In the natural course of life, our earliest memories are of our mother and father - first and foremost, our mother. Our earliest interaction with another human being, our earliest conscious relationship, is with our mother who nurses us, bathes us, clothes us and protects us. There is no closer relationship in this world.
We instinctively recognize her voice, her touch, her fragrance and beauty as the personification of love in our life. For the infant, the mother is everything, and so mother is first teacher, first disciplinarian, and first instructor in what is right and wrong. The first spoken voice and song we hear is that of our mother, softly speaking and singing to us lovingly.
God places a deep love within the mother for her infant child, and He places a deep love within the infant for the mother. This mutually loving relationship is the foundation for the child's awakening understanding of right and wrong and over time, faith in God. A baby knows very little about this world at first, but what he learns comes in the safety of his mother's tender arms, and then, always watching eyes. Mother is not only first teacher, but if her child falls and cuts himself, she is first nurse and first doctor. She, along with her husband, handles almost everything.
With his mother and father, the child experiences love and learns to take the first steps toward following the right path. It is in this first relationship within the family that man as infant child experiences himself as a social being. The seemingly frivolous games and play engaged in by children and their parents all around the world are the manner in which the very young learn life skills, how to see and understand the world around them, how to act and accomplish simple tasks, and how to think logically and resolve problems at the most basic level.
Man and woman as husband and wife are not only to help and encourage each other (Genesis 2:18), they help and encourage their child, ... for many of life's experiences can be difficult. The family is the place where comfort, love and faith are expressed to encourage each other to recover from disappointments, to get up and begin anew. A father or mother's hug, kiss, and smile help the child know they are loved, though he may have fallen down or failed to accomplish what he was trying to do.
The family is where home is, where the child as well as the mother and father feel safe, loved and supported in their life. Husband and wife each seek in their own way to nurture the flame of love given to them by God, humbly serving each other, and striving to bring happiness to each other within the home (Philippians 2:1-12).
The same type of unconditional love that man and woman are to have as the foundation for their marriage (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) is to be the foundation for the relationship between parents and their children. Man and woman, husband and wife, are a great blessing to their family and the community. Walking in the way that the dear Lord showed, having the Holy Spirit within, they act with "... love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control...." (Galatians 5:22, Proverbs 31:10-31).
The man and woman as father and mother help the child build habits of perseverance, skills in reasoning and doing, and help him acquire the ability to live and function within this very real world. Parents throughout the world tell their children stories that convey lessons about life, right and wrong, morality and the consequences of all sorts of actions. Parents explain the world and life to their children, sharing their God-centered worldview to their children.
As a child grows, sports, games and educational activities continue this process; he learns how to interact with other individuals and to acquire habits of applied effort that help him succeed in life. The very young child begins to recognize that, although he is thinking of himself first, there are others in his life, and that some actions are encouraged and praised while other actions are discouraged and censured. Brothers or sisters provide many opportunities to learn how to live with others and to care and think of them and not just about one's own desires. He realizes that others, his father and mother, or older siblings, have the ability to meet his needs and his wants, but that only right behavior is rewarded.
Gradually, the child is trained to recognize "right" and "wrong" within these relationships and to do the right while avoiding the wrong. The seed of truly right conduct and right relationship is planted through obedience to the authority of the loving mother and father and the fulfillment of one's duty, however small it may be. Through the stable and reliable love that exists within the home, through repeated lessons and through discipline, the child learns to respect the rules communicated to him by his parents, to love others, and to follow the rules and laws of society and of our God.
This is why King Solomon said that, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." (Proverbs 13:24) He did not say that a parent who does not love his son should discipline him harshly, but that a parent who truly loves his child is careful to discipline him ... appropriately, firmly, lovingly, and for good reason. At some ages, children simply may need a firm, but gentle tap to make them understand something is wrong or dangerous, especially when they just do not listen to verbal instructions.
