3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
This seems like a direct echo of verse 4 of 2nd John, which came up yesterday. However, there he is speaking of children of “the chosen lady,” whereas here he is speaking of his own spiritual children. There he says “great joy,” but here he says, “no greater joy.” There is indeed great joy for parents, both physical and spiritual, when their children, again both biological/adopted and spiritual, do well. The world being under the control (to a point) of the liar, (1 John 5:19, John 8:44) there are many temptations to deviate from the truth. That’s where spiritual growth and maturity come in. If we weren’t tested/tempted, we wouldn’t grow, so that’s why God allows the current state of affairs. The absence of such temptation is certainly something to look forward to in heaven! Children misbehaving don’t cease to be children, but they certainly try the patience of their parents. In extreme situations, some parents go so far as to legally disown their physical children, which is tragic when it happens. With spiritual children there is no legal framework, but removal from church rolls is sometimes practiced. (In ecclesiastical settings, that is called excommunication.) However, even such steps don’t break the original parent/child bond, however distorted it might become. God is the ultimate Father, and whereas there isn’t direct insemination involved, He does create our physical bodies. More importantly, He has provided a way for us to become His children indeed by faith, as John talks about in John 1:12-13 and Paul talks about in Romans 8:15 and 23 and elsewhere. Paul uses the Roman legal term of “adoption.” Those involved with that legal process with physical children can understand that very well. In any case, God’s relationship with us His children is echoed in the interaction between parents and children on earth, both physical and spiritual. If we examine the joy we have when our children do well, we can understand, at least somewhat, God’s desire for us to do well, and indeed, how we can give Him joy. He’s certainly worthy of all the joy we can give him!
I have certainly experienced this myself, both with my physical children and my spiritual children. I have also experienced the heartache of my children wandering from the truth. That makes me not want to give my heavenly Father such pain. I have also learned that whatever the level of my authority over them, their decisions are ultimately their own. I was talking with one of my spiritual children yesterday, and he was mentioning how his recent studies in psychology had helped him understand that the domestic violence and divorce between his parents when he was a child had greatly impacted him in various ways. I acknowledged that, but stressed that even so, as an adult he bears responsibility for his actions right now. Society loves to give us excuses to blame others for our sins, which is proof of the devil’s influence. Part of submitting to God and resisting the devil (James 4:7) is refusing those excuses and repenting in truth. God can and will heal those wounds, whatever their source, but we have to own them and submit them to Him honestly. That’s a big step toward “walking in the truth,” as John talks about here. I desire that all of my children, of any description, walk in the truth, so I’ve got to set the example for them, refusing all the lies of the devil even when he twists facts to suit his purposes.
Father, thank You for this reminder, and for all that You are doing here. Help me not get in Your way, but cooperate fully with You in word and deed, both in prayer and in my interactions with people, so that Your will may be done in everything, on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!