- Two brothers grow up in the same home, half-brothers, actually. They had different fathers, biological fathers only, and were raised by the same single mom. Each had a different reaction to their situation, neither understanding why. Neither ever knew his father or the appropriate love of a man. One joined a gang. He died in an alley of multiple knife wounds. The other became a homosexual. He died of AIDS.
- A man works hard, makes a good living for his family whom he loves very much. He provides well for his wife, his three sons and two daughters. He is happy to be able to give them not only everything they need, but much that they want, within reason. When asked if he is a Christian, he responds, “Oh sure, I believe in God.” But Sunday is the only day he has to sleep in (or to fish, or to watch the game) and he is quite proud that his wife takes the kids to church. But one by one, as they became teenagers, the kids drift away. They say it’s because of sports, homework, work, but subconsciously it’s more “If it’s not important to Dad I guess it doesn’t really mean that much to me.”
- An entire family is faithful to attend every worship service and every Bible study possible, Dad, Mom and kids sitting together every time the doors of the church are open. They are the perfect model of a Christian family. Every mother who brings her children to church alone wishes her family could be like that, wishes her husband could be like that. The man is admired as the spiritual leader of his home. It is assumed throughout the church for years, that his son will go into the ministry, his daughter may become a missionary, or at least marry a preacher. Each one, when they go off to college, quits going to church entirely. If confronted by someone in the home church, they would angrily point to the hypocrisy of Dad at home. “If you only knew what your ‘good Christian’ was really like!”
Like Judaism, Christianity was intended to be a family religion. The Jews referred to God and God referred to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; grandfather, father, grandson. In many cultures that is how the Gospel travels; whole families come to faith, whole tribes. Not that people are saved en masse automatically. Individuals are born again. But the Holy Spirit seems to work rapidly in families, especially when the patriarch is genuinely converted and baptized with the Spirit in a most profound way. On the day of Pentecost, Peter assured the Jews concerning the gift of the Holy Spirit, that the promise given to the prophet Joel of the outpouring of the Spirit was for them and their children and to all who are afar off (around the world and to the end of time) as many as the Lord our God will call. To them and their children.
God’s promise to Abraham was that through his Seed, that is, Christ, all the families of the earth would be blessed. For 2000 years that has been the case. The Gospel has spread through families, through extended families and neighbors and friends. And the fathers have been a key to Christianity’s success.
For example, in the book of Acts, there is the account of the conversion of Cornelius, a centurion of a first century Italian regiment. He was not a Jew, but was a man who was seeking the God of the Jews, the only true God. An angel appeared to him and instructed him to send for the Apostle Peter and where to find him. In the mean time, in a vision God was preparing Peter to go to the house of this Gentile by overcoming his natural Jewish prejudices against doing such a thing. When Peter got to Cornelius’s house, he found the soldier had already gathered his relatives and close friends to hear the Gospel. While Peter was preaching, the Holy Spirit came down upon the whole household and they were all baptized with the Holy Spirit, just as the Jews were at Pentecost. Peter commanded that they all be baptized in water. And all because of a man, a man who feared God and sought Him with his whole heart and did all he knew to do to lead his family and friends to Christ.
Then there was the Philippian jailer. He had thrown Paul and Silas into the dungeon and clamped their ankles into stocks with their legs spread apart at a cramp-inducing, unnatural position. A cruel man. But he listened to these prisoners singing hymns of rejoicing and his hard heart was touched. Then at midnight an earthquake shook the cell doors from their hinges and the jailer was about to fall on his sword, for that would be a better fate than would be his at the hands of his superiors for losing all his prisoners. But the voice of Paul arrested his attempted suicide, “Do yourself no harm, we are all here.” That did it! That broke his heart. He cried, “What must I do to be saved?” In other words, “How do I become like you?” The answer was simple, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved…you and your household!” He did and he was. He knew he had to do two things: fix the wrong he had done and bring Jesus home to his family. So he brought Paul and Silas home, dressed their wounds and fed them, then he had the Gospel presented to his wife and children, and he told what had happened to him and he rejoiced for his whole family believed and were baptized just as was promised.
This is the way Christianity is designed. This is the way it is supposed to spread; it is to permeate our families, husbands to wives, fathers to children, generation to generation.
So why isn’t it working today? Dad, what’s gone wrong? Dad, whose fault is it? Dad, how would you analyze the situation? Dad, how you advise the church to do their job better? Dad, is it really the church’s job to reach your family for Christ?
Dad, who is the real Prodigal Son in this story?
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15