A small child might walk out into the road, put his finger or hand into something dangerous, approach dangers of many sorts, ... and get killed. He may not listen to repeated instructions, "don't do that!" What is a parent to do? A loving and good parent does what is effective and necessary to protect and safeguard the child. This is the parents' duty! A parent who does not make the effort to discipline or teach the child in a way they understand does what would be done by a parent who "hates" them, because the child who does not learn right and wrong goes astray and is likely to eventually be injured or even die as a result!
Parents must use the discipline that is appropriate and effective, but that never causes injury, to assure the safety and well-being of the child they are given by God to care for. Afterward, they comfort the child. The intent is that the child learn the rules, internalize the moral law so he can discern right from wrong, and yet know that he is loved.
There are some who assert that spanking should never be used, for example, and that any parent who does so is "abusing" their child. Criminalizing the actions of loving parents who use developmentally appropriate and noninjurious discipline creates an environment where parents fear they may be arrested by those in authority and have their children taken away from them.
Yet, these authorities that suggest the state shoud control how parents raise their children, do not honor God, the divine and natural moral law and promote a secular culture that devalues the lives of those they pretend to "protect." They would criminalize spanking but enthusiastically defend the "right" to medically kill babies, the very elderly, disabled and cognitively disabled. Those raised as these "authorities" teach become rebellious, question the moral law, and generally live an unrestrained and lawless life, leading to the chaos and confusion we see in society today.
If "restrictions on privileges" and "timeouts" work for a child, fine, but some children do not respond to such disciplines. Such a child:
"... who ignore[s] s... discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored." - Proverbs 13:18
Parents want the best for their children and struggle to find a way that helps their children "heed correction" so that they succeed in life. They don't want their children to suffer unnecessarily by choosing to behave in ways that bring about their own "poverty and shame" and destruction. A method that is developmentally appropriate and effectively "reaches" the child so that they understand must be found to prevent that child from going astray. When we see so many older children, teenagers and adults going astray today, we wonder how we are ever to solve this problem and heal society. We wonder: how can we return to the way that brings peace and happiness to all?
"Not going astray" is achieved through years of constant parental effort to establish balance, harmony and order in the child's life. It succeeds if the child is receptive and freely chooses to follow the rules made known to him by his loving parents. While it may seem like nagging to the child, all of those demands: "time to go to sleep," "time for breakfast," "eat more," "drink something," "enough play now, time to go home ...." have an objective behind them. These efforts are made to guide the child into a way that brings about his true happiness, the child's ultimate good. These efforts are made to guide the child into living according to the natural moral law, into living in harmony with the natural moral order that is intended to exist within human relationships.
If we are to restore the ethics of life within each individual, within healthcare, and in society as a whole, if we are to contribute to the creation of the culture of life, we must understand God's intended role for man and woman, as husband and wife and father and mother within the family. We must live in a way that promotes true reverence for life as He intends. If we are to know how to live, we must seek the wisdom to understand what the divine law really is, what it means in our lives, and what the natural moral law is.
In applying the divine and natural moral law to specific situations, we must choose good acts. We need to have the right motive for doing what we intend to do! We need to consider all the circumstances and the entire situation, including the consequences. To the best of our ability using right reason we must know that all of these are good, otherwise, no matter how much we might wish to do something, we cannot. We must not, because it would be wrong to do. We are blessed to have access to the divine law through the Ten Commandments and the holy scriptures. More directly, we have been promised "another Counselor to be with" us "forever," the Holy Spirit. (John 14:16)
"... when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide ... [us] into all Truth...." (John 16:13)
As parents and individual members of society, we are confronted with all sorts of situations that may perplex us. It's certainly not an easy task to raise children or to live with another person! We all have had questions about raising our children, how to relate to our wife or husband, what to do in situations that arise in our work and life in general. We know that when we lovingly pray to the dear Lord and ask for guidance, having received the Holy Spirit, we will receive guidance.
