How much do you love your children? How much do you love your grandchildren? To conscientious Christians, children and grandchildren represent one of life’s most important and unique treasures.
Few sacrifices are rejected if their well being is at stake. Regardless of circumstances, their well being is priority for parents or grandparents. At birth our concern is enormous, and that concern grows as they grow. In adolescent years, our concern passes description.
From years one to twenty-one, we make every possible preparation for their development and future. Does my child have a learning disability? Where can I get help for my child? Does my child have a medical problem? Where can I get treatment for my child? Does my child need special training? Where can I find it for my child?
We provide them the best educational opportunity we can afford. We create special opportunities for them in every form of development from athletics to talent. We alter our adult schedule and run ourselves crazy for them. We do everything possible to build their self-images, develop their skills, teach them poise, and give them advantages mentally, psychologically, and physically.
I pray you consider for a long time these things I share with you.
We as Christians understand parents have a spiritual responsibility to provide our children spiritual instruction and guidance.
That responsibility existed from Christianity’s beginning.
Ephesians 6:1-4 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (This refers to one of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20:12 with its focus on the responsibility on adult children.)
- If they honor God, they can obey their parents without problem.
- Parents have not abused them, neglected them, refused to love them, or done things to generate and nurture a lasting anger in them.
- Instead, the parents provide them an example of how to live a disciplined life devoted to God and His instructions.
Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.
- Parents’ relationship with their children should not create and nurture a continuing frustration producing a state of discontentment.
- The severity and fault finding that destroys the spirit should not characterize the parents’ relationship with their children.
- Parents, do not be deceived into believing that our parental faith in and commitment to Jesus Christ guarantees our children automatically will become Christian adults.
The Old Testament has a number of examples of godly persons whose children did not follow God.
Perhaps the greatest period of Israelite godliness came in Joshua’s leadership.
Judges 2:7 “The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of the Lord which He had done for Israel.”
What a testimony to godly influence!
Then Judges 2:10 notes, “All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.”
I do not think you could convince me that Joshua did not teach godliness to his children. Yet, his descendants did not follow God. I conclude they were deliberately ignorant and willfully forgetful.
Samuel was a powerful spiritual influence in Israel in an extremely ungodly period.
Listen to 1 Samuel 8:3 “His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice.”
We are still blessed by some of his powerful thoughts. In the New Testament he is still known as the man after God’s own heart. Yet, many of his children were truly ungodly.
Hezekiah led one of Judah’s few spiritual reforms.
Listen to 2 Kings 18:3, 5 “He did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done. …He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.”
Now listen to what is said about his son, Manasseh in 2 Kings 21:2, 9: “He did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel. …But they did not listen, and Manasseh seduced them to do evil more than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the sons of Israel.”
The New Testament covers too brief a historical period to include such detail. The most important factor in determining what your child becomes as a spiritual adult is the person he or she marries. Your child will make that choice largely to your exclusion. You will not choose the person your child “falls in love” with. You will not choose how the experience of “falling in love” will affect your child. If you try to exercise an inflexible control over the people your child dates, you likely will severely injure your relationship with your child.
While you certainly must provide guidance, there are restrictions on the guidance you can provide.
Attempts to provide inflexible control can alienate, create an unhealthy dependence, or drive your child to the person of your disapproval.
If you try to structure, control, direct, or alter your child’s marriage, you create more serious problems than you correct. Rarely is continuous parental involvement in a child’s marriage constructive. Attempting to “run or fix” a child’s marriage often produces undesirable results:
- Impeding or destroying their maturing process.
- Destruction of healthy independence.
- Creation of a sick dependence on the parent.
- Interference in a child’s marriage can produce many bad things and few good things.
We should understand that. Look at the impact of your parents’ unwanted advice and interference in your marriage. Recall the problems, stress, anger, and complications produced when your parents felt like they needed to structure an aspect of your marriage. Do not deceive yourself into believing your actions will be viewed as constructive and thereby appreciated. The possibility of your child experiencing a serious marriage crisis is frightening.
The fact that you provide them the best home, best training, best environment, and best spiritual foundation you can provide does not eliminate the possibility of your child experiencing a serious marriage crisis.
Your initial reaction may be, “That cannot be true!”
For the sake of reflection, recall married people you know from 5 years younger than you to 5 years older than you. How many people did you go to school, college, or church with who are now divorced, separated, or in deeply troubled marriages? And those are just the situations your know about! Every major social influence in this society (today) works against “once for life” marriage, not in support of it. Consider a living nightmare.
- You witness your own child in an abusive, unloving, selfish, inconsiderate marriage.
- You watch as it happens causing your child suffering, pain, and agony.
- You see what this is doing to your child as a person.
- You witness your grandchildren in such a marriage.
- As you watch, there is little you can do.
- You cannot fix it.
- You cannot “make it go away.”
- You do not dare try to take control for fear of making things worse.
- You cannot make the relationship healthy.
If such happens in your family, let me suggest what to pray for.
- Pray he or she is in a congregation that believes in loving those that hurt and reaches out to those who are troubled.
- Pray he or she is part of a people who help the distressed.
- Pray he or she is not part of a congregation who turns it back on “Christians who have problems like that.”
- Pray they are under a compassionate eldership who believes in shepherding.
- Pray they are under elders who know how to listen and be understanding.
- Pray they know how to be constructively supportive.
- Pray they believe in keeping confidences.
- Pray they are in a congregation devoted to administrating Jesus’ spiritual healing.
- Pray that scripturally uninformed members do not control the congregation.
- Pray their congregation is not filled with Christians who feel it is their duty to say:
- “If you genuinely believed in Christ, you would not have a problem like that.”
- “Real Christians do not have marriage problems.”
- “You are not a spiritual person.”
- “If you trusted God like I do, this never would have happened.”
Constantly help us be a congregation that brings the troubled to Jesus’ forgiving healing, to Jesus’ compassion, to Jesus’ hope, to Jesus’ help. Help us want to be just Christians who are not afraid to let Jesus teach us how to compassionately care. Help us be a people that troubled Christians can turn to without fear because we are ruled by the Great Physician. Help us be the kind of people who care in the same way the first congregations cared.
Why do this? We want to be just Christians. We want to be a congregation of people who fit the image of Jesus’ expectations. We want to be an oasis of spiritual healing for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren when worlds collapse and life falls apart. In a world filled with hopeless struggle, we want to be a refreshing place of healing. May we each say, “That attitude begins with me.”