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Volume 7, Issue 1: Childer

The Way it Used to Be

Douglas Wilson

ou were rebellious, sure, but not like this. Your parents used to worry about you, but not in the same way you worry about your kids. Before the late sixties, the quest for teenage autonomy was a tame affair. It all seemed like a big deal at the time, but now in retrospect it looks positively calm . After all, your folks probably thought Herman's Hermits were radical anarchists.

But actually it all seemed like a big deal at the time because it really was . The Bible teaches that the human race may travel only one of two roads. One leads to eternal life and the other to eternal destruction. The first few steps down either road may not reveal the radical difference in destinations. But the fact that the roads may appear to be very similar at the start does not alter the final antithesis between right and wrong, righteousness and sin, heaven and hell.
This leads to the next reason this subject of teenage rebellion should have mattered to your parents as parents , and now should matter to you in the same way. We must consider the teaching of the Bible on the nature of generations. What we call a generation gap is really the fulfillment of God's promised blessings and curses on families. The Bible shows that these two roadsto life and to deathare usually traveled generationally . The Ten Commandments say that we may not bow down to gods other than the Lord. And why? "For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me , but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments" (Ex . 20:5-6).
We do not like it this way, but the effects of individual choices cannot be contained within the boundaries of individual lives. As parents, the road we travel will always enable our children to travel further down that same road . When we see our children doing things which affront our values, the teaching of Scripture requires us to consider whether this is more a fulfillment of what we believe rather than a collision with what we believe. Are we looking at our children, or are we also looking at our sin's children? Perhaps you have spent some time looking at your children's baby pictureswondering how that cute toddler came to be, sixteen years later, so detestable in appearance. Why the pierced eyebrows and lips? Why the filth? Why the music that isn't? Why the deliberate and repeated attempts to insult everything you hold dear?
You parents who are not followers of Jesus Christ must understand that through your own unbelief you are leading your children in the most fundamental rebellion of all. Because this is the case, you have no room to object if they take your initial rebellion into the final stages. Before reaching that final dead end, it is easy for an unbelieving parent to say that although he does not believe in Christ, yet he knows how to restrain himself (unlike these kids of today). See, he stops here . But his children, and then his grandchildren, will wonder why he stopped there. It seems so arbitrary to themit is arbitrary. "If Christ is not Lord," he might reason, "I don't have to do everything He says." The children take it farther. "If Christ is not Lord, I don't have to do anything He says." The result is ethical nihilismnothing coheres, nothing has value, nothing tastes . It is very easy to look at these childrenthe children with hollow eyesand assume the problems began with them. But this is not the case.
The children of our culture are growing up under the wrath and anger of God. His judgment on them is manifest in the insolent way they walk, the sullen look on their faces, the arrogant ignorance of their speech, the moral idiocy of their sexual lives. Clearly these children are hated and rejected by GodHe has delivered them over to the suicidal pattern of sin. Why is God destroying them? The biblical answer is that their parents hated Him, and He is visiting that iniquity downstream. Because they are children of disobedience, they will die. The apostle Paul teaches that if neither parent believes in Jesus Christ, then the children are foulunclean. They are displeasing to God.
Redemption is possibleChrist came to save sinners but this redemption is not for those who resist the justice of the judgment. It is good and right for God to visit the effects of our sin on our children. In the context of God's anger at sin (and only there), forgiveness is offered by Christ to all who repent of their rebellion and believe in Him. It is not offered to those who complain about the negative effects of their rebellion. When the message of salvation comes to unbelieving parents, it is offered to them as parents. This means that they must repent as parents. If they do, He will always show mercy.
"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse" (Mal. 4:5-6).

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