When I’ve asked different Christians to tell the story of God’s work in their lives, there is a certain reticence among those who grew up in a Christian home and took hold of the faith that was passed from their parents. Unless there was some significant period of rebellion or wandering, they often say that there is little to tell.
Compared to the stories of dramatic reversal, where a life is pulled from the brink of destruction through the grace of Jesus, the more mundane accounts of God’s faithfulness in and through families appear dull. What sort of story is it to grow up in a Christian home and then end up a Christian?
My first answer is that people need to know that God must rescue “good people,” as well as those who’s lives are falling apart. Someone who grows up in a family who loves and serves Christ will usually have a life that looks moral and upright. One of the unique aspects of Christianity is that our good deeds do not endear us to God. He is not impressed when we act as if his favor could be earned or bought. So, it is incredibly important for Christians who have grown up in stable families with moral lives, to tell of their desperate dependance upon the grace of God. The skeptical world needs hear that mercy is a gift, setting good people free from the cycle of pride and insecurity that comes from relating to God on the basis of our religious performance. As a Christian I need to hear again and again that the grace of God forgives and renews good people who come from good families.
My second answer is continuing to develop but it is connected to three men known as the Great Cappadocians. In the midst of great opposition they defended and developed Christian Orthodoxy in the fourth century. The lived amazing lives and as I was covering them in a class at church I was struck by the influence of their families. Two of the three Capadocians, Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa, were brothers who came from a preeminent Christian family. Their paternal grandparents along with their father and uncle (who would become a bishop) lived in the forests for seven years, hiding during persecution by the Roman government. One of their maternal grandparents died under this persecution. Their older sister founded a monastic community and was so known for her wisdom that she was called, “the Teacher.” Both Basil and Gregory were bishops along with another of their brothers. The other Cappadocian, Gregory of Nazianzus, also came from a Christian family known for their devoted service to Christ. For each of these men, their families were instrumental in their nurture and growth as leaders in Christ’s church. Where would they be were it otherwise?
So, as I study further in the history of God’s work in this world I will pay further attention to the families of the faithful who have gone before us. I need to remember to tell the stories of God’s work within families and not just the sensational “darkness to light” reversals. Finally, I need to pray that I would be the sort of father who sets up his children to love and serve Jesus in greater ways that i have.