I’ve just started a 3 week seminar track at City Church on relating to family. Last night we began with relationships with our parents.
Here’s the section on relating to Christian parents. I grew up in a loving home but not a Christian home in which Christ and his priorities governed our lives as children. It’s easy for me to think that growing up in a Christian home has all the advantages and should be very easy compared to others. Well that’s not necessarily so, as a number of friends at City and elsewhere have highlighted.
A. What makes it so hard?
1. Them being disappointed in us
Some Christian children have the sense, as they enter adulthood, that they have not lived up to the expectations of parents.
a) Do they feel perhaps that we have not made the most of the privileges and opportunities they did not have ( if they were first generation Christians and we grew up in a Christian home). The thought that we should be further on in our faith or more committed to Christ. Maybe they think we should be in Christian work as they are/were.
b) or perhaps they think we are taking them for granted (because we are busy, maybe busy doing Christian things) and not honouring them into adulthood
c) or perhaps they struggle with our failings and lack of wisdom. Parents can fail to remember how immaturity impacts our living. They think back to their earlier selves and suppose they wouldn’t make the mistake we are about to make (job, relationship,etc.) forgetting that wisdom is learned over a lifetime.
2. We being disappointed in them
a) Seeing sin in their lives
Maybe we think they are not living
As consistently, as radically, as faithfully as we think they should given the gospel.
Here’s one comment from a friend:
‘Another challenge can be when you see un-Godliness in your parents. As an adult you are more aware of your own sin, and many of your attitudes are often passed down. When the Spirit highlights these to you, it can be difficult when you see them in your parents too, and easy to get angry and frustrated with them. As children you don’t consider that your parents are sinful and are battling sin. As now fellow adults we must remember that as much as we still sin and are a work in progress, so are they. We have to give them as much grace in their sanctification as they have given us for 18+ years!’
3. Theological differences
Consider the following three testimonies
1. ‘When I moved church it did create a fair amount of tension with my mother. She saw me as abandoning my local church, turning my back on the things I was involved in at my ‘home’ church and moving to a church whose theology she didn’t agree with and, indeed, vehemently opposed with regards to some issues.’
2. ‘I’ve seen people bulldoze in when they ‘discover’ a different way of doing things and really insult their parents with their new-found way of doing church etc. This can also have an effect on younger siblings still at home. If their older siblings start being openly critical about your church and so on, this can be very hard to handle if you are still at home.’
3. One of the challenges can be when you take a different line on something e.g. your ecclesiology, views on baptism etc. I guess this can be particularly difficult if your parents are very sure and thought through. A change in view can understandably be taken as a verdict on your up-bringing and your parents’ current beliefs and practices. The thing is, it is in a way a judgment! There is never an easy way to disagree with your parents.
How we honour our parents in such situations is a vital part of our Christian lives. Whatever we might think of our parents’ faith, home church, etc. we are not to stand in judgment over those for whom Christ died (c.f. 1 Corinthians 8, Romans 14-15).
For some children of Christians the battle can be parents who want us to go on in our faith but they also want us to succeed in ‘worldly’ terms.
One person’s said:
Their normal desires as parents for their children (go to uni, get a good job, get married, buy a house have kids etc.) clashes with God’s desires for you. these don’t necessarily have to be different. Let me give an example, if a child express an interest and feels called to overseas mission but the parents advise, focus on getting a good job, house family and then you can go
Why would that be so?
a) Worldly Pride: They want us to be seen to be succeeding as they talk with friends and family about us
b) Human Fear: In some cases, the risks that we are willing to take ourselves are risks our parents struggle to let us face as their children, in case things don’t work out.
c) A parent’s instinctive concern: Sometimes they love us too much to let us go!
Conclusion - When it comes to Christian parents..
1. It can be pretty short-sighted, not to say ungrateful to God, if we choose to focus on what is ‘wrong’. Is it all we can do to criticise God for giving us parents, however imperfect they may be, when they have served us well and sought to raise us in the faith?
2. Christian parents are a powerful testimony to the providential grace of God.
One very helpful comment from a friend:
‘Did we choose that family? Did we pick faithful parents? The fact that God placed us there to receive the gospel is a powerful picture of his election before we were even born. 5 year olds who get converted (like me) are very clearly pursued by God, not the other way around!’
3.Christian parents are a reason to thank God
‘I often hear Christians talk about being brought up in a Christian home with a sense of embarrassment.’ It shouldn’t be so.
4. Honouring our Christian parents gives them a great opportunity to grow in their own faith
As our parents see us living out our faith before them in a humble yet godly way, knowing how and when to challenge the wisdom of parents and how and when to submit they are blessed.
One father and grand-father said:
A Christian can have a very positive effect on their parent, just by their example and can often be a release for them from their rigid ideas…I am amazed when I sit and listen to my children’s wisdom and spiritual understanding. Parents need to let go and earn the respect and love of their children.
(With special thanks to those who offered their wisdom – you know who you are!)
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