The Holy Spirit speaks to and guides faithful believers who actually listen for His guidance. He leads them into all truth, including which way to go, which way or choice is right and which choice is wrong. God speaks to us with "a still small voice," (I Kings 19:12) so we need to bring our heart and mind back to Him, remembering the dear Lord throughout the day and night. As He said, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches," (Revelation 2:29, emphasis added) and "the churches" are nothing more than all of those who have faith and follow Him. King David explained:
"I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me.
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. ....
You have made known to me the path of life...." - Psalms 16:7-8,11
God teaches us when we receive and listen to His Holy Spirit and to what our "heart" guides us to do. We would do well to ask for an "understanding heart," as King Solomon asked the dear Lord:
"... give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil." - 1 Kings 3:9 [emphasis added]
Although the natural law is said to be "written in the human heart," the heart and mind that are stubbornly perverse, unforgiving toward others and rebellious toward the Lord do not listen to the conscience, and even mock those who give voice to the natural and divine law. The man who stands with pride and rejects what others advise, will not listen to wisdom and will not change even if disciplined.
Like a defiant evil rogue, the man who aligns himself with an anti-God spirit asserts that he will "only do what he wants to do," and is not obedient to the law, to God or to any other moral authority. The dictates of the natural law may impinge upon such an arrogant man's heart and mind, but exercising his free will, he chooses to ignore them, if he still is aware of them at all. Such a man seeks to become a law unto himself and therefore, throwing caution aside and violating the law, he irrationally and impulsively acts, inviting all sorts of suffering, injury, and death through his actions (Romans 6:23).
Why some children refuse to listen to and abide by the guidance of their just and loving parents is a question that those parents ask themselves every day. Ultimately, God has given each of us the freedom to choose whether to obey the divine and natural moral law or to reject it and rebel. We have free will to choose the right or the wrong.
Adam and Eve disobeyed the law the Creator spoke to them in the Garden of Eden (to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or they would die), because they lacked faith and did not believe God. They listened to and believed the destroyer who lied to them, and so they became subject to death as God had warned them.
We also go astray through our lack of faith in God, lack of humility, and because we listen to poor guidance others give to us about what is right or wrong. Adam and Eve erred because they were proud and wanted to exalt themselves and "be like God." (Genesis 3:5) They forgot that all glory is the Lord's, and all praise is due Him. They took their attention away from what God said to do, the "law," and focused on what they desired to do, even though they had been told (for their own good) that it was forbidden.
We have done the same: each of us has disobeyed the divine and natural moral law and fallen short in so many ways. A part of us does not really believe it will cause much harm even though we have been warned. We then lose ourselves in our desires and proudly think that we know so much, are so great, or are better than others for some reason or another. We think we're better than our wife or husband, better than our children or parents, or wiser or more deserving.
We angrily harbor grudges against others thinking they have mistreated us or caused us to suffer somehow. We choose not to think about the times we have mistreated others or caused others to suffer somehow. In our bitterness, we tragically forget to remember our awesome God. We do wrong, become completely lost, no longer seeing which way to turn. And then, we have difficulty knowing what is right or wrong to do.
These basic ethical questions about what is right and wrong, about what is the right conduct as a human being within society, begin to be experienced in his own way by the older child and young adult within the family, because the family is his first society. As he grows and begins to use his reasoning ability more, he finds himself thinking about these questions. He struggles to find his way, not only to know what is right or wrong, but also to learn what really will bring him happiness or needless suffering.
In the loving family environment, parents and children discuss life, values, and many of the questions that children have as they mature. Fathers speak to their sons about the unique challenges and questions facing young men, and mothers speak to their daughters about the unique challenges and questions facing young women. Both continually share with their children from the wisdom they have gained thus far in their own lives. They demonstrate ways of behaving, and their children learn to behave in the same ways, combining traits from both their father and mother.
Fathers and mothers both teach boys what it means to be a man and how to act as a man. Mothers and fathers both teach girls what it means to be a woman and how to act as a woman. These are not the same thing at all. Throughout all of nature, males of the species behave differently from the females of the species, and it is right that it is so. It is part of the natural balance in Nature.
