In today's society, kids are pulled in many different directions- homework, social life, extracurricular activities, and social media, to name a few. The youth are fighting a spiritual battle every day. For just a few hours every day, parents have the opportunity to pull them to what matters. Since parents only have a small window of time to influence children, parents need to make the influence in that small window count.
In the book of Ezra, we see a beautiful picture of what it looks like when the leadership and followers are unified and remain strong. The book of Ezra records the Israelites returning to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. Two groups are recorded, and these two groups return at two different times. In Ezra 9, we see that the first group has been back in Jerusalem, and the second group is just arriving. In this latter group is Ezra, the leader that God had appointed for the people.
When Ezra arrived, he saw that the people in the first group had taken foreign wives. This practice was against the Law of Moses. Therefore, the people had sinned against God. When Ezra heard this, he records that he tore his garment and tore the hair from his head, and he was appalled. Ezra then went before God and said, "I am ashamed…, for our iniquities have risen above our heads…" Notice the use of personal pronouns, but remember that Ezra wasn't even in Jerusalem when the people were taking foreign wives. He had not committed the sin. However, since he was the leader, in his eyes, he did commit the sin. Ezra was so unified with the people that he took their iniquities upon himself. He considered himself to be a fellow soldier with the rest of the Lord's Army. He then appealed to the people, and the people repented. The results of Ezra being unified with the people were the people being reunified with God.
I am not saying that when your kids do something wrong that you must face the consequence with them. I am also not saying that you should neglect the parent relationship and be friends with your children. I am saying that your children are fighting spiritual battles just like you are. When you all come home in the evenings, don't act like the drill instructor in the Lord's Army. Act like a fellow soldier, because that is what you are.
One specific way that you can do this is by telling them some of the spiritual battles you face when they tell you theirs. Now, I want to be clear. Parents should not be telling their young children all the gory and personal details of their sins. Parents should also not talk about their sins in a way where children think it's okay to sin since mommy and daddy do. My point is simply that parents should give their children an example of how to get up when they fall, rather than acting like they never stumble. Just like the account in Ezra, this will create a connection between the leader and the follower. Ultimately the connection will be made to God.
- Nate Miller