Why Josiah Wilberforce?

Josiah turned 3 today – which is a crazy thought! Those of you who know him will know that there is never a dull moment with Josiah! He’s our bundle of super active, totally hilarious, crazy fun joy! Team Lee is all the stronger and full of more hugs and kisses because of Josiah. So today seems like a good opportunity to tell you why we picked his name.

The story of King Josiah is a story of a young boy with a wicked father who is killed and so, at the age of 8, Josiah takes his place as king of Judah. After a long line of evil kings, Josiah walks in the way of the Lord, restoring the temple and reinstituting the laws and statutes of the Israelites. We hope that this story will serve to remind us, our Josiah, and others who know him of three main things.

Firstly, the story of Josiah is one of grace. Obviously of God’s grace towards Judah and Josiah, but also, significantly for us, God’s grace to us as parents. Josiah’s father Amon was an evil king, and yet Josiah became one of Judah’s greatest kings. So whilst we absolutely believe that our boys are given to us by God for a time, and with that comes a great responsibility to love, nurture and guide them the very best that we can, we also know that God’s grace is greater and His plan for their lives more enduring than our failings and weaknesses as parents.

Secondly, age ain’t nothing but a number! A person’s faith or relationship to God should not be judged on the basis of age. Of course it will change and develop over the years, in line with the way people grow up and change and develop, but this doesn’t make it any more ‘real’ or ‘valid’. The faith of a child, albeit perhaps less articulate to the adult ear, is no less true or beautiful to God. And God is no less able to use a child than an adult for His purposes. I think sometimes we underestimate what God can do through our children, and we expect too little of them: we run programmes and events for them; plan what we want to teach them; require them to go through courses and articulate things in a way we as adults understand before allowing them to partake in certain aspects of church life – but I don’t think this is what God sees. Of course the Bible is clear we have a duty to teach and raise up our children, pointing them to Christ all the time; but we also have a responsibility to let their ministry flourish, to let God work through them, to see what they can teach us.

Thirdly, when Josiah brings in his reforms, he does so in full force. He completely purges Judah of all traces of idol worship and other gods, in order to restore the temple of the Lord God. He doesn’t make allowances, he doesn’t turn a blind eye so long as it’s kept quiet, he doesn’t make ‘pastoral accomodations’, he doesn’t chalk things up as ‘different theological persuations’. He wants the truth and God’s way and he pursues it whole heartedly. He’s not worried how it might come across, or what people might say, or whether everyone is happy with the implications. He makes no exceptions or alterations to make it more palatable or inviting. I pray that our boys would have a heart for the way of God’s truth like this.

We gave Josiah the middle name ‘Wilberforce’ after William Wilberforce. Wilberforce fought for what he believed to be right, even though it seemed ridiculous and, at times, hopeless. He was willing to risk his reputation and career for what was right. He took the hard path and was a voice for the voiceless. This pursuit of what is right in the face of opposition is a characteristic we hope our children emulate.

We also gave the name Wilberforce because of how William Wilberforce came to understand what it means to serve God and minister. In the film ‘Amazing Grace’ there is a scene where Mr Clarkson says to William Wilberforce “Mr Wilberforce, we understand that you are having problems choosing to do the work of God, or the work of a political activist.” Hannah Moore then says “We humbly suggest that you can do both”. At the risk of tampering with this wonderful moment, I would want to say that actually, not only can you do both, but you must do both.

1 Peter 4:10-11 says “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that through everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”  If we are in Christ and living out his call on our lives, everything we do will be the work of God – we are his workmanship, created for good works (Ephesians 2:10). This means that there is no distinction between doing the work of God, and anything else we do. If you are a Christian and a political activist, then you are doing the work of God by being a political activist. If you are a Christian and a mum, then you are doing the work of God by being a mum. If you are a Christian and a vicar, then you are doing the work of God by being a vicar. There is no calling where we are any less doing the work of God, and we are therefore called to serve whole heartedly in the ministry God has put us.

To me, as a mum, I hope that this will serve as a reminder and encouragement that I’m not ‘just’ a mum: I am called by God to be a mum, and this is the work He created me for. Therefore it’s not ok to just ‘get by’, or become complacent: it’s an honour and a privilege to be called to this, and it demands my best.

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