Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Just this last week, during conversations about teens and young adults who have been raised in Christian homes who have walked away from Christ, I’ve had this verse quoted to me out of context three times. Sadly, I rarely hear it used otherwise.
Usually, what I hear is, “But it’s OK – God’s promised that they will eventually turn back to Him.” followed by Proverbs 22:6.
I know this is going to burst a few bubbles, and probably upset a LOT of you, but this verse is NOT a promise – it is a proverb. There’s a big difference.
A promise is God’s statement of what He will do (examples are Gen. 12:1-3 and Matthew 10:40-42).
A proverb is a short saying or illustration of that which is generally true; unlike with God’s promises, we should expect there to be exceptions. Proverbs 10:26 is a good example. I think we all know godly people who have died young and wicked ones who are in their 80s and 90s, but as a general observation, those who live a godly lifestyle tend to live longer than those who do not.
So, in light of this, how should we react to our children turning away from Christ?
The exact same way we should respond to anyone who has turned their backs on God. We need to pray for them persistently, love them as Christ does, and both model a life of service to Him and encourage them to do the same.