Hearts of Fathers and Children

The Old Testament closes by naming one of the central goals of the Messiah's forerunner: turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest the land be struck with God's curse. This connects to the promise of long life in the land/earth that is attached to the 5th commandment to honor father and mother (Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:1-4). I dare say that this is one of the root causes of all the problems that we face in our society and in the church: families are divided by bitterness and hostility. Generational hostility has been festering in our society for many decades, and only the gospel of Christ's free grace can bring reconciliation and deliver us from God's wrath.

Even the best of earthly fathers have weaknesses and failings, so it is very easy to let resentment seep in. Don't let bitterness take root in your heart toward a father who hurt you or let you down. You can't be at peace with your heavenly Father if you are harboring bitterness in your heart toward your earthly father (or anyone else, for that matter). Give that wound to your heavenly Father and put away all hard feelings. Honor your father in whatever way you can, and give thanks for how God blessed you through him.

Because every child has weaknesses and failings, it is very tempting for fathers to resent their children. Sometimes bitterness toward a child is a way of shifting blame for fatherly failures. If you are a father, then you dare not harbor bitterness toward your children (or anyone else, for that matter). If there is some problem in your family, it may not be your fault but it definitely your responsibility. As the covenant head of your family, acknowledge whatever is wrong and ask the Lord for wisdom in how to lead your family into faithfulness. Pray for God's blessing on your children and for wisdom in how you can bless them.

One of the distinguishing marks of a family that has been transformed by the gospel is that the hearts of fathers and children are turned toward one another in the peace of Christ. No matter what kind of father you had or what kind of father you've been, our heavenly Father calls you to receive forgiveness and cleansing through the broken body and shed blood of Christ. Only the blood of Christ can wash away the sins you've committed and resentment for the sins that have been committed against you. It is only in being reconciled to your heavenly Father that you can live at peace with your earthly family.

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