By Leslie Diestelkamp
This is intended as the last in a long series of essays on the general subject of “The Family Circle.” We have tried to show that the home is the cradle of civilization and the bulwark of the church. That is, nations rise and fall, prosper of fail, depending largely upon the quality of character those nations have as that character is represented in the family circles of the country. Likewise, churches grow and accomplish great service to God, or else they stalemate and fail in fruitfulness, depending upon the quality of righteousness that emanates from the family circles in the congregations.
But the purpose of this final essay is to try to impress upon all of us that the home is the greatest influence to determine the eternal population of heaven. Of course, I hasten to stress that no one will reach heaven who has become accountable to God unless he has been led by the precious Word of God and, in an obedient faith has come into the body of Christ, the church of the Living God (Rom. 1:16-17; 10:17; 6:3,4,17,18; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 2:5). Please remember, this essay is not intended to minimize the influence of the Word of God, nor the necessity of the church for which Christ died. But my purpose is to show that few indeed will receive the Word or obey the Lord aside from proper influence from the family circle, and for that reason I say the home is the vestibule to heaven.
Parents are constantly preparing seed beds in which the seed of the kingdom (Mt. 13:3-8, 18-23), the saving gospel, may be planted. In order to accomplish this preparation for fruitful harvest, parents must instill three dynamic principles into the minds of the children:
1. From infancy, children must be taught and trained in respect for authority. They must learn to respect the policeman, the teacher, the president, their parents, the law of the land and the law of God. By word and by example, parents must help the children to learn to give responsive and responsible honor to whom honor is due.
2. Parents must also train their offspring in basic and fundamental honesty. Of course this includes honesty with money, but far beyond that, it must include honesty with words, with people, with principles, with practice and with self. Deception and hypocrisy must be abhorred and avoided.
3. In the family circle the children must learn the God-given and eternal principles of morality. By the wise words and the pure deeds of their parents the children must be lifted far above the course, vulgar, profane language of the world. At the same time they must be led into brave and courageous action that may set them apart from the sinful conduct of the community.
Of course, parents who have the eternal welfare of their children at heart will teach them the stories and lessons of the Bible. But such Bible teaching will fall upon deaf ears if they are not first and foremost trained in the three basic principles enumerated in the numbered paragraphs above. And, significantly, sometimes our neighbors who are not real Christians may do a better job training their children than do many Christians. Even if they cannot teach them the gospel, if they train them in respect for authority, real honesty and morality, then when the youth hears the gospel his mind will be a proper seed bed, and he may certainly be receptive. Conversely, even if Christians teach their children to say the names of the apostles and the books of the Bible, and if they take them to Bible class regularly, but if they do not train them in those basic principles of respect for authority, honesty and morality, then there will be no fertile seed-bed and little likelihood of response.
Of course it is true that a few people rise above the bad environment in which they grew up and turn to God with fidelity. They rebel against the fighting, corruption and permissiveness of the early home life, and deliberately accept truth and righteousness. But this is the exception, not the rule. Generally speaking, it is still true that, “as the twig is bent, so will it grow.” To say it another way, only occasionally may a poor seed bed be changed into a good one, but usually the quality of.the harvest depends upon the preparation of the soil. In other words, usually eternal destinies are settled in the training received in infancy, adolescence and youth.
It is not my intention to suggest that children are the only ones who are influenced regarding eternal destinies by the family circle. Every one of us, male and female, young and old, is greatly influenced by circumstances at home. In the many years of living and working in the remote and barren fields of the world, I have always said, “I can fight the old devil himself if everything is well at home.” And I have known many strong men who have been overcome by Satan, either morally or doctrinally, because they found no solace, no consolation, no encouragement, no sanctuary in the family circle. Of course the same thing is true of woman-that is, they need a place of refuge just as much so as do the men. Home must be good, wholesome, uplifting for the young and the old, for children and parents.
The population of heaven will be composed of three kinds of people: (1) those who died without guilt; (2) those who were able to overcome evil influences of the home and (3) the multitudes who were fortunate enough to have a part in a family circle that provided love, loyalty, respect and fidelity and thus provided the basic foundation for faith and obedience to God.
Husbands, wives, parents, and children, do not take home for granted. Do not expect God to make your home a sanctuary. Do not expect an accident to happen that will transform a house into a real home or that will change a den of iniquity into a house of prayer. But do not be discouraged! Love will cast out hate! Purity will overcome evil! Obedience from the heart will bear fruit in a conscience void of offense. Faithfulness to the Lord will pay dividends even in this life in consolation and assurance.
Home life will not be perfect, for homes consist of people, and people are always faulty. But home life can be good if the people in the home will make it so, and that good life can find expression in happiness, usually, and in holiness for sure! Peter said, “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers …. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good” (1 Pet. 3:12,13). “Now the God of peace . . . . make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Heb. 13:20,21).
Truth Magazine XXII: 17, pp. 277-278
April 27, 1978