September 15, 2011

Christian Parent? Difficult Child? Listen Up!

Are you dealing with a difficult child? I'm not referring here to an adult child, but a minor, one for whom you are responsible. How does one make sense of what seems (at times) unreasoning, unpredictable, and unrelenting?

 During a conversation with a parent struggling with a difficult teenage child, someone said the following: "We did everything they told us to do. From the time he was a baby, we took him to church and Sunday School, prayed with and for him, read the Bible to him, loved him, spent time with him, listened to him, lived faithfully and honestly before him, taught him right from wrong, tried to keep him away from negative influences among friends and in the media---yet he seems to have rejected everything we taught him and he seems determined to go in the other direction.

 He's disobedient and disrespectful. We've tried counseling, family conferences, house rules, you name it. None of it works. We are at our wit's end!!! Now what do we do?"

 Perhaps it's time to do nothing and to remember this truth from Ephesians 2:8 " For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—"

 Unredeemed humanity will do all kinds and types of things.And yes, it's the nature of teens to break away --to some degree-- from parental control. But a limited breaking away from parental control does not mean one has to be rude, mouthy, and disrespectful. It is the nature of people to be wrong and love it when they are unredeemed. Salvation is a gift, and only God can give it. We can help lay the groundwork for salvation, but that groundwork does not assure salvation for the object of our efforts.

 Parents are (rightfully) commanded by God to live well (not perfectly!) and honestly before their children because that day-to-day testimony gives strength and credence to the truth that God's way is best. Living rightfully before someone is good and should be done, but those works will never assure that someone will be saved and choose to follow God. The Amplified Bible puts Ephesians 2:8 this way: "For it is by free grace (God's unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ's salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God--"

 No matter how much we strive to train someone and model the right behavior for them, we cannot force our children to accept the gift of God--salvation. Our striving will not make it happen--not now, not ever.

Yes, we can and should pray for our children to follow Christ and choose salvation. But we should also know that this choice is one they cannot and will not make apart of God's grace operating in their lives and their acceptance of that gift of saving grace. No, it isn't an easy answer, but it's a truthful one.

 Regardless of what your child or children will choose concerning God, know this from Romans 8: 31-39 (NIV)

 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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