by Rev. Mark Lovett
We confess that there are two realms, the church and the state. They shouldn’t be mixedthe church is governed by the Word of God, the state by natural law and reason, the Constitution,” said LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison recently before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “We have 1,000 grade school and high schools, 1,300 early childhood centers, 10 colleges and universities. We are a machine that produces good citizens for this country and at tremendous personal cost.”
Lutherans champion the separation of church and state. We don’t want the government telling us what to believe, teach and confess. We want God’s Word alone to do that. We don’t want the government to force us into a position that violates our conscience before the Word of God. Neither do we want the church running the country. Our Lord’s kingdom is not of this world. A theocracy (a government run by the church) is not biblical.
But we do live in the world. We are citizens of both church and state, and it is our duty to teach our children to be good citizens of both. That’s why we go through the tremendous personal cost of having over 2,000 grade schools, high schools, early childhood centers, colleges and universities.
But as good and necessary as these things are, as much good as they do, they don’t make good citizens of themselves. There is more. There is daily life in the home. There, around the dinner table, is where good citizens are cultivated. Dad and Mom, you make good citizens out of your children, not machines, no matter how beautiful the machine is.
It takes work to make good citizens out of those precious little pictures of human nature. But that’s why God gave us the Law: to curb evil desires, to show us our sin and to guide us in the way of righteousness. The Gospel alone saves and makes us righteous by the blood of Jesus, but it doesn’t tell us how to live. That’s the function of the Law, which is why St. Paul says that we don’t abolish the Law but uphold it (Rom. 3:31). We need the Law and the Gospel to produce good citizens for our church and the state.
So here are some simple and necessary (though not always easy) ideas to help us do in the home what no machine, no matter how well-oiled, can do for us: our parental duty.
1. Take the family to church! Don’t neglect the gathering (Heb. 10:25). This is the biggest one. Here the Law and the Gospel do their work, forming and shaping us in the image of Christ, teaching us to love God and neighbor, trusting in the mercies of our heavenly Father. Good citizens participate. They don’t shirk their responsibilities because it’s easier to stay home or more convenient to count Sunday as a day off.
2. Partake of daily prayer and catechesis. The world catechizes our kids with the Internet, TV and the morals of a fallen, sinful world. We fight against that by instructing our children in the ways of God. We do so by memorizing the Small Catechism, committing Bible verses to memory and talking about what is being taught in midweek and confirmation class. Discuss why you go to church. This goes a long way in producing good citizens for the church and the state as children learn how their faith in Jesus prepares them to live in the world around them.
3. Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments. Teach your kids to do the same. This means there are boundaries. Boundaries are good. God is a God of order, not chaos. Tell your kids what you expect of them, and hold them accountable. Be honest and open. Tell them what they can expect of you. Hold yourself and your spouse accountable. Teach them to be good students and friends. This is why God gave them parents: to teach them. Don’t let the world be your child’s only teacher.
4. Watch the news with your child (if it is age-appropriate, of course). This is the world around us in all its ugliness. Your children will hear about culture and current events from school or on the Internet, so take charge first. Youtheir dad and momknow best how to teach them to think about life from a Christian perspective.
5. Go to confession. Learn from God’s Word given to you through your pastor how to avoid sins and temptations. Let him proclaim Law and the Gospel to you, so that God’s Word may be your only guide and anchor. That’s your pastor’s job. It’s why God ordained him into the Office of the Holy Ministry. He’s not out to get you. He wants to guide you as a shepherd guides his sheep. Going to confession is like going to the doctor for a checkup. You may think nothing is wrong, but that doesn’t mean there’s not. So let the Lord have His way with you. Let Him guide and feed you. Teach your kids to go to confession too. They will be better for it. They will learn not to fear instruction and to cling fast to the absolution of the Lord.
The church is a machine that produces good citizens for this country, but you parents, pastors, Sunday School teachers and others have a responsibility too. Teach the children in your care that the Gospel alone saves, and by God’s grace, you will help to form children into good citizens for the church and the world.
> Visit www.lcmslifeconference.org to sign your kids up for a special youth track to the 2013 LCMS Life Conference in Washington, D.C.
About the Author: The Rev. Mark Lovett is pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church, Hoisington, Kan.