Man and woman acting in harmony with the natural moral order still act differently, each contributing what they have to give, to each other and their children. Fathers and mothers teach their children how to work and about the value of work. They impart skills to their children, teach them how to problem-solve and how to find the answers they are seeking.
The family is the microcosm of the greater society, whose members are morally bound together and who cooperate lovingly with each other for their mutual well-being. The parents' duty is to help the child set out on the right path through adherence to the moral law set forth in the Ten Commandments and to introduce the child to the religious path of faith so he can eventually find the answers to these questions.
Yet, beyond thinking only of himself and learning to love others, how does the child begin to understand what is involved in loving another human being in a social relationship? How do any of us learn about love? ... from our mother and then our father. We experience our mother and father's love within the family.
The mother's natural gift to her children is the gift of understanding love, experiencing what it means to be loved and what it means to love. Within that mutually shared love and experience, there is joy. A mother's unconditional love mirrors God's love and along with the father's love, becomes the foundation for our openness to receive God's perfect love and grace.
To accomplish this purpose, that we receive His love, that we come to know and love Him and all others, in God's good plan, He has placed a natural desire within woman for man, and within man for woman. He has placed a natural desire within woman that she be mother to a child and within man that he be father to a child. Out of man and woman's deep yearning arises the blessing of a child, and with that child's arrival arises the natural love parents have for their children.
The marriage and family relationship is part of God's plan for man. Eventually, the child learns to function as an adult member of society within the family. Man and woman, as husband and wife, and as father and mother, learn within marriage and the family to abandon self-pride, to practice sacrificial love and to perfect that love for each other, for their children, for all others, and for God. Anyone who has raised a child knows that parents must sacrifice much of their energy, time, sleep and plans in order to deal with the realities of life.
God uses children to soften parents' hearts, to remember what it means to laugh at a snowflake tickling your nose, to twirl round and round or run wildly across the grass for no reason at all, to look up at the sky and stars with wonder and awe, to giggle at a silly joke, and to know that it all makes sense somehow. Man, woman and child learn to know God and to rely upon Him at all times (Psalm 37:3-4), recognizing He truly is the source of all life.
That we are meant to live lives filled with sacrificial love is demonstrated by the role we necessarily must fulfill as parents. God has given the mother the ability to sacrificially give of her very being to tenderly nurse her child at her breast. That God intended women and men to have children and to love them is clearly seen in the nature He has given us, in the deep satisfaction and sheer joy we experience as our children grow. That God intended us to teach our children and learn from them as well, is clearly seen in the natural tendency we have to want to share with our children, to show them the world, and to guide them in the paths that lead to happiness.
A mother's gentle song to her child is born of love, just as a lover's song is born out of love. Love is the magnetic power of attraction, an aspect of God's power and beauty, an aspect of His infinite Being, touching us, and when love truly awakens in our hearts, we see the perfect and captivating beauty of the dear Lord's Splendor. We recognize Him as our Beloved and true Friend.
We feel passionately that we cannot live without our beloved: in our daily lives as mother and beloved child, as child and our mother and father, ... as man and woman, ... and most perfectly as man or woman, individually, and the dear Lord (Song of Songs 2:3-5). We have been given a capacity to experience passion and that is not wrong, but the application of this passion is meant to be experienced within the uplifting relationship with our Lord.1
As we come to know Him, the love we experience in our relationships in this world begins to be purified and reflects the love He gives us; we yearn for Him more and more. Our desire to know the Truth, to know Him, is passionate and full. This is what is meant by the words, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled," (Matthew 5:6) for there is only One who is righteous.
When we hunger for Him as if we had been starving, when we thirst for Him as if we had been wandering in a desert without water, when we utterly cannot live without our Beloved and true Friend, in our anguish we call out to Him and He comes to us and dwells with us and within us! We should not be afraid to reach out and embrace the One who calls us to Him!
As He says, "... Let the little children come to Me...." (Luke 18:16-17), and He encourages us to approach Him in just the same way (Matthew 18:3).
