As Paul begins writing his second letter to Timothy, he shares the gratitude he has in his heart for Timothy’s faith. He is sure that Timothy’s faith is a gift from God and he encourages Timothy to live into his faith and to display a spirit of love and self-discipline that will benefit the gospel message. Paul is sure that Timothy’s faith is secure, not just because he has spent countless hours with Timothy, but also because he has witnessed this same strong faith in Timothy’s mother and grandmother.
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.” (2 Timothy 1:5)
As Paul is writing this letter to Timothy the church is still relatively young; less than forty years old. Yet, Timothy is already a third generation Christian, or at least faith has been passed down to the third generation. Timothy’s family has already displayed a determination to pass on their faith, from one generation to another. One can almost imagine family conversations in which grandmother and mother are sharing with young Timothy what is most important. Even as Timothy ages and becomes a man, they are still praying and encouraging faith within him. It is partially because of their example that Timothy’s faith is so strong. Lois and Eunice knew that they must teach their children about the Lord.
Almost all Jewish families were encouraged to recite the shema together from Deuteronomy 6.
“Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
The text goes on to encourage families to keep these words on their heart and to recite them to their children both at home and when they are away. These words are to be a constant reminder of what is most important for the family, a constant sign pointing the children to the source of all life, Yahweh God. Lois and Eunice were Jews who knew their scriptures well. One can imagine them teaching these words to Timothy and reciting them at various times. It was their constant mentioning of faith, their constant desire to make faith the backbone of their family, that helped to pass on that faith to Timothy and the next generation.
As parents and grandparents, it is important for us today to pass on our faith to the next generation. As a church, it is important for us to pass on our faith to the children of our community. The church in the United States is shrinking. Studies show that individuals in the United States attend church regularly at a lower percentage than a few generations ago. While part of this can be attributed to a lack of evangelism, there is also evidence that many children are growing up and leaving organized religion once they reach adulthood. Some studies show as many as fifty percent or more of children who grow up attending church, will leave the church after leaving home. Obviously, there is more to faith than simply attending church, however, these statistics show that on some level, we as parents, grandparents, and churches have failed in our task to pass on the faith to the next generation. We have failed to help connect our children to the true story of the world that will help them make sense of their individual stories. We have failed to help them see that faith is relevant, and that an understanding of God actually helps the world make more sense and not less. We’ve spent so much time either withdrawing from culture to “keep them safe” or assimilating into culture “to make them relevant” that we’ve failed to teach them how to be faithful followers of God in the communities that God has placed them. Perhaps we’ve taught them facts about God, but we’ve failed to connect them in a powerful relationship to God. Because we haven’t shown them that faith matters, they abandoned their faith to pursue some other story.
But all is not lost. We should not wallow is self-pity, instead, we must rejoin the battle for the souls of our children. We still have an opportunity to help faith become relevant. We still have an opportunity to show them how to be faithful followers of God in our culture. We must show them through our own lives that faith matters. That it makes a difference in the decisions we make everyday. That it calls us to love our enemies, share our resources, and keep our word. We must show them that even through the storms of life, God is the only one who makes sense of the world. This is our primary task as parents and grandparents. We must share the faith with our children, so they can share it with their children in the future. Do not give up, nothing is as important as this task. Not sports, not school, not status. Nothing. We must pass on the faith.