“Faith and Family”Categories: Bulletin Articles, M. W. Bassford
On my father’s side, I can trace membership in the Lord’s church back to my great-great grandparents, the Dawsons (Great-Great Grandpa Bassford was a Methodist lay preacher, alas). On my mother’s side, my Breuer ancestors were Christians before the Civil War. I count myself blessed to be descended from generations of people of faith. Instead of the legacy of sin and its consequences with which many Christians struggle, my familial legacy generally is one of righteousness.
However, being related to righteous people is a far cry from being righteous oneself. Jesus makes this point in Luke 11:27-28. A woman in the crowd blesses Mary for having given birth to Him, but He replies, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” The Lord here is not denying that His mother was blessed (see Luke 1:42, for instance). Instead, He wants us to understand that as important as family can be in our spiritual lives, serving God ourselves is far more important.
Sadly, many people from godly families miss the point. They don’t necessarily abandon the faith of their parents and grandparents entirely, but neither do they embrace it for themselves. They keep showing up at church because that’s easier than having a knockdown drag-out fight with Mama, and they avoid public sin (same reason), but their lives do not reveal devotion to Christ.
Regular Bible reading? Nope. Prayer without ceasing? Not hardly. Evangelism? Ask somebody else. Hatred of secret sin? Well. . .
Sure, they keep showing up for services, on Sunday morning, at least, but one gets the distinct impression that if their family had been associated with some denominational church instead, that denominational church is where they would be attending. They are generational Christians, and their faith is somebody else’s, not their own.
Though being a generational Christian is by definition following the path of least resistance, that path also is one of deadly danger. Those who are righteous only when it is easy will stray when righteousness becomes difficult, and the devil is very good at accomplishing exactly that. The first truly alluring temptation, the first difficult trial, and the generational Christian will fall like an overripe fruit.
However, a significant break with the church may not even be necessary for Satan to achieve his goal. The Laodiceans were churchgoers. They weren’t charged with egregious sin like the Christians in Pergamum and Thyatira. In fact, they weren’t up to much at all in spiritual terms, and that was exactly the problem. In Revelation 3:19, Jesus warns them that they need to repent. Lukewarm disciples represent a win for the devil, not the Lord, and apathy is as much a part of the makeup of generational Christians as godly ancestors are.
There’s nothing wrong with having Christian parents and grandparents, but there’s something terribly wrong with trying to coast into heaven on their spiritual momentum. Even if we learned our faith from our loved ones, we have to make that faith our own. We have to be the ones who choose to hear the word of God and keep it ourselves. If we do not, our precious family legacy will count for nothing.