When it comes to winning souls for Christ, my family has to come first. That sounds good, doesn’t it? I’ve heard it said many times; I’ve probably said something similar myself. The thought is that our children are our primary spiritual responsibility (Deuteronomy 6:7), and any other souls we win for Christ are just gravy, I guess. I understand the sentiment. Really, I do. I would be devastated if either one of my children was lost, but can we just pause for a minute and think about what we are saying? I’ve heard so many preacher’s wives, again including myself, express something to the effect that the worst thing they can imagine spending their whole lives teaching others about Christ yet lose their own children to the world. Is that truly the worst? What about losing your own soul as well? What about never reaching any souls for Him? Are we saying we’re fine with anyone else spending eternity in hell as long as it’s not our babies? Sadly, sometimes we as preachers’ families can use the fear of losing our children as an excuse not to evangelize to others.
The inconvenient truth is that Christ came to separate us. In Matthew 10:35, Jesus says, “For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’;”. He goes on in verse 37 to say that “he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of me.” I’m not saying that He wants our children to be lost or for us to be eternally separated, but the very nature of His teaching forces us all to make a choice – to follow Him or follow the world (Matthew 6:24). What a frightening thought when it comes to our children making choices for themselves! This world is scary, and often times I am tempted to circle up the wagons and protect my own. In the long run, I know that will never work. A faith that doesn’t act is dead (James 2:14-26). That’s not the kind of faith I hope to impart to my children. I don’t want to be like Pam!
Pam is a character in C.S. Lewis’s novel, The Great Divorce who loved her son too much. He became her idol. In truth, her love was selfishness in disguise because she said she would rather have him lost with her than be separated at all. May it never be for me! I want to teach my children an active faith, so I encourage them to study, challenge them to grow spiritually and give them every opportunity I possibly can while they are in my home to strengthen their faith in God. Along the way, I try to be an example in living my faith daily. In so doing, I spend much time not on them but with them serving God, serving others, and studying God’s word with the lost. Often times, they watch from the distance. They have to busy themselves quietly with other activities while my focus is on someone else. Through this, I hope they are learning that they are NOT the focus of my life. Hear me; their souls are NOT the focus of my life, although they are VERY important to me. No, I hope my children see by the way I live and where I invest my time and energy that the focus of my life is serving God. I hope and pray that somehow they can learn from my small, pitiful reflection of Christ that a life spent in His service is the best life a parent can give to their children. I pray that they might carry that on in their homes when they leave my authority. But if they don’t, I know that it will be in spite of my best effort and greatest desire.
On Judgement Day, we will each of us answer for our own lives (2 Corinthians 5:10). Our children will not be credited with our sins nor our righteousness (Ezekiel 18:19-20). I cannot change the eternal destiny of my children one bit no matter the number of hours and amount of energy I pour into them. I can influence them through my teaching and my example. I can use my time and energy wisely on every willing soul with whom I come in contact. I can show my children that my goal is to go to heaven and take as many people with me as I can. I can exhort them to join me and teach them how to put people first daily, even when that means putting family second sometimes. I can show them something better and pray that they will accept it, but I cannot choose God for them. Maybe I’m idealistic, but I want it all. I want to help save all the lost of the world, and that includes my family whether they obey first, last, or somewhere in between.