‘That a people yet unborn may praise the Lord’
The church is only ever one generation away from extinction. The day we fail to pass the good news on to others is the day we surrender to the process of decline.
In today’s New Testament reading from 2 Timothy we see a snapshot of three generations who passed on their Christian faith. St Paul writes to his friend Timothy,
‘I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.’ (2 Timothy 1:5)
Timothy’s faith in Christ had already lived in his mother Eunice, and his grandmother Lois. Their faithfulness in passing on the gospel to the next generation left a powerful legacy in their (grand) son, who himself became a key figure in the spread of the Christian message.
Israel had also been aware of the importance of maintaining a witness for following generations. The Psalmist had written,
'Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord.' (Psalm 102:18)
Moses, too, had exhorted the people to share their experience of God with the next generation.
'Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds…Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.' (Deuteronomy 11: 11-20)
Those of us who are parents should heed this example. Often we are afraid to do this, assuming that children need to make up their own minds. But in a permissive culture in which young people are exposed to so many strong influences, why would Christianity be the one thing they need protection from?
To neglect to pass on the gospel to our children is simply to abandon the field to every other idea—while denying them the one resource that offers true hope, wisdom and forgiveness. The ironical headline in a satirical news site says it all: ‘After 12 Years Of Quarterly Church Attendance, Parents Shocked By Daughter’s Lack Of Faith.’
The pressures on young people today mean that speaking openly of our faith, family devotions and regular church attendance are, if anything, more necessary.
There is nothing fool-proof in our efforts to teach our children, and many are full of regret over decisions their children have made. Thankfully, God remains on his throne – not everything depends on us.
But whatever stage of life we are in, we still have opportunities to create a legacy as we model the Christian life. This is, without question, the greatest gift we can leave behind.