What about us parents who raised our children to the best of our abilities on biblical principles but our adult children are not living for the Lord? People keep quoting " raise up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it". They do depart from the truth.
This is a great question that I assume may have been generated as a result of our series on Developing Healthy Families and Parenting. First, let me just say that I/we, all of us I hope, understand the ache that parents of unsaved or prodigal sons and daughters feel. Janice and I have had our moments of worry and so I understand. In the past 7 years many, many Christian parents have emailed me, called me and shown up here at The Rock to ask me to help with their son or daughter at Quest U or living here in Squamish. It’s completely understandable that we want to see our own flesh and blood know Christ and be saved!
Proverbs 22:6—Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
This verse was quoted and I’ll start by saying this verse is true in, now please hear this, in principle. What's not absolutely true however are two things. First, it is not a command and second, it is not a promise. That’s very important to see.
Most commentators I have read and I agree with would say that to the average Jewish parent, the original readers of this verse, they would have heard this. “Train your child in the ways of life. To get up, get to work and to work hard. To be diligent, put in a honest day’s work, to bring honour to your mother and father.” In all of these ways in which we train our children, we are preparing them for life. The principle then is this. In most cases, if they are trained well as children, then there’s a very good chance that they will continue into their old age. It’s called a PROVERB!
That said, here are three key factors to rightly understanding this verse. First, the context of this Proverb is not about salvation. Second, in the first few chapters we read Solomon making it clear that the son or daughter must choose to follow God. And that leads to the third point, we cannot save our children. So, parents, this verse is not a command with a promise but instead a good and true principle. You did your best!
I want to highlight again the passage from Ephesians we looked at in our series one more time.
Ephesians 6:1-4—Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honour your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
It was in this context that I highlighted the words, “Bring them up,” which I mentioned was reminiscent of Prov. 22:6, “Train them up,” but it is related to the command and promise. And what are we as Christian parents to do, “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” That commandment was from the 10 Commandments and I suggested that is where Fathers and Mothers should start with their children. Teach them the 10 Commandments, and please hear this, teach them that they are sinners too! That’s actually the point of the 10 Commandments, they are our schoolmaster, they makes us aware of what sin is.
Will this guarantee their salvation? No. But it will contribute greatly to the hope that they will chose Christ one day.
One more thing—what do you do as a parent with your prodigal? Please hear this in love. Remember the mission—GO and make disciples who make disciples! There’s our flesh and blood family and then there’s our blood bought family!
Remember when Jesus’ mother and “unbelieving” brothers came for him when he was about his Father's business of making disciples? What did he say?
Matthew 12:48-50—“Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Maybe, just maybe, if you are about your Father’s business, which is discipling those who have decided to follow Jesus, maybe that will speak to your prodigal in ways you had never dreamed of before.
There are many young couples and men and women here at The Rock who do not have a mother or father, grandparent, aunt, uncle or other family members here in Squamish. Many do not have believing family either. They need to be discipled and that's exactly what the church, the family of God is for and why you are here.
Finally, you already know this and are probably already doing this, but the best thing you can do for your prodigal son or daughter is... PRAY FOR THEM!