The highest forms of song express this type of love that sweeps over us like an irresistible ocean wave, and the highest form of love is that which we feel for our awesome God, as well as His astonishing love for each of us, however tiny and insignificant we may seem within this great and wondrous world.
He calls to us sweetly as birds calling at dawn's approach, our hearts melting:
"... Arise, come, my darling; My beautiful one, come with Me." - Song of Songs 2:13
We know that the greatest commandment within all the law is to first acknowledge God, that He exists, and then, to love Him with all we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:28-29) Yet, when He lives within us and we are receptive to His touch, His love, we do not need a command to love. We simply love and cannot help but love. We adore and revere Him, and His love within us overflows into our relationships with all others, with those we serve. It is His love that flows through us into the world as we care for those in need: the vulnerable, the poor, the hungry, the ailing and elderly, the disabled, the very young, and even into how we care for and protect those who have not yet been born.
Our dear Lord does not wish us to be lukewarm in our faith or love. (Rev 3:16) He tells us:
"Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.
So be earnest and repent.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with that person,
and they with Me." - Revelation 3:19-20
Can it be any clearer that He desires that we enter into a real relationship with Him and that we have passion in that relationship? He explains that He disciplines those He loves, just as a father and mother discipline the child they love and then comfort that child, just as He comforts us. Because He loves perfectly, He disciplines and shows us the Way of Life, and though it may be painful for us at times, He comforts and shelters us in His perfect love through it all.
Where are we, as children, first to learn about love? It is to be experienced within the family, and it is in the family that we naturally first learn to know about Him and to know of His love for us. Parents with faith teach their children about the God of the entire universe, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is through his family that the child is introduced to individual prayer and group worship in a house of prayer, to the Holy Scriptures and to faith in God, all of which light the child's flame of love for God.
The husband naturally seeks to care for, support and protect his wife, and the wife naturally seeks to care for, support and protect her husband, but in different ways. Naturally, most women find great satisfaction in, and care more about, maintaining a home that is clean, is arranged with harmony and beauty, and in preparing meals that their husbands and children enjoy. Though husbands and wives may have different types of work within the home and outside of the home, they respect each other.
Most men find great satisfaction in knowing they have been able to fix or build things, to provide for the needs of their wives and children and that they are able to protect them and keep them safe. While there will naturally be conflicts and arguments from time-to-time, the loving husband and wife practice patience and forgive each other. They continue in their love (Ephesians 4:32), trusting in each other as committed partners in life's journey.
How do we, as children, first learn to trust? From our mother and father. They are all we know and thus, our source for everything we need. Man, as child, is utterly dependent upon mother and father for survival, and continues to be dependent upon them for many years. When the child is hungry, the parents provide food. When he is cold, they make sure he is warm. When he first learns to stand, so unsteadily at first, and then to walk, he relies on his father or mother's hand to hold him up, and they don't fail him.
In each new step as he grows, his loving parents are there, reliably, applauding his new accomplishments and guiding him to even greater accomplishments. So that the child has that reliable support through all the years till he is an adult, the marriage between a man and woman is intended to be long-term and stable and is designed to best promote the welfare of the children arising out of the marriage.
The stability of that marriage, the parents' reliability and faithfulness to that child, and of the parents of the parents, allows the child to learn to trust others, to trust that both mother and father, as well as both grandmother and grandfather, will be there when needed and that they will not betray that trust. That stability helps to shape the child's worldview and his understanding of the nature of society and relationships.
That both husband and wife are pledged to each other faithfully throughout their lives, that they can trust one another as well, that they make every effort for the family and are dedicated to setting that example out of love, tells the child that he is safe, that it is ok to trust as well. When father and mother forgive each other for the wrongs which inevitably arise, the child learns how to forgive within his own life. This is the intended ideal we are to strive to create within our own lives so that, as parents, we plant the seed that sprouts later on as our children's trust in God, faith in and love for God, and lives lived for God. The family is the place where the seed for the ethics of life is cultivated.
