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Give Me Back My Child

Professor C. M. Gullerud was the first President of Immanuel Lutheran College.

We here reprint the first chapel talk ever delivered at that institution following its move to the Eau Claire campus.

It was reprinted in the Lutheran Spokesman of October 1963.

And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, ‘O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!’” (2 Samuel 18:33 KJV)

This text for the opening devotion of the school year was suggested by the title to a magazine article: “Give me Back my Child.” We can think of no more anguished cry by a parent than just this cry “Give me back my child.” This could be the cry of a parent who has lost his child by a sudden and unexpected death. It could also be the cry of a parent who has lost his child to the world and its sinful pleasures. It could be the cry of a parent who has sent his child to a school where it has been educated away from God and His eternal truth. And what an accusation that would be for those to whom that child had been entrusted.

In David’s case, his cry came as a result of the announcement that his son was dead. Twice he had asked with a quivering heart: “Is the young man safe?” In instructing his captains for the charge against the enemy he had left express orders “Deal gently for my sake with Absalom.” There was much behind that request, for David knew full well that Absalom was a wayward son and not prepared to meet his Maker. He had the natural feelings of a father, but above all he thought of his spiritual welfare. When his orders were not carried out and Joab killed Absalom with three darts through the heart, David, upon hearing the news, said what he did: “O Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God, I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son.” Absalom was lost to his father in more ways than one, and the most serious of all was this that he was eternally lost. He would rather have forfeited his own life than to see this happen. We can well understand the grief of this father.

This whole story has a lesson for all of us here at Immanuel Lutheran College. It reminds us who are the teachers that we are to fulfill our calling here in such a way that no parent will find cause to come and say to us “Give me back my child. You have failed in the trust we reposed in you. You did not break for him the Bread of Life. You did not remind him of his sins that he might repent. You did not hold before his heart and soul the Lord Jesus Christ and Him crucified for the world’s sins.” Surely as faithful teachers it is our earnest resolve that this may not happen. We pray that the Lord will give us the grace that we may preach and teach grace and grace alone through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. As surely as the goodness and grace of God shines through and permeates our instruction, no parent will find reason to say “Give me back my child.”

On the other side, you students are to be mindful that you take to heart the Christian instruction that is brought to you and laid upon your heart and soul in order that you may be a joy to your parents and to your teachers. Penitently you will grieve over your sins daily, and joyfully embrace the forgiveness of sins so dearly bought by Jesus Christ your Savior. May the day never come that we must say to the parents, “We must send your child back to you.” We want you here. With all our heart we desire to keep you here that we may do you good, so that when the day comes when you graduate we may joyfully send you forth as messengers of the Lord and bearers of His grace to a sinful world. God grant this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

C. M. Gullerud