Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Is My Son My Brother?

 

Recently, my seven-year-old son partook of the communion elements with our church body for the first time. As a Christian father who also happens to be a pastor, the whole situation made me nervous. He's our oldest child and this had never happened to us. Though we had been waiting somewhat expectantly for this moment, it became clear in my heart that I wasn't quite ready.

Our approach to local church ordinances (communion and baptism) for our children has been to let them bring it up to us first. We don't want to coerce them in any way. Ultimately, if the Lord has so worked in their hearts to bring them to faith in Jesus Christ, He will work in their hearts to impart His means of grace in their lives. However, I didn't quite feel that confidence when the Lord was actually doing that work.

A few months ago, my son started asking me if he could participate in the Lord's Supper. He has heard the gospel over and over again, and he has been able to articulate aspects of it for as long as any of us can remember. But does he have genuine faith? Has he truly been born again? How strict am I supposed to be as a gatekeeper for these sorts of things -- not only as his father, but as a pastor?

These are impossible questions.

Last month, on the night before the Lord's Day, we spoke about communion per his request. I asked him what the gospel is and what the Lord's Supper symbolizes. He gave good answers and his disposition was earnest. He wanted to be identified with the believing body of Christians. This conversation was good, but I still felt anxious about it all.

The following morning I arrived at the church building and began my usual Sunday morning preparatory activities on the property. I prayed with the other pastors of the church, went off to Sunday School, and found myself sitting in the first row by the pulpit as another man delivered the communion homily. I had forgotten all about my son's desire to participate. 

It is our custom to offer a devotional about Christ's death and then provide space and time for God's people to come and get their own bread and juice before sitting and waiting for the moment we can all eat and drink together. I usually wait until the very end to make my way to the table. On that day, when the people were told to come and obtain the elements and I started to bow my head, I felt a little seven-year-old hand on my knee.

"Daddy, can I take communion today?"

There was no escaping this moment. Though we just talked through this the night before, I needed one more confirmation.

"What's the gospel?" I asked.

He told me about how Jesus, who is God, died on the cross to pay for our sins and rose again that we would be made right with with God by faith alone. At that point, I had to respond as Peter did in Acts 11 in reference to baptism. "Who was I that I could stand in God's way?" (v. 17)

We got in line together and I helped him manage the bread and the juice. We sat down and waited to be led in consuming the elements together as a unified church body. He followed all the directions very intently, then he went back to his seat with my other children and I went up to the pulpit to deliver the sermon.

And that was it.

Why was I so nervous about it all? Well, for starters, there's that warning about communion that doesn't exist for any other local church activity. There's no questioning the seriousness of Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 11. I am my son's father and it's my duty to protect him from foolish decisions that would bring about severe consequences. I am also my son's pastor and it's my duty to protect the sanctity of the Lord's Supper. These are high responsibilities. 

Yet, it is God the Father who draws people to Himself. Fathers and pastors are not being faithful if they seek to add inertia to God's drawing of His own. Do we need to apply wisdom? Yes. Discernment? Absolutely. Road blocks? Heaven forbid.

My anxiety about the whole ordeal began to erode as I considered the facts of the matter. My son has heard the gospel, the Lord has obviously done a work in his heart, and now he desires to be identified with the believing Christian community. It's not my duty to do all that I can to squelch this desire and see if it still remains; it should be my goal to come alongside what God is already doing and ask Him to use me to nurture the word implanted, that it would grow and bear fruit for His glory.

Generally speaking, this is a messy and uncertain process -- and it's the same process we deal with in much of Christian living. We're faced with challenges like this in counseling, evangelism, family relationships, and all kinds of other contexts. Where should we stand in the way and where should we get out of the way? It's so hard to know, but we entrust our heart and our motives to the Lord.

As for me and my son, I just want to help him to grow in his knowledge of and love for God. I don't want to put out the flame lit by the Spirit of the Lord.

After all, my son is my brother, and I want to do all that I can to help him.

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