How many heroes can one family handle?

Penny & I visited Penshurst Place yesterday. Some of the buildings date back to 1341. Since 1552 it has been in the hands of the Sidney family. Their history is full of public service, political involvement and bravery.

Perhaps the most remarkable family events of the last 100 years were the awarding of Victoria Cross medals to both the father-in-law (John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort) and son-in-law (William Sidney, 1st Viscount De L’Isle) in successive world wars. The Victoria Cross is a medal conferred on British soldiers for exceptional valour. It is the highest possible award. You have to do something incredibly brave (i.e. what would look foolish to normal people) to win one. It’s worth reading the citations regarding the actions in which these men were involved. I guarantee you will be in awe of their courage.

It is a sad fact that the generational passing on of good character is rare in the Bible record. I’m reading 1 Kings at the moment, and the list of father to son failures is long. In fact, it is not uncommon for a ‘bad’ king to be followed by a ‘bad’ son. Speaking of Ahaziah, the Bible says, “He served and worshiped Baal and aroused the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, just as his father had done.” (1 Kings 22:53 NIV11). But a ‘good’ father to a ‘good’ son is rare. What are we to do if the hoped-for transference of good character and faith does not occur? Should we give up?

No, there is reason for hope. We will do well to remember that good influence sometimes skips a generation – or two. In 1 Kings 15 we see this comment, “Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done.” (1 Kings 15:11 NIV11). But David was not literally Asa’s father. Nonetheless, David’s influence lived on, and Asa took that same spirit and lived to different standards to those of his physical father.

“He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his ancestors had made. He even deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down and burned it in the Kidron Valley. Although he did not remove the high places, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the LORD all his life. He brought into the temple of the LORD the silver and gold and the articles that he and his father had dedicated.” (1 Kings 15:12–15 NIV11)

For sure, there are other positive ways to respond when it becomes clear that the next generation is not following good principles and teachings. But, we should never forget that the fruit of our labours may be seen in a generation or two – even after we are gone from this earth.