For the past two weeks, I have written about the life of Josiah, king of Judah in Jerusalem of whom the Scriptures say there was no king before or after who turned to God wholeheartedly as Josiah did. On one hand, the very fact that he followed the Lord in obedience was tremendously unlikely considering the great wickedness of his father and grandfather and can only be explained by God’s marvelous grace. But on the other hand, Josiah’s godliness did not extend even one generation beyond himself. Did God’s grace somehow fail Josiah as a parent? And what about parents today whose children are taught God’s word from their youth only to reject the Savior when they reach adulthood? There is great suffering and anguish in the hearts of many Christian parents who are tempted to blame themselves or the church or even God himself for their children’s rebellion. Nothing I write can completely assuage their grief, but I would like to suggest one helpful thought that we ought to consider. If your heart grieves over the turning away of your children from the truth, do you not think that God’s heart grieves even more?
Throughout Scripture God repeatedly declares his desire that all men repent of their sin and turn to him, and just a few examples should suffice to prove this is so.
Exodus 20:5-6 “…For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
Ezekiel 18:30-32 “Repent and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin…I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies….Therefore turn and live!”
Hosea 14:1,4 “O Israel, return to the LORD your God….’I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him.’”
Acts 17:30 “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent…”
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
We must recognize that it is God himself who has invested the most in our children and grandchildren. He gave his own Son for them, after all, and we must believe that his grace is sufficient to save them if they will only repent and trust Christ to be their Savior.
So, how should we respond to this realization? We must renew ourselves in prayer and intercession for our children, whether they are still young and under our care or have grown and are making their own way in the world. In either case, it is God’s express will according to Scripture that they repent of their sin and turn to him for forgiveness and mercy, and we ought to plead with God for mercy on their behalf. We should take every opportunity to teach them the truth and to live as godly examples before them, but we must also remember that our faith cannot be their faith, for they must trust in Christ to receive salvation by his grace. We should have the utmost compassion for those whose children have strayed from the truth, knowing that their hearts are tuned to our Heavenly Father’s, longing for the repentance of their children.