I ran across these words today in my devotion, and they are both a challenge and an encouragement. Thomas Fuller, who lived between 1601 and 1661, penned an insightful thought. As he reflected on the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, he wrote,
Lord, I find the genealogy of my Saviour strangely checkered with four remarkable changes in four intermediate generations:
- Roboam begat Abia; that is a bad father begat a bad son.
- Abia begat Asa; that is a bad father a good son.
- Asa begat Josaphat; that is a good father a good son.
- Josaphat begat Joram; that is a good father a bad son.
I see, Lord, from hence that my father’s piety cannot be entailed; that is bad news for me. But I see also that actual impiety is not always hereditary; that is good news for my son.
-Schumacher, ed., For All the Saints, vol.3, (American Lutheran Publicity Bureau), pg 1119
Such words are a challenge to strive to live in such a way that the gospel is attractive your our children so that they want to walk in it. They are a challenge to recognize that there are no guarantees in parenting, no silver bullets and even good parents produce bad children. The best parent may still raise a child that fails to walk with the Lord, or that rejects the teachings of orthodoxy. We must pray, therefore for our children. And we must be more gracious to those whose children have walked away. The fault might not lie with the parent but with the child, or in some combination of the two.
But as Fuller notes, there is also an encouragement intrinsic to the genealogy. My sin, is not automatically credited and passed on. The Lord can and often does do marvelous things to rescue one generation from the sin of another generation. God can raise up righteous seed out of the cesspool which every parent inhabits as fallen sinful being. This too, leads a parent to pray, to be thankful, and not to take credit for any good that comes. It is all grace.