Malachi 4:5-6 “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse” (NRSV).
Luke 1:17 “With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (NRSV)
These two passages are linked by virtue of John the Baptist, who would soon rise up as the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus Christ to make preparations for him. I think it is singularly compelling that an integral aspect of his ministry was not only to preach repentance and baptism for the remission of sins and to point to the One who would baptize with fire, but also to turn the hearts of families to each other, young and old, mothers, fathers, and children. His task was not to entertain, conduct marketing campaigns, build buildings, appease the fragile egos of the religious elite, or to make a name for himself. His purpose was to point the people to Jesus Christ and in so doing, invite them into loving relationship with God and each other.
This challenges me. It stirs the waters of my heart. I feel compelled to focus more attention on turning the hearts of families to each other, than to meet the cultural expectations to achieve certain standards of professional success in my area of ministry. What a relief. What a joy. While I will certainly pursue the best possible solutions to fulfill God’s assignment for me in my ministry context, those solutions will be informed by the central commitment to turn the hearts of families to each other and to lead the way in helping them become a missional part of their neighborhoods and the larger community, both at church and outside of it.