It is often difficult for a parent to realize that his child’s faith should be his own, not an exact replica of his. A child who does nothing but ape his father’s opinions has, like the Jews of Isaiah’s day, a faith which is a commandment of men learned by rote, Isa 29:13, rather than learned by personal study, meditation, and conviction.
Both of my sons have slightly differing views from mine about some passages of scripture. I’m glad. It means they have taken root on their own and, though there is never any guarantee, I feel much more optimistic about their remaining faithful when I am gone. If you remember the story of the orange tree my mother-in-law gave us, which rooted itself while we were trying to find a place to put it, here is yet another application: children need to have a little freedom in their quest for spirituality, freedom to spread their own roots. Parents who demand exact conformity, treating any difference as a sign of disrespect, are spoon-feeding their children’s spirituality while at the same time stunting their growth. They might as well be carrying them off the ground in a black plastic nursery pot so their roots won’t branch out. Sooner or later they will become pot-bound and die.
While you expect to shape their values and instill basic concepts of spirituality and faith, God expected that they would ask, “Why?” and that you would give them real and sensible answers. “Because I said so,” does have an appropriate time and place in teaching them authority, but not in teaching the word of God. If you cannot tell them why, then when you are gone why should they continue?
Encourage them to study and develop on their own. Treat their discoveries as equally interesting as yours. You may think Paul wrote Hebrews and they may not. You may believe the three-person interpretation of the Song of Solomon and they may prefer the two-person. You may look at Romans 7 as any man without Christ, while they believe Paul is talking about himself before his conversion. Isn’t it great? You will most likely have an eternity to discuss these things together and with the authors themselves, while the parents who demanded absolute conformity and automaton feedback, may find themselves looking around, wondering where their children are.
And the people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, did Joshua set up in Gilgal. And he spoke unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then you shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For Jehovah your God dried up the waters of the Jordan from before you, until you were passed over, as Jehovah your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were passed over; that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of Jehovah, that it is mighty; that you may fear Jehovah your God for ever. Josh 4:19-24.