I’ve been reflecting on the mission of John the Baptist this morning and specifically the prophecy about his ministry to families. Here it is:
“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” (Micah 4:1-2, 5-6 NIV)
In light of impending judgment, the prophet “Elijah” would turn the hearts of parents and children towards each other. I’m not 100% sure I understand the full implication of John’s assignment, but based on the context, I can confidently say a few things about it.
First, God wants parents to prepare their children to stand before him in judgment. I want my kids to be safe. I want them to have healthy friendships and a positive self esteem. I want to prepare them to support themselves financially. That’s just natural. There’s nothing wrong with those goals unless they become primary. If my child grows up to choose safety or financial security over the advance of God’s kingdom, they won’t be ready to stand in judgment. If they made those choices because I didn’t prepare them to die or suffer poverty for their faith. I will have failed as a parent. Chances are it will be because I chose my own natural affection over my child’s ultimate well-being. My heart would have been on myself and not on my child.
Second, I can only do so much. Not only must my heart be turned to my children. Theirs must be turned to me. If parents raise their children in the “nurture and admonition (warning) of the Lord,” they’ve fulfilled God’s will for them. And yet, that’s but half of the equation which is why the mention of turning the hearts of the children to the parents.
Finally, parents can’t bridge that divide. We can’t turn the hearts of our children towards us. Attempts to do so usually widen the divide. We need Spirit-filled third parties in the lives of our children as they grow. We need Elijahs to stand in the gap to mentor us as parents and to mentor our children. If we don’t have them, we need to pray for them. If we’ve prayed and we still don’t have them, we need to assess whether the fault is with our own disobedience. Are we participating in an intergenerational community of believers? If so, are we open to parenting advice from those farther down the road and are we willing to allow our kids receive input from others?
We might not know everything our children will face in their future, but we do know one thing for certain. They may not go to college, have a career, start and raise a family, or enjoy a well-funded retirement, but they will stand before God. How are we preparing them for that one certainty?