~ John Greenleaf Whittier
We don’t get a second chance at life. The life choices we make will affect our families for the rest of their lives. We can die surrounded by our dear ones, knowing that despite our mistakes, we loved them all well, or we can die essentially alone, having lost all that matters in life: the respect and regard of our spouse, children and grandchildren.
It won’t matter to my six children what flaming essays I wrote about the great evangelical disaster, what powerful broadcasts I did on radio against all the ills of the day, or how silver words rolled off my tongue, including Scripture, if at home I did not love them and their father.
The greatest petri dish for atheism and rebellion is not a secular university filled with hatred for God. The best place to create contempt for Christ is a professing Christian home that is actually a lie. No greater disgust can be earned by a parent than to speak of loving God who they can’t see, while mistreating or neglecting the family right in front of them.
We can speak great swelling words about the resurrection power of Christ to heal sexual deviants, abortionists, murderers, and drug addicts, but if that same Christ is not allowed to heal the relationships in our own lives, we make a mockery of our claims.
We can serve God until we collapse in exhaustion, deny ourselves vacations, rest and all earthly pleasures, but if we do not love those closest to us, our own flesh and blood, our service is meaningless in the end.
We represent Christ to our children as parents in the home. All the lip service in the world regarding spiritual things, and all the righteous standards we erect against the vices of the day will never hide hypocrisy from the eyes of those who know best.
Sin, when it is covered up in a family, spawns a million evils. It eats like a cancer at the trust upon which all real relationships must rest. It kills joy and faith, it steals what is sacred and it lays waste to all that is precious and irreplaceable.
Every one of us has a choice in our families. We cannot change whatever sorrow existed in some of our families of origin. Sometimes, the sin sickness is so deep and has twisted minds and hearts so completely that only biblical separation from that sin is possible. But all of us can address the marriages and children entrusted to us now. All of us can live, starting now, so as to not have further regrets.
The ruins of families that might have been so different are all around us. Think for a moment of all the happy innocence, all the laughter and all the life-giving joy that might have been in so many homes, homes that were instead filled with rancor and hatred, grudge-holding and betrayal.
If you think that anything in your life, including going out ‘serving God,’ is more important than your family, imagine yourself as a dying man or woman in the last hours of life. Imagine the horrible barrenness of dying without the love and respect of your children and grandchildren. Picture the regret of that person who could have filled the lives of these people with love and joy and wise instruction, but chose something else instead.
We will all leave a legacy behind. Those who profess Christ will either leave a legacy of Christ’s love stamped upon the hearts and lives of their families or they will leave a legacy of hypocrisy, destruction, misery and sorrow.
The choice is ours. We are all choosing that legacy now.