If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid. Deuteronomy 21:18-21
Wow, that is quite a passage to open today’s blog! Thankfully, we don’t stone rebellious children in this part of the world, no matter how rebellious they become. I am sure the parents who reached the point of bringing their son to the elders at the gate had tried everything they could think of to reign their son in. I have no doubt they suffered ridicule from their neighbors and family because of their son. They probably thought they were failures as parents.
Many of my counselee’s are concerned they have really blown it in parenting and maybe you are too. Perhaps you weren’t a Christian when your children were young and by the time you became one their formative years were over. Some of you were in churches that taught corrupt doctrine, or you attended a fellowship that was more cult than church. Have you struggled in living a faithful Christian life and now your kids think you are a hypocrite? It could also be that you are a solid, growing Christian in a great church who’s followed the best advise by the best experts. Like many other parents, you have a child or children who are rebellious and undisciplined. They might be in trouble with the law, or use drugs and alcohol. Some parents consider themselves a failure if their daughter gets pregnant or their son moves in with his girlfriend. It isn’t always that dramatic, some parents are crushed because despite all they have poured into them, their children refuse to believe and get saved.
Parents from all backgrounds are brokenhearted over their children and some are ashamed and fearful their parenting will be exposed as the problem or the reason their son or daughter has taken a worldly path. Allow me to encourage you with these words, God has not promised any of us that if we “do it all right” our children will not sin. He has not promised any parent that if the children are in church 3 times weekly and Sunday school and Bible club they will grow up to be Christ followers. Proverbs 22:6 is not a guarantee nor a promise of salvation for our children, it is a reminder that if our children are left to themselves they will follow their natural sinful bend.
Contrary to popular belief, our children are not born sinless. It is not their environment that corrupts them, nor is it that their inner child has not been placated. Children are born as sinners and will remain sinners apart from a supernatural working of God by which He regenerates them and saves their souls.
The responsibility of every parent is to approach unbelieving and rebellious children with the gospel both in word and in life. A spoken gospel that is not lived out leads to being labeled as a hypocrite by your child. You cannot expect to escape that label if you say one thing and do another. You must submit to the authorities in your life and respect them for your children to consider your demand for the same as valid. You must be honest and admit your own failures and errors if you are going to preach to your kids the importance of honesty and integrity. Living the gospel in each of those situations means you admit you are a sinner who struggles with sinning. You remind yourself (and them) that you need grace and mercy from God to succeed in doing right, and you (and they) need Christ to atone for sin.
One practical way to live the gospel I can share with you comes from my perspective as a parent of three now grown children. The single best piece of advise or counsel I can share with you is to admit to your children when you are wrong and ask their forgiveness. On those occasions you are harsh or sinfully angry with them tell them you realize you have sinned against them, and confess your specific sin to them. Follow it up with a request for forgiveness. A generic, “I apologize” just does not equal confessing your sin and a humble request for forgiveness.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16 (NIV)
It is sometimes difficult to admit to your kids that you sinned against them, and often it feels very uncomfortable. Parent’s who have been right regardless of being in the wrong will struggle with this more than others. This is an indication of a prideful heart and repentance must be sought. I have seen the implementation of confession and requesting forgiveness make an enormous change in relationships and even cause a softening of heart toward spiritual things.
A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor. Proverbs 29:23 (NASB)
God is faithful to His Word. Begin to humble yourself before your kids when you sin and you just might begin to see changes in them too.