binding them as frontlets between their eyes reminded them to keep their minds pure from ungodly thoughts and images. By placing them on the doorpost, they were declaring God as the Lord of their home.
Christian parents today have a responsibility to live the principles of the Shema in front of their children. A concern in our churches is that it seems that many students are leaving the church when they leave high school. It is staggering the numbers of students who seem to abandon their faith at this time. Depending on the studies the numbers can be anywhere from 60-90%. There is one thing that seems to make a large difference in these numbers however --- parents.
Recent studies have shown that there is a 300% increase in the chance of students staying in church when there are faith conversations on a regular basis in the home.1 Parents are key to the discipleship process. The Lord clearly commands parents to impress the teachings of His Word on their children. Many parents struggle with how to best do this. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Remember that discipleship begins in the home.
Start the spiritual conversations that children need to remain in the faith. Even when your child seems uninterested, the Spirit is at work. God promises that his word will not return to him void. Share your own faith story with your children. Discuss meaningful passages of Scripture with them. Find spiritual lessons in the every day happenings in your home and talk about them with your children.
2. Remember Children often spell love T-I-M-E.
Spend time with your children. Show them the love of Christ by reminding them that they are a priority in your life. Put down the remote. Leave work at work more. Discuss your child’s day with them and as those discussions flow point out areas where your child could grow spiritually through greater faith, prayer or time in God’s Word.
3. Just Live It
Remember that your own life is your best discipleship tool. Your child sees the real you. How are you living out your faith day to day? Do they see you in God’s Word on a regular basis? Do they hear you speak of trusting God in all circumstances? Do they see your life marked with the joy of the Lord? You may think that you do not know how to model the Christian life because your parents never modeled it for you. That kind of thinking is what Satan wants you to believe. Instead, you must trade the sin of the past for God’s plan for today. You can make a generational difference by simply living for the Lord in front of your children. Do not fear it. Embrace it. Start this Godly lifestyle today.
The church is a great resource for discipleship for families. However, there is only so much the church can do to help. God reminds us in the Shema that discipleship begins at home. Remember the Lord has given you your children as a trust. Investing in them spiritually is the most important thing you can do. Teach your children well and when they are old, they will not depart from it.
1Jim Burns, Christian author, speaking at the Reinvent Conference, Louisville, Kentucky November 4, 2011