This week was a week of tears in the Berding household. We cried as we sent our oldest daughter, Lydia, overseas into a needy and difficult region of the world as an ambassador for Jesus Christ. She will be gone for at least one year, and is open to and actively praying about making a long-term commitment after that year. We cried before we sent her. And we cried afterwards. But we will not hinder her from going out. Quite to the contrary, Trudi and I are entirely supportive of the mission Lydia is on; she is going out with our full blessing. But many young people don’t enjoy the support of their parents as they depart for overseas service, and many never actually make it—in large part because their parents have opposed them. Their Christian parents…! Family opposition may be the number one reason young people with a call to overseas missions don’t ever arrive there. And this is a grave sin on the part of the parents.
This past week my wife spoke with someone who unabashedly responded to learning about our daughter’s plans: “I could never allow my daughter to go overseas. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I would never allow it!”
Jesus commissioned us to make disciples of all nations. This isn’t a general command; Jesus’ words are intended to change the way each of us conducts our lives. Every one of us should be strategically committed to reaching the world with the good news about Jesus Christ in some active way. But not if this call touches our children, right?
No, that’s not right. Have you ever heard the expression “not in my backyard” (sometimes shortened to NIMBY)? People will vote to support, say, nuclear energy, but they don’t want a reactor built in the city in which they live. They believe in general that homeless shelters ought to be built, but oppose the construction of shelters in their own neighborhood. Similarly, we believe in sending out missionaries in general, but often oppose our own children when they express a desire to go.
We might not directly oppose our children—like the woman who “shared” her sentiments with my wife this past week—but we find ways to sneak in comments in our conversations that undermine our sons’ or daughters’ resolve to go. Brothers and sisters, if anything is sin, this is! If you have a son or daughter who is open to taking the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world, your Christian responsibility is to encourage that willingness unless there is a truly compelling reason to act otherwise.
Jesus is worthy of being exalted among the nations! This truth necessarily entails that many of us are called to release our children to go as emissaries of the gospel. That includes my wife and me, despite the anguish we feel in our daughter living on the other side of a very large ocean. And if you have children, it includes you as well.