5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 6And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
But, whenever I read the bible I always ask, “Is this literally or figuratively speaking? Do I understand the translation and meaning of the phrases?” There are a few pastors I trust when researching scripture. The one at the church I attend (of course…otherwise why would I go there?), John MacArthur, the late Jonathan Edwards, and John Piper. Regarding these verses, John Piper explains the following,
His aim is to spare people from being cursed. That's the mercy we saw in verse 5. But to spare people from being cursed, people must be changed. Specifically, it it says their hearts must be changed. And even more specifically it says that the disposition of the heart toward fathers and children must be changed….
>          Fathers, you can have your heart turned away from your children simply by ignoring them. By being so swallowed up in your work that all they get are the dregs of your life.
>          You can have your heart turned away from your children by being abusive. It may be that without even hearing yourself your communication with them is a litany of disapproval and put-downs. Why? Because your heart is not toward them. You don't feel what they feel. Your heart is frozen in a posture of habitual unkindness. Or worse in our day is the increase (or increasingly revealed) sexual abuse of children. And where, then, is the father's heart? It is curled around like a snake in love with its own tail and consuming itself on its own filthy passions.
>          Or you can have your heart turned away from your children through an embittered spirit of disappointment: that you are forgotten by them, or that they have let you down in the way they live, or that they have taken you for granted and never said thanks for all you did. Where is the heart then? In the poisoned puddle of self-pity that threatens to grow into an ocean of resentment.
(By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org. http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/he-will-turn-the-hearts-of-the-fathers-to-the-children.)
As spouses and parents we have HUGE responsibilities and great power when it comes to our family. The hearts of our spouse and children are in our hands. We can encourage them or crush them, every minute of the day, with our words and/or actions. I feel each of us makes a conscious decision to behave in a loving or hateful manner.