Monday, August 18, 2008

Your Child or Your Dog?

Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, died as a martyr in the year 258 A.D. Among his writings is a sharp challenge to parents: “Pray, consider, he who minds his child’s body more than his soul is like one who, if his child and his dog were both drowning, was solicitous to save his dog and let his child perish in the water.”

Now even the most ardent animal lover surely understands that given the choice between saving his child versus rescuing his dog, he must preserve the child. Parents can readily grasp the gravity of this choice and the obvious, right conclusion. Cyprian’s point, however, was to emphasize the critical importance of focusing on the welfare of the child’s soul.

Parents these days are bombarded with advice from all directions, urging them to provide a healthy diet for their children, a proper balance of exercise and leisure, intellectual stimulation, systematic immunizations, adequate shielding from the evils lurking in cyberspace, and opportunities to advance in sporting and social activities. Fulfilling such demands typically results in a hectic schedule that ultimately undermines concern for the spiritual welfare of children.

Despite the physical, academic, social, and athletic achievements that rise to such importance in life, the one dimension that will endure eternally is the state of the soul. Yet a survey of family activities demonstrates that frequently the welfare of children’s souls ranks near the bottom of the priority list.

17th-century minister Cotton Mather was equally poignant in his stern advice: “Man, are your children but the children of swine? If you disregard their souls, truly you call them so.”

Faithful parents must resist the din of 21st century distractions and focus upon the one concern that will ultimately count when this life comes to an end, the state of their child’s eternal soul. It is not possible to be truly love your child and neglect his spiritual welfare.

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