When the stability of the parents' marriage is not experienced due to their self-centeredness and self-imposed alienation from God, when the family itself is therefore threatened and actually split, when faith in God is not experienced, terrible damage to the child's worldview, beliefs, values and behavior often results. The child is wounded experientially, and can grow bitter, angry, resentful, rebellious, even hateful. Without faith, without the love of his parents, the child may despair. Tragically, this is common in the degraded society, but it is not the dear Lord's intended way.
Broken marriages and broken families are not His will for the children nor is it His will for husband and wife. His will is that the children grow within a stable family, with a mother and a father who show how to live in this world by their example and word. His will is that the husband and wife grow spiritually in that marriage and family, sharing their life's journey while experiencing His divine love within their lives. The dear Lord told us:
"I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
".... I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. - John 10:9-10
God intends that we be happy. As we go through our lives, the suffering that we experience, though unsought, can teach us how to better serve others, to perfect our compassion for others, to be humble, and to love more completely. The suffering that we experience, if we take it rightly, can help us to have a more understanding heart, leading to wisdom and discernment of the natural moral law so we know what is right and wrong in each situation and how best to help others.
When we practice forgiveness as He intends, we release the resentments, the angers, and the grudges we have held deep inside. We truly love and do not keep an internal "scorecard" of wrongs others have done to us; we no longer poison our relationships with resentments (1 Corinthians 13:5). Then we are free to experience the joy in life that He intended for us. Through forgiveness, our ability to give and receive love is made possible, and we experience life's meaning with a renewed sense of joy.
If it weren't so, how can we explain the great joy a mother and father experience seeing their children play and grow even though the children may have misbehaved hundreds of times? Because we truly love, we forgive all. When we experience joy in the presence of those we love, we feel and know the purpose of our lives. We are content and happy, knowing the need for nothing more, for in that joyful love, we forget ourselves. When we forget ourselves, only love remains.
So, when we love God and everyone around us, we fulfill God's purpose for our life and we find true fulfillment. Our family life is where we learn to forget ourselves for the sake of others. We begin to perceive the sacredness of life. We begin to practice reverence for life in all we do.
When a father lifts his children over his head, he thrills in sharing the joy of throwing them up in the air and catching them. When he lets them "ride" on his shoulders, pretending to be a horse, they are thrilled with excitement. They learn to trust that their father will hold and keep them safe. The father interacts with his children in a way that is different from a mother's interaction.
Father often expands the child's experience of the world, sometimes involving him in fun that includes a sense of danger but which is also exciting. Mother naturally urges caution, safety, and "common sense," worrying that something might go wrong. Both paternal and maternal roles are necessary for the child's growth. Each one fulfills a very special function in shaping the child's experience and growth in life.
When children perceive that they are in danger, they run to their father and mother knowing they both would protect them from any harm. When children are under stress or upset, they go to their mother or father for understanding, comfort and advice. They feel safe, because they are at home within their family. That loving family home is intended to reflect the love found within our heavenly home.
The father and mother spend their lives working to support their children, to provide a home, ... that they may live. The loving father places himself between his family and any threat, and would easily sacrifice his life that they might live. The loving mother would sacrifice herself as well, for her children's sake. This is a demonstration of their love in action and their commitment to the purpose of marriage and family: that life go on, and that the children grow up to honor God in all they do.
When we truly love, we are willing to sacrifice for the sake of others. Fathers do this. Mothers do this. And, demonstrating the perfection of love, God gave His Son, and His Son gave His life for all mankind. The dear Lord did live as true Man in this world, innocent of any wrong, yet allowed Himself to be arrested, tortured and crucified. He demonstrated the perfection of sacrificial love so that we would know the way to live, that we would have eternal life.
"Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13
It was His wish that man's life be uplifted and filled with divine love. The truer our love, the greater the divine life within us. It was His wish that marriage be honored as the covenant it is so that our love be perfected.
In today's society, some of these ideas may seem unrealistic, but imagine the society where 100% of the marriages are strong, loving, stable, filled with faith in God and where husband and wife love each other deeply, ... where the grandfather remains by the side of the grandmother, where the extended families therefore thrive, and where all members of the extended family support each other lovingly. This is His will for us.
