My job at the moment is developing discipleship in one Anglican diocese, so as you can imagine I do quite a bit of thinking about what discipleship is, what it means, and what it looks like. Here are some random thoughts, gleaned from my reflection on the Bible and current thinking …
Funny how things work out. Last week in this series I had a rant about parenting and discipleship, and elsewhere I’ve been blogging about the Deuteronomic history and the decline and fall of the Israelite empire. What an exciting life I lead! Then this morning we were reading about Manesseh, the king of Judah who led Israel into occult practices so that ‘they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before them’. The interesting part of this tragic tale, though, comes in 2 Chronicles 33:3 where we discover that Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah. Reading on, we discover that after his radical turn-around and repentance following Assyrian torture, he was succeeded by his son Amon, who again ‘did evil in the eyes of the Lord’.
I made the point when writing about this era of history that although there were some high points and some godly reforming kings, the general trend was downhill and where there were reforms they were usually short-lived and only lasted as long as the good king in question. So Joash, who repaired and re-opened the Temple, was succeeded by his son Amaziah, who, while he tried to follow in his father’s footsteps, failed to stamp out idolatry. Hezekiah, as we have seen, was followed by Manesseh, the nadir of evil, and the other great reformer, Josiah, was succeeded by his son Jehoahaz, who lasted in his evil practices for 3 months, before being succeeded in turn by Jehoiakim, who again ‘did evil in the eyes of the Lord’.
I couldn’t help but think that wonderful though their attempts to renew and reform the nation were, as parents these godly kings left a certain amount to be desired. They had clearly failed totally to form their children as godly people, with a heart for the Lord and a desire to see the nation blessed and prospering through its faithfulness to God. In fact we see this quite a bit in the pages of Scripture, and again it screams out at me about the vital importance of discipling our kids. What’s the point of being godly and wise, of seeking to bring health to our communities, if within a whisker of our death things revert to how they were, or worse?
I sense from the evidence in last week’s blog that we have a serious problem in the church, a massive loss of nerve among parents, and a lot of work to do among young couples on the edge of being parents. One commentator on 2 Chronicles says that we shouldn’t be too hard on poor Manesseh, because the political scene at the time made godliness very difficult. Does that let us off the hook, because we live in a time when political correctness has eaten away at stable family life almost to the point of extinction? Or do we not need to bring much further up our agenda in the church the equipping of parents faithfully to disciple their kids? The life of our nation might just be at stake.
(That’s enough parenting rants. Ed.)