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The Best Improvements
June 14, 2011
Part of the joy of blogging is in interacting with other people through the comments. When I write an article, and especially an article on a difficult topic, I am always aware that I have not said it all. There are always ways in which what I have said can be improved.
This was the case yesterday with the article “I Am Unalarmed.” I’d like to draw your attention to a few of the (many) comments that I found very helpful as I continued to think through the topic.
The first came from Mark J. LaCore who wrote this:
I would ask you not to oversimplify your response to the oversimplification of the statistics.
I am 55 years old and have been an active believer for 38 years. My wife and I have been just about as passionate about our relationships with Christ as it is possible to be. We spent years in churches that did the best they could to preach the gospel, and we have served whole-heartedly in those churches as we raised 4 children to adulthood, all the while consciously and actively praying for them, living in integrity to the best of our ability, modeling the grace and love of Christ to them and others, and doing all we could to ensure that they would not be so turned off by the church that they would become one of the numbers in the statistics you have quoted.
Two of those four children actively follow the Lord and serve in the church. Two of them have utterly rejected Christ and the gospel.
It is a source of great joy that those two love the Lord and give themselves to service and (for the one with children of his own) are raising kids to do the same. But it is a source of tremendous heartache to us, who know the gospel, know the power of Christ in us, and who long to see our other two sons brought out of darkness and into light.
All four were raised in the same house, in the same atmosphere, by the same parents. The first and the third reject Christ; the second and fourth walk with him.
We could second-guess the way we raised them, wish things had been done differently, and beat ourselves up over some failure in the past, but we know there is no value in doing so. We simply pray, thanking God for two that love Him, and asking that He who is sovereign would yet choose the other two, and call them, and give them to Christ for His glory and their joy.
I do not in any way disagree with you that a gospel-saturated environment creates the sort of atmosphere that gives a child ample opportunity to hear the good news and respond. But it is also critical to remember that it is God who elects and calls and saves, and no amount of ensuring the right environment will guarantee that any child will believe as an adult.
I appreciated this comment because I felt it is complementary to all that I was saying. In an early draft of my article I had spoken at some length about the fact that God is sovereign and that “no amount of ensuring the right environment will guarantee that any child will believe as an adult.” Amen. Ultimately we do what the Lord commands and trust him with the results.
Flora Compton responded to Mark’s comment and said,
I agree whole-heartedly [with Mark]. The missing element today in many circles, is lack of belief that our children are ‘sinners whose ’ hearts are ‘deceitful above all things and desperately wicked ’ and need to be regenerated. Many seem to think that they can ‘train’ their children to be Christians but only the Holy Spirit can give them a ’ new heart’. We teach, we pray and we submit to the will of a Sovereign God. I recently read a very encouraging article by Carl Trueman called it ain’t over until it’s over’.’ He says that the story of the thief on the cross should be a great encouragement to parents who have taught their children and presented the Gospel to them.
I say “Amen” to that as well. Part of the act of submitting children to the Lord is doing all that he has commanded us to do, which includes raising them in that gospel environment. Raising them in that atmosphere is far more about obedience and submission than about seeking a guarantee of a particular result. Again, we do what God calls us to do and then trust in him. After all, these children are truly his; we are now owners of our children but stewards of God’s children.
Another commenter, Ken, had this to say:
Let us be very very careful that we do not look down on those with non-Christian children and just know that they were/are hypocrites, didn’t give the biblical Gospel. It may be that some of them were hypocrites and some of them didn’t know the Gospel very well. But if they are Christian they are also living with an enormous amount of pain everyday of their lives over the souls of their kids and the fact that they may have done something wrong in their teaching and child rearing. If God should bless a couple with God fearing children let us pray that he will also bless them with humility and not the attitude that looks down on those with unredeemed children as if they are second class Christians and puff themselves up as if they are the cream of the crop.
This is a helpful improvement because it nips our pride in the bud, reminding us of God’s sovereignty and prohibiting us from passing judgment on anyone else based on the results of their parenting. The Lord judges our faithfulness far ahead of the results as we measure them.
As I thought more about this topic I was reminded of Proverbs which can sometimes seem simplistic in its formulas: Live a wise life and you will enjoy wealth and long life and happiness. Live a foolish life and you will suffer poverty and illness and sorrow. These are general statements about the way the world generally works. And I believe the same is true of parenting: Raise your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (or discipline and instruction of the Lord), raise them in that gospel-saturated environment, and the Lord will work through the gospel to save them. In fact, Proverbs says as much: Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. And yet Solomon himself departed from it. Our children may too. But if we have done all the Lord has commanded us to do, he will still say to us, “Well done good and faithful servant.”