Job 23:1-27:23; 2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11; Psalm 41:1-13; Proverbs 22:5-6
Even If They Stray
It is the traditional admonition to parents, godparents, church/school teachers, and whomever else has (or should have) a sense of responsibility for our children. “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray” (Proverbs 22:6).
If only it were that simple.
We all know children raised in the homes of devout Christians who have strayed at other times in life, including when they were old. We shake our heads and wonder how this could be – how such a well-mannered, Bible verse-memorizing, table grace-saying child could have turned out so differently than the way s/he was raised.
The short answer is that the gift of free will given to us by our Creator can be misused – and is, by every one of us, since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). As an old Anglican Confession put it, “we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep [and] followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts” (Book of Common Prayer , 330).
Fortunately for us, God is in the sheep-herding business – including going after the stray and lost ones, rejoicing when they (we) do come home. And there can be little doubt that the way we raise our children, helping them to recognize the Good Shepherd’s voice, often makes the difference as to whether their time in the wilderness is longer or shorter.
So at the risk of editing the Word, perhaps our experience would lead us to say that by training our children in the right way, we may not prevent them from straying, but we may give them a hint of the way home to a loving and forgiving Father. Thanks be to God!
The Rev. Dr. Steve Clifton
Christ the King