To Turn the Hearts of the Fathers to the Children

---By Joseph Wang

The church here has been studying the Gospel of Luke lately. In Chapter One the angel Gabriel appeared to Zachariah and informed him that his petition to have a son would be answered. Furthermore, many things concerning this son were revealed at that time. Among these, a clause "to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children" was mentioned (Luke 1: 17 b). I believe I have read this Gospel at least a couple of times in the past. Each time this particular clause did not catch my attention, nor touch me. However, it really struck me this time. I wondered what the intrinsic significance of this clause is. I have checked several reference books; unfortunately they offered little help to me. Before going on from here, I would like to say loudly and clearly that it is not my intention at all to explain this clause. Rather, I wish to only write down my inspiration as follows.

In our tradition, the father in a family is usually the head and dominates over his children and all family matters. We are not to say that the father's thinking, concept, will, decision etc. are wrong or evil. We can say fairly and certainly, however, that usually he will not think what his children think, consider, wish, want or need. What he thinks and decides are only from his own view point: this is good for his children, and that is not good for his children, and so forth. Consequently, the decisions the father makes may be good, applicable and workable, but sometimes may not be so. This perhaps is the so-called generation gap and some unpleasant relationship may develop as a result.

At this juncture we may ask how we can avoid this kind of situation. The answer may lie in the clause "to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children". This clause may be so interpreted that the father should take his children's heart as his heart, their mind as his mind, and their interest as his interest. This means he should think what they think and consider what they consider. In this way, the father and the children may be of the same mind (Rom.12: 16 a, 15: 5 b; 1 Peter 3:8 a) and think the same thing (2 Cor. 13: 11 b; Phil. 2:2 b, 4:2 b). Thus a harmonious relationship, an atmosphere of one accord, may be achieved in the family.

Similarly, this can also be applied in serving the young saints in our church. We serving ones surely need to know the ones we serve in a deeper way, not only their person and personality, but also their mind, thinking and need. This requires our time and effort to play with them, blend with them, open to them, cherish and nourish them, supply them instead of demanding from them, eventually to gain their hearts. Only then can service be healthy, effective and fruitful.

This does not mean that the fathers should totally satisfy their children's desire, nor the serving ones to the young saints. There should be a proper boundary established where you or they cannot cross over and you have to hold firmly on that line. Both parties should learn or be taught to know and practice this principle. Otherwise, a messy and unmanageable situation would be developed.

Furthermore, the clause "to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children" was quoted from a verse in the Old Testament, where he --- Elijah, realized as John the Baptist in Luke 1 --- will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers (Mal 4: 6 a). We really need to worship our Lord and to see how wise, beautiful, complete and perfect His words are. It is not just one-way demanding, but rather two-way cooperation and complementing one another.

This principle may be applied to all the human relations, including marriages. Indeed God's love and wisdom are clearly expressed here. The balance, mutuality, peace and harmony can surely and fully be realized. We all should see this, and all the families need this. Even more, our church should practice this. Only then can Psalm 133, a song of ascents of King David, be truly experienced and enjoyed.

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