Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6
Here’s what many think Proverbs 22:6 is saying: “If I raise my child in a godly home, then he or she will never fall away. And even if my child does fall away, he or she will eventually come back.” Which would imply that if a child strays, even after being raised in a godly home, and never comes back, then the parents must have done something tragically wrong in the rearing of that child. There are books that teach this principle. There are blogs that support this principle. There are preachers who deliver sermons and conduct seminars espousing that this principle is absolute truth.
Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is. Sadly, not all godly children grow up to be godly adults. And there are parents, perhaps even sitting and reading this blog, who are currently dealing with the pain of having a wayward son or daughter. Although they raised their child in a home that glorified God, their children have chosen not to glorify God in their own home.
Even in the most ideal environment, rebellion still occurs. Adam and Eve lived in paradise. Their abode could not have been more perfect. There was perfect self-esteem, perfect relationships, perfect surroundings, and yet they rebelled. Was their failure God’s failure? Of course not. Early in our child’s life, we exert a lot of influence, but as they grow into adults, our power and influence becomes less and less. The devil has influence, but even he did not force Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit. God had influence over Adam and Eve, but He did not force them either. Today, teachers, coaches, peers, the world can exert tremendous influence, but they don’t control us. We make our own decisions.
In the book of Isaiah, it reads: Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; for the Lord speaks, “Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me (Isa. 1:2).”
God often referred to Israel as His children. Here He calls them “sons.” God’s “sons” revolted. What does this say about the heavenly Father?” There could never be a more perfect father than the Almighty God. Do we dare accuse Him of being an unfit parent because His children rebelled? Do the actions of God’s children mean that God failed as a Father?
Here’s a point we cannot afford to miss—PROVERBS ARE NOT ABSOLUTE TRUTHS! Proverbs are principles, not promises. They set forth general principles. They are great words to live by. They are profound and vital words, but they are not iron-clad rules.
Let’s face it, raising children is tough. It is both the hardest task and the greatest honor. I’m not trying to get parents off the hook. But I’m also not trying to saddle them with unnecessary guilt. I want to encourage all of our parents to show Christ to their kids. Whether your children are young or old, be like Jesus. Illustrate for them what living faith looks like. Train them up in the way that they should go and pray that they will not depart from it. If they do, pray that they will return. And pray for peace in your own life so that you can better cope with the guilt that you may feel. God bless our parents. God bless our children.