Some time ago, I read a devotional by Milton Vincent in which he made an arresting comment. Writing to fathers in particular, he said, “Your passions are the most contagious thing about you.” That may not be absolutely and always true in the same way that 2+2=4. After all, some passions may be the most repulsive thing about a person. Many a child has come to hate some parental passion because the child’s interests were so divergent from those of the parent that the parent’s insistence that the child share his or her passion turned the child completely off. But it is certainly true that children tend to “catch” the things their parents are passionate about. How many little boys grow up loving the Chicago Bears because that was their fathers’ favorite football team, or loving Chevrolets for no other reason than that Chevrolet was their fathers’ favorite make of car? I wanted a Scofield Bible when I was a boy. Because my father was passionate about the Scofield Bible, I became passionate about it. It took two years of saving every penny I received to afford one, but one of the happiest days of my young life occurred when I was able to march into the Christian bookstore and plunk down cash to buy a Bible like my dad’s.
We often don’t realize what we are passionate about until we see that passion manifested in our children. Sometimes the revelation is heartwarming and encouraging. But sometimes it is sad and shocking. COVID-19 served as a stark reminder that we tend to spread our contagion to those we are closest to. We wore masks and practiced social distancing in order to avoid infecting those we loved. We took precautions, inconvenienced ourselves—even when we weren’t convinced it was necessary—in order to protect the health of those we loved.
Sadly, many of us carry a contagion far worse than COVID-19—passions that when contracted by our children will result in their spiritual death. Yet we won’t inconvenience ourselves to protect others and wind up infecting our children with a passion for sports, or social media. Our children contract from us the disease of needing to be popular or fashionable. And those illnesses choke out other healthy things, like love for the Lord and His Word, a healthy prayer life, genuine love for and fellowship with other believers. We wonder why our children are so worldly, so rebellious, so selfish. We wonder why they have no interest in church, no relationship with other Christians, no interest in God. And we fail to see that they have succumbed to our passions. But the disease that didn’t succeed in talking our life is powerful and more destructive in their young bodies. It takes hold quickly and viciously begins squeezing the life out of them.
Isn’t it significant that in both the Old and New Testaments David is described as a man after God’s own heart (I Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22)? David was far from being a perfect man, but the passions of His Heavenly Father were David’s passions. The interests of God were David’s interests. God’s will was David’s will. The apostle Paul quotes God as explaining that being a man after His own heart meant that David would “do all My will” (Acts. 13:22b). David had caught God’s passion.
What about us? Are our children and those we influence spiritually lethargic? Do we find them indifferent, unresponsive, even antagonistic toward the truths of God? Perhaps they caught that disease from us? Perhaps they never developed a taste for the Lord because He was absent from our table. As a little boy I had no appetite and liked almost nothing nourishing except fresh fruit. But my mother put good food on the table at every meal and my father insisted that I eat a small portion of everything—every time. Eventually, I came to really enjoy a great variety of foods that were good for me. We can’t manufacture passion in ourselves—much less in others. But what we are passionate about will be manifest—often most clearly in our children. May we determine to eat daily at least a little portion of what is good for us that we might develop a taste for God’s nutritious truth and pass that passion for the Lord, His Word, and true righteousness on to our children and others we may influence.
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