Josh, who writes Unbound, asked for the input of several other mom-bloggers regarding the doctrine of election and one’s children. Personally speaking, I’ve struggled and thought through this doctrine quite a bit, considering its weighty implications for myself and for my family. Ultimately, my faith rests in God alone and in His goodness and mercy.
Here’s what this post is not: I will not be writing an apologetic for the doctrine of election. I will not argue with anyone about whether or not we choose Christ or God chooses who will believe. I do not wish to discuss the ins and outs of the words “foreknowledge” and “predestined.” This post is for moms (and dads) who believe that God alone is sovereign over all things, including salvation, and who struggle to come to grips with His power over their children.
So, for the sake of argument, let’s all assume that the Bible teaches that God has chosen (before any of us came to be) who His children are. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if God chooses who will be saved, then that means He must also decide who He will pass over and punish for their sins. He can’t choose one without also choosing the other. And that is the part that makes us mothers gasp.
It’s much easier to be a Christian mother who believes that as long as her children pray a certain prayer, then they’re in. Believe me, my heart wants so badly to put stock in “the dot on the timeline.” “They prayed!! They asked Jesus to come in!! Whew! Mark that off the to-do list.” But the Bible won’t let me do that…not even for assurance of my own salvation. So, what’s a mother to do?
First, we must understand that even though God chooses who will be saved, He has ordained that saving faith comes by various means. As a mother, I am to take advantage of those means. No, I have a responsibility! God has ordained that people come to faith by hearing the gospel. So, Moms, preach the gospel to your kids from the time their babes and all they can do it sleep, eat, and poop. Talk about Jesus in the morning at breakfast, at lunch, at dinner, before bed, during family devotions, during times of disciplining your kids, basically, anytime you have an open door. Sing songs about Jesus when you’re outside swinging. Talk about God when you’re walking outside and you see a spider’s web. ALL THE TIME. Make this kind of talk a normal part of your family’s life. Now, we’re human, and we aren’t going to take advantage of every single opportunity, so we also rely on another means by which God works to save men…
Prayer. We must pray for our children. Pray for ears to hear. Pray for soft hearts. Pray for God to SAVE. Pray for His grace to help us make the most of every opportunity we have. Pray for them to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness. Pray for them to see their sinfulness. Pray for them to see their need for Jesus to save them. Pray for God’s grace to cover those times when we blow it as moms. (Admit to your kids when you blow it. Ask for their forgiveness. It is important for them to hear us say we need Jesus, too.) God hears us when we pray! God works through prayer!
Read the Bible together. You don’t need a fancy curriculum or a program. Just pick it up and read it! And read it with some feeling and animation. It’s not a boring book! Depending on attention spans, read as much or as little as you need to. Talk about it for a few minutes, also depending on their maturity and age. Pray together.
All of these things fall under scripture’s instructions to parents to train their children in the Lord. He has revealed through scripture the responsibilities of parents to pray for, instruct, and nurture their children. But does God promise that if we do those things that He will save our children? No. I can do all of those things, but I am not in control of anything. But I pray to God, who is in control of everything.
He has given me four children. I believe He plans to use me (and my husband) to bring them into the fold. He gave them to me–a believer, who wants desperately to have her own children enjoying Jesus for eternity–knowing that I will bring them up according to the means He has provided for their salvation. Are they elect by virtue of the fact that they were born to me? No. But that fact does not lead me to a fatalist attitude that I can shirk my responsibilities because “He chooses, so it doesn’t matter what I do”. I think parents are a part of the appointed means for bringing children to faith. My actions matter. He works everything together for our good and His glory.
The other aspect of all of this that gives me great peace is an understanding of His power and His grace. I was not raised in a Christian home. And yet, God used my own rotten upbringing to draw me to Himself. If my children are His, then there is nothing (no person, no circumstance) that will stand in the way of their salvation. No good thing. No bad thing. Nothing can thwart the plans and purposes of God. I find immense peace and purpose in applying the knowledge that God’s calling is effectual, powerful, and certain. It doesn’t depend on me. Salvation is all of Him, so that no one can boast. He is sovereign over the end and every step along the way. His sovereignty is a good thing. It is not something that should cause us to dread and worry. It is meant to give us peace in all things.
This may seem really silly in light of the topic, but when it comes to salvation, I’m so thankful that the decision is God’s. Leaving it up to the smarts and good decision-making skills of my kids causes much more fear and doubt than election does. Praise God for His electing grace! Without it, how lost I would be!
And another thing: my kids are sinners. And so am I. My heart wants to say to God, “Look at my precious children. How can you not save them?” My heart wants to say that we deserve Heaven. But the truth is that we do not deserve an ounce of God’s grace and mercy. I am reminded of this truth every single day. We are sinful to the core. We are selfish, sin-sick, evil, hateful, angry, arrogant, prideful, lustful, covetous–and that’s just from today! As I was taking my kids to piano practice today, I started crying because God’s goodness to me hit me right between the eyes! We were running late, and I was angry about it. And I let everybody know it. I was shocked by my own depravity in showing my anger (I think I’m so good). I sat there in the driver’s seat crying because I realized again the depth of my sin and that I know I deserve to be punished for it for all eternity, but I can’t make God punish me. “Please strike me down now. You would be right and just to do it!” He didn’t. By His grace I’m still breathing and marvelling at His mercy and justice in Jesus on the cross. We do not deserve Him.
I do not think about “what if they’re not elect” as much as I used to. I have certain responsibilities as a Christian mother, so I focus on performing those the best I can. I don’t look at my kids and wonder, “are you?” I have had to stop myself from thinking that perhaps the very means for their salvation will be used to drive them away from Christ. Either way, I’m left throwing my hands in the air because God is God. His ways and thoughts are higher and greater and purer than I can even imagine. Some of His ways are forever hidden, and it is foolish for me to try and go there with my pea brain. The Apostle Paul couldn’t do it, and neither will I. As with all things in this life, my faith rests in God alone. So, I pray and sow seed and pray some more, believing that I will reap (with shouts of joy!) a harvest of good fruit one day.