My young friend was captivated by this story and saw that she too was leaning on her own understanding rather than that of her Creator’s and her Father’s. She also saw that the love of her Creator was so great that he even sent his own Son to die for her sins. I watched her melt into repentance before my eyes as she said, “I need to go home now and tell my father I have sinned against Heaven and against him.” I have seen her since and she said that she did just that. Through a simple story that she had never heard before, she understood the gracious character of God and the seriousness of her sin. The power of the Word of God – making the dead alive right in my backyard.
Then…there’s my children. My husband, our homeschool teachers, and I labor to teach our children the Word of God each day. They know the languages the Bible was written in, they know the books of the Bible by heart in English and French, they understand the relationship between human responsibility and God’s sovereignty, etc., etc., and yet….they are stone cold to it (with the exception of our oldest son, Kaden). Hearing a story out of the Bible in broken Bakoum one time was what the Lord used to bring repentance in the heart of a young girl and yet in my own children, I get rolled eyes and yawns. And I realized that for a missionary kid there is a danger that is greater than all of the snakes, malaria, and violence combined.
The Greatest Danger: Greater Exposure
A friend who grew up on the mission field once told me that missionary kids often end up on fire for God, or atheists. Generally speaking, you are not going to find lukewarm missionary kids. What would lead to extreme responses in missionary kids? I think Charles Spurgeon answers this question when he says:
“The same sun which melts the wax hardens the clay. And the same Gospel which melts some persons to repentance hardens others in their sins.” – Spurgeon
My young Bakoum friend has seen God in nature and has resisted him up to this point. However, my children have seen God not only in creation, but also in his dealings with the Egyptians who wouldn’t let the Israelites go. They’ve seen and resisted the God who sustained Joseph in prison. They’ve seen how the Lord killed Ananias and Saphira because of a single lie. They’ve read of the miracles of Jesus and listened to the dramatized book of Revelation countless times. And for some of them, each encounter with the Gospel has not been an opportunity for faith, but for resistance. They have had an abundance of special revelation and they have said, “No!” to the God revealed in those Scriptures thousands and thousands of times. Instead of this Gospel melting them into repentance, it has served to harden them in their sins to the point that they can tell you the sinful desires of their hearts, Scriptures that deal with those sinful desires, and what their eternal consequence will be if they do not repent – all with a yawn. Spurgeon is right when he says that the Gospel is like the sun – melting some into repentance and others into rock-hard clay.
It is tempting to turn inward and ask “What I am doing wrong?” And I do ask that question, and we have sought to change some things after asking it. However, I take heart in the reality that Judas was around the Light every single day, witnessing miracles, seeing the true love of Christ, and listening to him preach. Judas had a million opportunities a day to love the light, but instead he chose to harden his heart to it a million times a day. Eleven went on to live and die for Christ, but for Judas, it would have been better “if he had not even been born.” It was the very Christ-likeness of Christ that turned Judas away. This has great implications for Christian parents. Maybe the resistance to the Gospel in our children isn’t because we are doing something wrong, but instead because we are too Christ-like for their tastes. As Jesus said, “Everyone who does wicked things hates the light” (John 3:19b). They have more exposure to the truth than most kids, and the result of this greater exposure to the light has been a greater hardness.
So where does this leave us? I don’t think this reality should leave us in despair, but rather in awe of the miracle of the new birth – whether that new birth occurs in a person who does not have one word of the Bible in their language or whether that person has their walls wallpapered with it. In my ministry, I am daily faced with people who are without: people who are without food, without medicine, and without special revelation from the Lord. I then go home and find my children grumbling about the taste of their malaria-prevention medicine, refusing to eat their vegetables, and dead to the Word of God that we faithfully teach them. Honestly, this is maddening. I feel like because they have more, salvation and gratitude should come more easily for them. Ironically, in thinking this, I am adopting the same entitlement mentality that they have: because they have (the Word), thus they should receive (salvation). But in thinking this, I am losing sight of what a true miracle being born again really is. No one seeks for God on their own – neither children of missionaries, pastors, AWANA kids – no one. For anyone to have a desire for the Lord is evidence that the Spirit has taken a dead soul and made it alive. In the words of Jesus: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). The Spirit, like the wind, is free to make alive whomever he wills, and children of Christians are not entitled any more than those who belong to unreached people groups.
I think a second response to this should be resolve to see them born again. In 1755, Jonathan Edwards wrote to his son: “I am full of concern for you, and often pray for you…Never give yourself any rest unless you have good evidence that you are converted and become a new creature.” I think Edward’s exhortation to his son should be the cry of our hearts for our hardened children – may they find no rest until they find true, eternal rest in Christ. And may we as their parents be Christ to them knowing that he is the way, truth, and life.