(July 12, 1989)
“Don’t do as I do, do as I say,” a frustrated father commands his rebellious youngster. But in the back of his mind he knows — it doesn’t work quite like that. This parent was seeing himself in his child.
Like it or not, kids are often mirrors, reflecting the way their parents look, talk, walk, and even behave. Appearance may be genetic, but certainly most commands given, most principles taught, directly or indirectly, are a reflection of mom’s and dad’s own character.
An interesting study of the branches of a family tree that grew from one very immoral couple revealed robbers, murderers, and a host of lowlife ancestors, many guilty of a great assortment of crime and immorality. In contrast, a God-fearing couple and their family tree were also studied. Its branches held highly respected bankers, statesmen, doctors, pastors, lawyers, even a vice-president. The mirror works both ways. A good example can be reflected too, not guaranteed 100%, but statistically a possibility.
Sometimes a question comes up relevant to children from “bad” homes. I remember the pleading voice of one who was afraid of becoming just like one parent, a person with a mental illness. Was that child locked into an unchangeable pattern? How could the images, impressions, and principles of life one grows up with be forgotten? How could the probability of following parental example and also becoming mentally ill be set aside?
The good news is that God offers changed lives through the miracle of a new birth. Even though the term “born again” has been exploited, misunderstood and ridiculed, it is still the only way that a person can receive a genuine new life — plus enter the family of God.
Jesus described this birth to a man named Nicodemus in John 3. Even though Nicodemus’ background was a far cry from “bad” and even though he was one of society’s elite — a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, and even though he had the best upbringing possible, Jesus told him he needed a new life. He must be born again.
A psychoanalyst will say sin (if it’s acknowledged) is the fault of our parents. Certainly, no parenting is perfect. Or they will say our flaws are the fault of our environment. Certainly, no environment is perfect. But Jesus (who incidentally created both parents and environment) says the problem lies within the human heart. We were born with a sin-nature.
He says we must take personal responsibility for the fact that we sin and fall short of all we were created to be. If we will do that, He will give us a new heart through a new birth.
The new life He gives is His life. He takes up residence in those who invite Him to do so. In that incredible union, we begin to think differently, talk differently and act differently. We have a new role model to pattern ourselves by — and a new Father.
Similar to our earthly parents, this Heavenly Father asks of us those things that reflect His character. He says, “Be ye holy for I am holy.” He commands that we love, be pure, speak truth, practice faithfulness and behave righteously — because He is love, complete pure, truth itself, totally faithful, and completely righteous. Because He lives within, He enables us to live as He commands.
After this spiritual “new birth” occurs, like physical birth, there is a growing process. We learn to leave the sinful habits of the old life behind and move toward being like the One who created us. Mature Christians walk more and more like Christ, talk like Him, and behave like Him. He promises, “we will be just like Him when we see Him as He is.”
That is the glorious hope of the child of God; not to be like dad or mom, however good, or not so good they may be, but to be just like Jesus Christ.