- October 18, 2018
- Steve Macias
The Faith of our Children
I sat across the table from a father holding his beautiful five-month-old daughter. On my lap, I have my own infant son and another of mine, a toddler, underfoot. Somewhere in between the prattling about of these tiny humans, we were actually able to get a few complete thoughts out. Through the years, one particular thought has come up in our conversations over and over again, “what can we do to ensure our children stay in the faith?” Neither of us was raised by what we would call Christian fathers. We both came to Christ in high school in the context of a public school Bible club and youth group. Back then, we would lament the milquetoast Christianity of those raised in the church. Perhaps it was “old hat” to them or they had just spent years going through the motions – and now they felt no sense of urgency. Or they didn’t share our sense of urgency.
Now both of us went on to marry virtuous women raised in the church – both of the Reformed tradition. And the Lord has blessed us with Children to lead and guide in the way. I explained to my fellow father, how my wife and I had our son in a Christian School. I shouted to our five-year-old at the other end of the dining table, asking him to recite the scriptures he had been memorizing the week before. As if somehow this answered the question weighing on our hearts. The Christian School will certainly help my children learn scripture, discipline their habits, and train them in a variety of academic disciplines, but it will never replace the single greatest influence on my child’s future trajectory: their father.
A Father’s Lasting Influence
It’s not hard to see how much influence a father has on his child’s future. From a worldly perspective, this is often referred to as the “birth lottery.” Writing for Business Insider, Alison Griswold writes, “the amount of money people make is strongly predicted by what their parents earn…” Even in an age of unprecedented social mobility, a father can significantly determine one’s potential opportunities for education, friends, a spouse, and jobs. What college you end up at or who your wife might be, is nearly predetermined by the circumstances created by your father.
Just as fathers play a significant role in determining the worldly circumstances by which children leave the household and enter society, so to do fathers determine the spiritual circumstances by which children enter the faith. The Book of Proverbs takes this a step further to say that the crown of a father is not his children, but his grandchildren. “Children’s children are the crown of old men,” (Proverbs 17:6). A father’s impact is then not merely on his immediate children, but multigenerational. To be a father is to represent the trajectory of an entire lineage. Certainly, the reader can see that the father is an important role which can either bring forth a series of covenantal blessings or a generational disaster. It is for this reason that every father that calls himself a Christian must be wholly committed to the success of his wife, his children, and his grandchildren.
The Father’s Commitment
This commitment to the success of your family is a discipline and habit. It requires the grace of God and a spirit of humility. God’s grace isn’t infused on passive men but requires men to submit and obey the Lord. Grace is free, but not painless. As Flannery O’Connor rightly quipped, “All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” This is why St. Paul encourages you to, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) As a father, I have often failed to meet what I understood to be my fatherly obligations. I am often impatient with my wife and children, imprudent with my time, and selfish with my resources. Do not despair. The conviction here is God’s means of renewing his call for you to lead your family. Acknowledge to God and to your family that you have not been the father and leader that our Lord expected you to be. Explain that you truly desire their success. Wives and children need to know that you love and need them.
The Father-Leader Explained
A father-leader must recognize that his family is an essential part of his own salvation. He needs the prayers of his wife and children. He needs their gifts and even their weaknesses. The wife and children the Lord has given you are part of God’s plan of forming you into the image of his Son, therefore the father-leader must recognize where his family is going and be patient. I often remark that my sins are most evident in the sins of my children. Fathers should then look at our sins as a clue to where our children will also struggle. This is why it is so important that Fathers are working out their own issues, so as to avoid their owns sins being, “visited unto the third and fourth generation.” To avoid passing on their sins as their children’s inheritance.
Father-leaders reject that they are fathers by the mere happenstance of biological functions, but see their role as ordained by the sovereign God. Yet this does not mean that he should demand or expect immediate results. A relationship of influence is a privilege that a father must earn, guard, and protect by investing in life-long relationships with each member of his family. This requires time, sacrifice, patience, and humility as you continue to demonstrate your commitment to your family. Your family wants to see in you a certain consistency that they can count on. Commitments must be evident, your wife and children know what it means to be “on your calendar.” They can see how you treat those whom you respect and honor. If raising faithful children is important to you, then you must strive to be more than a sperm-donor and more than a financier of food, lodging, and clothing – you must be a leader demonstrating his commitment to his children by fulfilling his God-given responsibility to lead his family.