The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. ESV Ezekiel 18:20
Many years ago I believed children were always a direct reflection on their parents. If the kids failed in life, it directly corresponded to poor parenting. If the parents did things “right” (praying for their kids, molding them spiritually, applying appropriate discipline) the parents could guarantee their children would follow the Lord Jesus. Of course if we breastfed, homeschooled, never let them watch PG-13 movies and only fed them organic food, we could be guaranteed they would join the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation (and perhaps qualify as one of the 24 elders around the throne). Sadly, I’ve seen these dreams dashed in so many situations that I’ve come to rethink my seriously flawed parental beliefs.
While I still believe our parenting significantly impacts our children, and I believe we can raise the probability they will embrace the Lord Jesus if we follow Biblical teaching, I’ve come to the conclusion each child must make their own decision to follow Christ. Sadly, some will choose not to (at least for a season, and perhaps for a lifetime). I recently sat in a pastor’s meeting where we discussed the opioid epidemic. Many of the pastors in the room (men I greatly respect and whom I believe parented well) acknowledged one or more of their children struggled with an addiction of some sort. I’ve had way too many parents in my office (the breastfeeding/homeschooling/no PG-13 movies kind of parents) crushed as they watched their children embrace the very opposite of everything they tried to instill. I think God hints at this in His conversation with Ezekiel outlined above. One man may live a righteous life and his son live an evil life. The grandson may live righteously. Only God knows the outcome of our children.
I don’t write this to discourage you, but rather to focus your hope. Please parent to the best of your abilities, but place your hope in the gospel, not in your methods. Yes, lead your children to Jesus, but recognize they have to trust Him. Pray, trust God, and commit your children to Him. Only He can direct their hearts to Him.