Luke 15 is the chapter of lost things – a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son. You can read my first blog post about it here. In this post, I’m moved to write about the problems of living with rebellious children. You see, before Luke 15:12, when the youngest son leaves the family home, there was probably turmoil in the home. The oldest son had always been pretty obedient. No real problems for the parents to address or correct but when the second son arrived corrective discipline was new to them. Anger was an issue for the child. Outright disobedience was their way. May parents are left asking questions like “Why didn’t he respond like the older son?” or “What did we do wrong?”. Many parents are heartbroken and confused by unbelieving children – particularly if it’s the second or third child. Often it is difficult to understand why the first child turns out outwardly obedient and compliant and the second child, although raised well and with the same instruction and love, makes such awful, destructive choices in life.
How do you love your child when you know that the one you love is “eating the pods that the pigs ate” in a “far country”, living a squanderous life? How do you keep loving? Well for most this is much more of a present reality than a far off one. Most children don’t leave home and spend their inheritance. Instead, they treat your home like a hotel. They come and go as they please without lifting so much as a finger to help the home. So, how do you keep loving them? Here’s seven “don’ts” for you to think about …
1. Don’t give up praying
Here is the blunt truth – you can’t save your child. There is only One who can that that is God through Jesus. So keep giving him/her up to God and let Him do the transforming work. Be faithful and don’t give up. We are to
“pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1)
The word from God is this:
“… take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.” (2 Chronicles 15:7)
“I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish” (Jeremiah 31:25).
2. Don’t get sidetracked
Here’s the point, the problem with rebellious people isn’t drugs or sex or cigarettes or pornography or laziness or crime. The problem with rebellion is the heart. Whilst it is easy to focus on the outworkings of rebellion, the bottom line is that they need Jesus, so keep Him the main thing. Remind them often of his love for them and the only reason to forsake the drugs or sex or cigarettes or pornography or laziness or crime is because of Jesus. Don’t focus so much on behaviour without focussing on their need for a Saviour. No attempt to reach your child will have any long lasting effect if the goal isn’t to help them know Jesus.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. (Romans 14:17–18)
… a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ … (Galatians 2:16)
3. Don’t pretend everything is ok
Everything is not ok. You love them dearly and long for them to be reconciled to Christ. Everything is not ok, but here is where sensitivity is needed. Parents: you need to reach out to your child in a way that they can hear. Never reaching out isn’t an option for you, don’t ignore the fact that they are not ok with Christ. The longer you act as though everything is ok – the more your child will begin to think that everything is ok, when it’s not.
For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:38-39)
4. Don’t raise the standard.
There is a different standard that is required for Christians and Non-Christians. If your child has forsaken the Lord then they are not going to live like a Christian. Unfortunately this means that they will not only be forsaking the Lord, but it will feel like they are forsaking you too. They are not going to live by the standards by which you raised them. also beYou know that he has forsaken the faith, so don’t expect him to live by the standards you raised him with.
“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)
Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, (Acts 15:19)
5. Don’t create weighty requirements
Be reminded of your child’s biggest problem … they need Jesus. So, don’t create too many requirements for sticking around. If they decide to spend the day with you, take that as a God given opportunity to love them back to Jesus. Don’t lessen the likelihood of an opportunity to be with your child by too many rules.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)
6. Don’t rebuke.
This is a difficult one but it’s particularly pertinent to older children. Rebuke is needed but we need to learn to be gentle in our rebuke. We need to plead and not nag! So treat them in a way that makes it clear that the road they are heading on is a road of destruction. We don’t want to see our children destroyed by sin – let this be known. Let your heart be heard.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
7. Don’t isolate them
Churches are wonderful places to raise children. No doubt in your church you’ve got someone who you can connect with your child, who is able to speak to them and hear from them in a much more open way than you are able to. Find someone who they trust, has wise biblical counsel and isn’t afraid of stating the bold honest truth. Keep other Christians in their lives. Let them take the lead.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24–25)