Nothing troubles a Christian parent more than having an adult child who is not faithful to the Lord. This is especially true for preachers, who have a tendency to perfectionism or at least the appearance of such because of their role as the face of the local church. I cannot tell you how many preachers I have known or heard of through the years who have grieved privately and publicly over a lack of faithfulness on the part of their children.
There are four ways a child may be considered unfaithful. Children are unfaithful:
- when they have never obeyed the gospel;
- when they have forsaken the Lord and His church and have returned to the world;
- when they have forsaken the Lord for a man-made religious body; or
- when they are not working with and fully vested in a faithful congregation.
The following are some of the struggles of parents who have unfaithful children. When my children are unfaithful…
It makes me question my parenting.
Parents of unfaithful children are haunted by Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Even when one knows that the Proverbs are simply truisms and not hard statements of fact, parents of unfaithful children will punish themselves with this text. Also troubling is Psalm 127:4, “Like arrows in the hands of a mighty warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.” While there is certainly much evidence to show that our children are what we make them, misusing or misapplying these texts belies other truths. For example, Abraham was one of the all-time great Bible characters, and he produced Ishmael.
Mary and Joseph were chosen to bear and raise the very Son of God, yet their other children didnot recognize the inherent goodness of Jesus (cf Mark 3:20-21; John 7:1-5). Adam and Eve, the very first children of God Himself, fell into rebellion and were never again mentioned favorably. Parents who have tried to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord should not forget that our offspring are free moral agents and as such may make choices that are inconsistent with or contrary to their upbringing.
It makes me worry about my grandchildren or future grandchildren.
Here’s the thinking, “If I tried to raise my kids right, taking them to church, etc., what will the end be for my grandchildren?” Proverbs 17:6 says, “Children’s children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children is their father.” We are always proud of our grandchildren, but the thought of them not receiving proper religious training and instruction sits like a lump in the pit of one’s stomach. For grandparents who live close enough to try and bridge the gap, there is some degree of relief as one makes every effort to provide the missing pieces. For the rest, there is only the hope that one’s children will return to the Lord in time to teach their children in the way of righteousness. It overshadows any and all other personal accomplishments. One may excel at his job, his hobby, or other activity, receiving the praise and accolades of men, but in the time of quiet repose the mind always returns to one’s children. The questions come as a flood: “Don’t they realize the danger of their situation?” “Do they ever stop to think about their souls?” “Have they even a clue of the worry and anguish they are causing?” “Have they forgotten all I’ve done for them?” “Have they ever considered how disrespectful their lifestyle is to me?” And on it goes until distraction or sleep finally arrives to rescue me from my inner conversations.
Despite all these things, when my children are unfaithful, it doesn’t diminish my love for them. Conversely, in light of these same things, one must be on guard not to make excuses for our shortcomings or those of our children. One must wisely choose his opportunities to speak a word of encouragement or exhortation while continuing to pray that these will come to their senses and return to their Lord (2 Tim 2:24-26).