By Jeff McCrary
I knew his father, and a fine Christian man he was. Working a secular job, he preached the gospel whenever he had the opportunity. I had the privilege of studying privately with him on several occasions, and can say that he was one of the most respected Bible students I ever knew. I never heard anyone say one thing negative about him.
But his son is not the man he was. Oh, he’s a Christian, in good standing with the local congregation of which he is a member. He attends regularly and has made sure his children learned the truth. But when you look closely at the man, it is but a dim reflection of his father that you see. The commitment, the humility, the sacrifice simply aren’t there, not to the degree of his parents.
The problem of second-generation Christians not being as faithful as their parents is as old as man. Witness Noah,
David. All godly men, they were not matched in faithfulness by their children. This was true of Israel as a people over and over (Judg. 2:10-23). Today we see all around us children of Christians who are a little more taken with the world, more enamored with that which glitters, more willing to take their turn at the trough of life.
That isn’t to say that maintaining faithfulness through generations is easy. I hope I can attain all of the great qualities of my own father. And there are exceptions, children who not only match their parents’ goodness, but exceed it. However, these are the exceptions. Most children of Christians lack the zeal, determination, and resolve their parents had in standing for the Lord.
In many cases, children of Christians have it better materially than did their parents. Their parents also fought battles in the church their children haven’t faced. They are not as disciplined as their parents, and though they admire their parents for that, even compliment it, they just don’t see the need in bringing all their desires so tightly in reign.
Many children of Christians don’t study their Bible everyday as their parents did. They get very serious about using their time to squeeze as much pleasure out of this life without leaving God entirely. Many arrive just in time for services, leave quickly, and gripe when the preacher preaches “overtime.” Instead of taking the safe course, making sure everything they do is clearly approved in Scripture, they are quick to ask, “What’s wrong with it?” and do not hesitate to engage in questionable activities. They care less than their parents about their reputation and influence with the world.
What can those of us who are second-generation Christians do to prevent these problems in our service to God?
1. Love God completely. This is commanded by our Lord in Mark 12:30, as we are all familiar. John warned us about letting love for the world crowd out our love for God, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:15).
2. Stay humble. It is natural for children of Christians to take things for granted that those not brought up in the training of the Lord do not. Not having to fight for them, they don’t tend to appreciate them as much. There is often a brashness and a jesting about godly things that their parents wouldn’t dream of. A boldness to assert themselves that their parents would have been ashamed of, had they known it. Just as God warned Israel that all they had could be taken away, we can lose the blessings God has given us (Josh. 23:15-16).
3. Seek the old paths. Since the word of God doesn’t change and sin doesn’t change, if we remain faithful, we will seem to modems of this world a bit old fashioned. Jeremiah commanded the people, “Thus says the Lord: `Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls”‘ (Jer. 6:16). We must not only come to accept this, we must embrace it.
Certainly, we do not worship our parents, but follow their example only as they followed Christ. Many of us have been greatly blessed with mothers and fathers who have given us great lives to pattern ourselves after. May God bless us richly with success!
Guardian of Truth XLI: 19 p. 22-23
October 2, 1997