Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rebellious Children

I recently read a question on another blog asking a mother what she would do if her children developed views that were not Christ centered. The question was not addressed to me…and I jumped into the conversation prematurely (violating many of the principles set forth in Proverbs chapter 10) and did more to harm the conversation than to move it along. My apologies to you if you were involved in that conversation. It did cause me to think, however, about the underlying question. What is the appropriate parental response in this situation, from a biblical perspective?

Now first, I realize many unbelievers read this blog. I am sensitive to that fact. Regardless of what we call ourselves; Christian, Buddhist, humanist, Hindu, atheist, agnostic….we all have SIGNIFICANT influence in how our children view the world. The bible is sensitive to this fact. In Proverbs 22:6 we are told, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” As with all other Proverbs…this is a principle set forth by God…NOT a promise. I can raise my children in the fear and admonition of the Lord and they can still rebel and reject His offers of mercy. The principle is, though, that they have a much greater likelihood of repentance and accepting the Lordship of Christ if I “train them up in the way they should go.” I believe this principle holds true for other worldviews as well. A quick look at the world will tell us that much. That is why we see most people raised in western countries claiming to be Christians, just as most people raised in Middle Eastern countries claim to be Muslims. It is easy to see that children raised by people who do not think deeply about these matters…would, in turn, grow to be adults who ignore or do not think deeply about spirituality. This, of course, holds across the spectrum. As a side note…I also believe that most people who claim to be Christians, Muslims, Catholics, agnostics, etc. do not really understand what they are saying and are merely claiming a heritage. While I would love to get into a broader discussion with any proponent of an alternative (to Christianity) philosophy…this post is not doing that. As a Christian I have a high calling to have well thought out reasoning for the things I do…especially fundamental things, like parenting. So the rest of this post will primarily be relevant only to Christians who believe that the Holy Scriptures contain the infallible wisdom of the very real, non-silent, holy, and only living God. If you are an unbeliever I promise you will be offended if you keep reading. God specifically designed Christianity to be a stumbling block to the unbeliever. True Christianity (not typically on display in most American churches) is diametrically opposed to the “natural” thought systems currently prevalent in western culture.

First things first. I became a Father before I became a Christian…an obedient, spirit-filled Christian anyway. Some of you reading this will be much Godlier fathers than I am and I could learn a lot from you. This post is as much about me working out my understanding as it is teaching others. If you have something to add…please chime in. Sometimes when I read what I have written I am struck by how dogmatic I sound. Please accept the following as I wrote it…with a humble spirit.

Childhood is over. It is too late to “train the child up in the way he should go”. Obviously parental love is important. That must continue, and even increase. Obviously, praying for your heathen child will be easy for a Christian parent. Why? What does a Christian believe? All unregenerate souls spend eternity suffering in a very real place called hell. Jesus taught about hell more than nearly any other topic. Any true disciple of Christ cannot ignore this reality. The fact that it is your child who is in rebellion does not change the reality of where he/she (I hate political correctness…from here on it will be “he”) will go when he dies. That is fundamental to following Christ and it is a stumbling block to many people. If that does not drive you to your knees begging the Lord for the salvation of your child…then what does? You cannot “save” your child. You can only do your best to show them the love of Christ. As most of you know…shining the light of Christ on a darkened soul is often very offensive to those living in rebellion. Your unrepentant child will likely not thank you for it. In fact they may be hostile. Just keep loving and praying though. Don’t stop.

Now, for those of us with multiple kids. Older siblings have SIGNIFICANT influence on younger children. It is our job as parents to manage this. If I had an older son, who was a rebellious whore-monger, practicing homosexual, pornographer, rapist, murderer, and drunkard (whore-monger is one of the funniest of all hyphenated words in my opinion….totally irrelevant…sorry) then, once he is out of the house and living on his own, I would do everything in my power to limit his influence on his younger siblings still under my roof. First and foremost would be not just reducing but eliminating any of the time the younger siblings spend alone with the rebellious child. Again, this only seems radical if you deny that the eternal future of your children is hanging in the balance.

As for the sinful practices of the child….I would do what I do now with my smaller children. When my 9 year old says something rude to her big sister…my wife and I do not tell her she is a rude person….we tell her that God calls us to be kind and to lift others up in love. We tell her that her actions were sinful and rude, while maintaining her dignity by not defining her as that. On the other hand we DO also teach (not us but the bible) that we are eventually defined by what we think…what we do…what we live. That is why it is important to learn self control and obedience as a child. I, personally, did not learn those things as a child and spent many years in severe sin…drug abuse, debauchery, leading others astray, and yes…whore-mongering. If my adult child was a practicing homosexual, or was an outspoken atheist, or just someone who didn’t care to think about these things…of course I would still love them. Of course they would still have a welcome place with me. But I would not have the same attitude toward their sinfulness as they have come to expect from modern western culture. I would not condone any portions of their lifestyle that was sinful or allow displays of it in my home or around my minor children. I would not beat around the bush. My position would be clear to them.

In Ephesians 6 we are told: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

We literally live in a spiritual war zone. We fight against not only demonic activity and the sin of fallen man….but philosophies, and established worldly patterns of thought. Handling a rebellious adult/child must be viewed from this perspective. Love and shine the light of Christ, and do so with a sense of urgency…as if your child is dying. We cannot save our children. We can only show them the one who can.

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