Men, we are shepherds. We are shepherds appointed by God to rear and raise up our families in the life-giving instruction of the Lord. This is not a work for children’s programs or Christian schools or student pastors. It is to fathers that the charge to disciple the next generation is given (Ephesians 6.4). As Voddie Baucham notes, “The Bible leaves no room for fatherhood that doesn’t take seriously the responsibility of raising children in the disciple and instruction of the Lord.” The home is ground zero for the Christian life and Christian discipleship.
There is no such thing as shepherding a neutral family, of cultivating a neutral home. We will always be shepherding our family into the gospel of Jesus or we will be shepherding them into idolatry.
To neglect this work is not an option if we take seriously the gospel. Charles Hodge once asserted, “A man’s responsibility to his children, as well as to God, binds him to make his house a Bethel; if not a Bethel, it will be a dwelling place for evil spirits.” Further, as John Piper says, there is no such thing as not cultivating a garden. To not cultivate a garden is to cultivate a weedy garden. Our neglect is not passive. It is active. Our neglect is not neutral. It is destructive. There is no such thing as shepherding a neutral family, of cultivating a neutral home. We will always be shepherding our family into the gospel of Jesus or we will be shepherding them into idolatry. We will either be humble under-shepherds leading our families to the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls or we will be defiant dictators who manipulate them for our own gain.
The gospel alone will gladly produce the former and spurn the latter. Only when our hearts are gripped and controlled and constrained by the love of God for us, undeserving sinners though we are, in the gospel of Jesus will the Spirit produce in us fruit that nurtures and shepherds our family in a way that makes much of Jesus. Only in our joyful obedience to the gospel will we pattern and rhythm our family life to the tune of the gospel’s song that our family might know it and love it well and invite others to share in its life-giving dance.
May the Spirit of Christ Jesus himself equip us for every good work, the chief of which is shepherding our families.