There is a phrase that I have heard, but I am not sure everybody uses it. The phrase is, “The walls have ears.” The meaning of the phrase is that adults need to be careful what they say. Children not only can hear what adults say, but they are listening. This is true even when we don’t think they can hear or understand what we are saying. But children understand more than we realize. Without a doubt, every parent can attest to the truth of this saying.
This saying has caused me sadness in recent days. As the readers of this blog well know, there is an ongoing fight between Free Grace folks and Lordship Salvation/Reformed theology folks about the assurance of salvation. For most people, the word “fight” is too strong because the Lordship Salvation side has won the war as far as the majority of Evangelical Christians are concerned. Free Grace folks are definitely considered a minority.
There is, of course, a sad result of this situation. Most people attending even conservative Evangelical churches do not have assurance of their salvation. That is the direct result of adopting a Lordship Salvation view of eternal salvation. It teaches that one must have good works to have any measure of assurance and these good works must continue until the end of one’s life in order to keep whatever assurance a person might have. Since nobody knows if he will continue with a holy lifestyle, assurance becomes an impossibility. Also, how many good works must a person have to feel confident he is eternally saved?
It is sad enough that many adults live with this fear and agony. We all know such people and it is sad to see. However, the sadness is alleviated somewhat by knowing that these are adults we are talking about, and in many cases, they have been presented with the gospel of grace but are unwilling to believe it.
But there is no way to diminish the sadness in this area when it comes to children. I have heard three stories recently that are heart breaking. A Lordship Salvation missionary told me how his 10-year-old daughter came to him and told him she did not think she would go to heaven and was afraid. The reason why she felt that way is because she did not enjoy going to different churches to raise support and she didn’t like her younger brother like she should. The missionary father had tears in his eyes when he told the story and said that it broke his heart to hear his daughter say these things to him.
I read the second story in a Christian magazine. Another 10-year-old, this time a boy, was dying of cancer. His family was very active in a Reformed church. He told his parents he wanted to be saved. They told him that he could not be saved because he was not serious enough and did not feel sorry enough for his sins. It was only after he demonstrated sufficiently that he was serious enough about the depths of his sin did they tell him he could pray for eternal salvation.
I became aware of the third story on Tik Tok. A woman put a video up, talking about her eight-year-old daughter. She had tears in her eyes as she told how she was the daughter of a pastor. But her daughter came to her and told her she too was afraid because she thought she was going to hell. The reason she thought that way is because she just did so many things that were bad. Even though the video did not reveal what kind of church they attended, it is not difficult to hear the echoes of Lordship thought. The girl certainly did not arrive at her fears in a vacuum. While crying, the mother made this telling statement: “I have let my daughter down.”
I realize that many Lordship Salvation folks will see these stories as evidence of God working in the lives of children by showing them the depth of their sins. Surely, the parents of the boy dying of cancer felt that way. However, it is interesting that the parents of the other children clearly did not.
My guess is that the other two parents felt that their children were just children and were innocent and good. They weren’t guilty of really bad sins like adultery or murder. They shouldn’t think they weren’t good enough to rest in their salvation. I also think they probably thought about how Jesus dealt with children during His ministry. Any child that thought of the Lord with fear because of his or her sin clearly did not understand His love and grace.
It is hard to say, but as harsh as it sounds, the parents are at fault here. The mother was right—she had let her daughter down. These children did not come up with these theological ideas on their own. They had heard them from their parents, their pastors, and even pastors they were related to. Perhaps when the adults spoke among themselves and promoted Lordship Salvation and its lack of assurance, they did not realize their children were listening. What they were saying did not apply to the little ones! If they thought this through, maybe they would have said something like, “But this doesn’t apply to you. Jesus loves you more than we do. He gives you eternal life as a free gift when you simply believe in Him for it. Don’t worry about being good enough.”
I am not sure how the parents in the first and third story will address these issues with their children. These kids are simply believing what they have heard from them. They should be proud of what their kids say, but it is gut wrenching to these parents. They know something is wrong, even if they can’t put their finger on it. If they are not willing to give up their Lordship Salvation view of eternal salvation and (lack of) assurance, maybe a little advice is in order. When you get together—whether in church, Bible study, or just friendly theological discussions—take extra precautions. The walls have ears.