Some rebel against the constraints of the Ten Commandments, God's divine law delivered by Moses to the people, complaining that it is a burden that does not allow them to do what they want to do. However, it was only a Righteous divine King, the dear Lord Himself, who intended that the people obey these just laws that create the conditions within which man can be truly happy, and within which a blessed community and greater society can be formed. In such a community, children would have honorable examples before them and would learn the moral law by seeing it practiced by others all around them.
We can only begin within our own actions in this life and with our own words, speaking the simple truth, honoring Him, and abiding by His divine law and the natural moral law. In so doing, we may plant seeds for the culture of life, setting an example that others may emulate and ultimately help in renewing that culture of life.
In a community guided by such a culture of life, each member would be truly free since living according to the divine law and natural moral law leads to the fulfillment of our human nature and our purpose in life. This is the ideal we must seek to implement within our own lives, because:
"The purpose of law ... is not to impose undue hardship or needless restriction on people, as the anarchists would have it, but to protect and promote true liberty. Law tends to make men good, directing them to their ... [ultimate good] and pointing out to them the means necessary to [achieve] this ... end."2 [edited, emphasis added]
Where do children first learn to understand the idea of law in their lives? ... from the mother and father. Much of early childhood interaction involves taking in nourishment, toileting and cleansing, and all of these involve the formation of the most rudimentary understanding of "the law," ... at first understood as being the rules within the family environment, i.e., "what Mom says," "what Dad says." There are a lot of such "laws," and they multiply as we grow and are able to get into more trouble. "Don't bite." "Eat your food." "Time to take a bath." "Go to sleep now." "Get dressed." "Play nicely." "Be quiet." "Don't fight." "Listen to your mother, father, teacher ...." And as they venture into more dangerous territory, "be careful!"
King Solomon, considered the wisest of all men, after introducing the purpose of the Proverbs, placed the following first instruction in the very first of all his proverbs:
"Reverence for the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline." - Proverbs 1:7
What does he mean by "reverence for the Lord?"
If we revere God [sometimes translated as "fear of God"], we must first believe that He exists.
If we believe that He exists, that is a first step in our encounter with Him, and we are aware of a relationship with Him.
If we fear Him, it is only if we have violated His law, just as a child may fear the father or mother he loves, knowing that he has violated his parents' rules, and knows that punishment ("discipline") for that disobedience is to follow.
Of course, we know that because we are imperfect, we cannot perfectly fulfill God's law, and therefore fear that God will judge us and condemn us for violating that law, for our sin.
Yet God does not desire that we always live in fear of His judgment. He wants us most of all to come to know and love Him, and therefore He came to us as the dear Lord Jesus, our Savior, who through His grace, forgives our sins. During the last supper with His disciples,
"... He took a cup, and when He had given thanks,
He gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you.
This is My blood of the covenant,
which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." - Matthew 26:27-28
Proud man does not wish to even admit he has any sins, is capable of doing anything wrong, or is in need of anything, let alone grace from God! Proud man may even deny that there is such a thing as "sin," wrong, or God. He says, "I don't need anyone! I can do everything on my own!" Humble man knows he can't, because he looks honestly and objectively at himself. He recognizes that he needs others and he needs the dear Lord. Humble man sees that he has gone desperately astray and is not capable of finding his way out of his degraded state without the Lord.
If we are honest with ourselves, we can see so clearly how much we need Him, and He would help us if we only would accept what He has to offer! Like a father and mother cradling their newborn in their arms, He "... longed to gather" us "... together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings ...." (Matthew 23:37) What love He expresses for man!
He could never wish that we fear Him, but wants us to change our ways, to turn back toward the moral law, to love Him and accept His freely-given grace in the forgiveness of our sins. However, when it is offered, we have to reach out and take the cup that is given to us and drink. To do that we have to act based upon faith. We must believe He is really real. He is! We have to then allow ourselves to let go of fear and trust our Friend.
