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Arianna was heartsick over the moral choices her adult son was making. Even more heartrending was his answer when Arianna asked him where he saw Jesus in all of this.

“I’m having to rethink that,” her son said. “I’ve had questions about Jesus for some time.”

Those were the most painful words Arianna had ever heard. Her son’s behavior was one thing, but losing his faith in Jesus? That was something else entirely.

Arianna launched into a self-directed diatribe about where she had gone wrong as a mother. Maybe she should have homeschooled him? Maybe she let him get too busy with sports and didn’t emphasize faith quite enough?

Is this my fault? she wondered. Was I a bad parent?

As a pastor, it’s always difficult telling parents that loving Jesus, raising children in a solid church, and taking time at home to instill the basics of the faith doesn’t guarantee any particular outcome. I wish I could promise that our faithful efforts will result in our kids loving and following God, but we’re not programming computers. We’re raising young adults made in the image of God, and that image rests on humanity’s ability to make choices.

I took Arianna through Mark 13:12b-13a where Jesus, talking to believers, says, “Children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of my name…” In a promise none of us want to claim, Jesus foretold that some believers would see their children rebel, not just against them, but against Him.

Our sharing in the sufferings of Christ may have to include sharing in the heartbreak of loved ones who walk away from practicing the truth.

Arianna’s response was classic: “I prefer the verse about ‘train up a child in the way he should go and in the end he won’t depart from it.’”

We both laughed. Don’t we all?

Another severe promise from Jesus seems to focus particularly on children: “From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:52-53).

Jesus is telling his followers that following him doesn’t guarantee our children will follow him. Read the rest of this article at


By Gary Thomas