A couple sit weeping in disbelief as their child is sentenced in a court of law for a crime they never would have guessed their boy or girl was capable of committing.
A father, suspicious that his son might be using drugs because of a sudden change of friends and behavior, finds a bag of marijuana and some Ecstasy hidden in his bedroom.
Parents, searching within themselves for the proper response to the gut wrenching announcement from their 15 year old daughter that she is pregnant, can only think of the shattered dreams they had for their little girl.
A mother weeps at her bedside begging God to set her son back on the right path. She raised him in church but now he is eighteen years old and determined to do things his way.
Many parents hope and pray they will never find themselves in any of the situations played out above. New moms and dads reading this will undoubtedly determine within themselves to never let these things happen to them and their children. They will do whatever it takes, make whatever sacrifices need to be made, and pay whatever price needs to be paid to make sure their children succeed in life.
But just as sure as I am sitting here typing this article, I am positive there are parents reading this who did determine to protect their children from the steely knives of the world. They did make sacrifices, and they did pay dearly to make sure their son or daughter turned out right only to have them rip their heart out, toss it to the ground, step all over it, pick it back up and hand it back to them. Some parents reading this are all too familiar with the plethora of emotions the parents in the above situations are feeling because the same thing or something similar has happened to them.
Parents of those children who have train wrecked their own lives by making really bad choices in spite of a good childhood and proper upbringing have something in common. They blame themselves. They wonder where they went wrong as a parent. They spend countless sleepless nights trying to figure out what they could have done differently to keep their child from ending up on this path of self-destruction. I wonder if there are any parents out there who have raised their children to adulthood who, at one time or another, haven’t felt like a failure.
As I was reading in the Gospel of Luke the other day, I came across the story of a man who evidently was raised by God-fearing parents, but somewhere down the line this man, in adulthood, decided to forsake the instruction of his parents and follow a path that led him to death row where he was ultimately executed for his crimes. I’m sure that many who witnessed the execution from a distance wrongly judged his parents for his wretched circumstance, placing the blame on an ungodly dad or unrighteous mom. But had they been standing at the foot of the cross, they might have heard the entire conversation between Jesus Christ and the thieves on either side of him. If they could have heard the exchange, they would have realized that his parents weren’t to blame. Listen to that conversation.
Luke 23:39-40 records, “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?” This second thief did not wind up on a cross because he feared God. The reverential fear of God in a person will cause him to do the right thing. I can’t prove it because this is the only record we have of this thief, but it’s very likely this man was taught from the time he was a child to revere and respect the things of God. Somewhere, sometime, he callused his heart toward God and lost that healthy and holy fear for him.
We further read in verse 41, “And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.” Here is a man who knew what he had done was wrong and wasn’t trying to blame everyone else for his demise. He was willing to accept responsibility for his actions and believed his punishment suited the crime. This kind of character doesn’t come from growing up in gangs and running the streets all hours of the night without parental supervision or accountability. Character of this nature doesn’t spring out of nowhere. Although it appears to have surfaced a little too late, it is nevertheless character that was ingrained in him as a child through a lifetime of teaching and modeling. We don’t know what caused him to subdue that kind of character, but one thing is obvious; knowing what was right and wrong, he chose wrong.
And then finally, we read in verse 42, “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” This was not a simple Bible story he had learned and remembered from his youth. This was Messianic prophecy! This man knew the Scriptures! Where and when did he learn that? We have no indication of his age, but whether he learned this in the synagogues as an adult or at his father’s knee as a child, this is all the proof we need to conclude that his parents weren’t to blame for his being executed on a cross. They steered him in the right direction and placed him on a path toward success. I’m sure it took them awhile, but I hope that in time they were able to lay their heads down at night knowing they did everything they could to ensure a happy and healthy adulthood for him. I hope they didn’t beat themselves up over his poor decisions. I hope they realized that in the end, the choice was ultimately his to make.
The lesson that God taught me through this passage of Scripture, and the message I hope to convey to every parent reading this is to simply do our best in raising our children. Make time for them. Teach them to reverence God. Help them to know right from wrong. Instill in them godly character which guides them to accept personal responsibility for their actions. Teach them the Scriptures. There is no such thing as a perfect family unit and there is a measure of dysfunction in every home. But when we as parents follow the recipe that God laid out for us in regard to raising our children, then, if they choose to forsake our life long guidance and instruction, we will naturally be broken hearted, yes, but we can lay our head down with the comfort and assurance of knowing that we as parents were not to blame.