Love and fear are mutually exclusive. So, how can we reconcile these ideas, that we are to "fear" God (or "revere" God) yet love Him? The apostle John reveals that:
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." - 1 John 4:18
We should recognize that fear is an emotion, while real love is not. True love, a love we experience through God's grace, is a state of being. Such love is not an attachment to any person or thing, but the indwelling of God's love within us. An emotion is a naturally-occurring type of disturbance, a feeling or internal reaction involved in the attraction and the repulsion we have for some thing, some person, some thought or experience, or something that happened. It involves a push or pull, a disturbance of the peace we can feel within.
Emotions such as transitory joy and sorrow, "love" or infatuation and hate, fear, and anger are like ripples on the water, while real divine love is experienced in the transparent stillness of that pool of pure living water. Real divine love is unchanging and unconditional. This is why St. Paul said:
"Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes,
always perseveres." - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Knowing that we are to love, we can see that it is not possible that Solomon truly meant to say that "fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, ... as "fear" is commonly understood today in our time. In fact, the most frequent command in the Bible is "do not be afraid." The meaning of his words is more closely reflected in: "Reverence for the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."
The dear Lord who gives us His perfect love says,
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid." - John 14:27 [emphasis added]
His peace and love are given together and are part of one and the same thing: His purifying grace within us, given so that we may know Him, that we may be freed from our troubled state of being, from being burdened, from worrying, from going astray and missing our goal in life ... which is complete within His grace. He doesn't want us to be condemned by the law or to die. He wants us to be truly free of our burdens and sin, to live eternally with Him within His love:
"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through Him.
"Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe
stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world,
but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
Everyone who does evil hates the light,
and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.
"But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light,
so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done
has been done in the sight of God." - John 3:16-21
... in the sight of a very real God who fills us with real love. Real love is something entirely different from an emotion. It is the transmission of Light, His light into this world through our very being. Though we are attracted to objects of a worldly love, in real divine love, we are transformed. We feel at one with the Object of our love, because we live in Him and He lives within us.
"... God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them." - 1 John 4:16
As a child rests in his mother's or father's loving arms, knowing no separation, knowing no fear, only love, so do we rest in the dear Lord's love. If we are to fear anything in life, it is our own self-pride which encourages us to trust too much in ourselves rather than completely in Him. It is our failure to surrender to His divine will that we should most fear, because in this we go astray and damage or destroy the good things in our lives; we lose our way.
We are called to move beyond fear, to reach higher, to abide in His love. Just as a child has a sense of reverence, awe and respect for his mother and father, we are to have that reverence, awe and respect for God, multiplied many times over, as we love Him. We are to obey Him and live according to His divine law, just as we have been taught to obey our mother's and father's authority.
Of course, as Solomon tells us, fools despise wisdom and discipline. Yet, where are children to gain wisdom and be disciplined should they err? ... in that perfect setting, the loving family, with their mother and father. So Solomon continues, wanting all of us to benefit and live blessed lives:
"My son, hear the instruction of thy father,
and forsake not the law of thy mother ...." - Proverbs 1:8 [emphasis added]
Solomon, like any truly loving father, thinks of his children and prays that they find the way to be happy and blessed. He recognizes the wisdom that the mother imparts to her children. Although many adults do not think of mothers as lawgivers today, Solomon recognized the mother as lawgiver, and that the loving mother and father, being of one mind, guide their children in the ways that lead to a truly human life, in the ethics of life, in the moral law. Fathers and mothers show the way to their children, imparting wisdom from their experiences in life.
Family is the foundation for a child's education in the moral law and the place where he comes to know and love God. Marriage is the foundation for that family environment, the basic building block for all of society and especially the culture of life.
2 Fagothey, Austin, S.J., Right and Reason Chapter 10: "Law," p. 118, (2nd or 3rd editions only) St. Louis: The C.V. Mosby Company, 1963. and based upon: St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica, "Treatise on Law," FS, Q92 "Of the Effects of Law," [Back]