How To Respond to a Rebel

More and more we are hearing of Christian parents who are having children to stray from the teachings of Christ. There are a lot of tears and a lot of heartache. This is not the first time in history nor is it an isolated problem. Some of God’s greatest servants have had children who rebelled. Billy and Ruth Graham shed a lot of tears over Franklin. W.A. Criswell was heartbroken over his daughter. One of the main founders of Southwestern Seminary, would walk the campus and weep over his children who had gone astray. He was heard shouting, “Other vineyards have I tended, but my own I have neglected!”

What do you say? Who do you blame? What do you do? God is the perfect parent and we are His children…and we rebel. So, even perfect parents have problem children. Children have freewill also. We can stand around and point fingers all day long to cast blame…what good does that do? What is important now is the steps that are needed to reclaim the children for Christ.

The story of the prodigal son is a great passage to help us understand what happened and how to respond as a parent. I believe that the one principle that comes through the loudest is this: Parents must demonstrate love and forgiveness to their children.

I can remember the first church that I pastored very vividly, mainly because of the many mistakes that I made as a pastor. I remember working with one of the deacons of the church whose daughter was very rebellious and was dating a guy of whom the dad did not approve. The guy and girl were sexually active and she ended up pregnant. I can remember the night that I heard the deacon say in anger to his daughter, “As far as I am concerned, I have no daughter!” I will never forget the look on the face of the daughter. A few weeks after this the girl gave birth to a still-born baby. She was devastated and wanted to see her dad…but I could not convince him to go.

Establish this rule: Nothing will cause me to ever stop loving my children!

The father of the prodigal son experienced the same thing that we experience when one of our children rebels against the things that they were taught. The father experienced rejection, humiliation, and guilt. When the son walked in and asked for his inheritance, he was saying, “I value my share of the inheritance more than you…so give it to me now!” In essence, he was saying, “I wish you were dead so I could get the inheritance now.” The son rejected the dad, his customs, and his values.

This had to be humiliating. The custom of the day was that your family would buy a plot of ground and keep it in the family for generations…you simply pass it to your children and they in turn pass it to theirs. This son walked in and said, “I want it now!” The father gave it to him, and the son then sold it for cash. Oh how humiliating and disappointing that must have been to this dad…especially to see someone new move onto the land that had been in his family for years.

The father was stunned by all of this. The questions began:

  • Where did I go wrong?
  • What did I do to make him hate me?
  • Why doesn’t he want to be with me anymore?

The father’s mind went back and forth through all the mistakes that he has made as a dad. These were actions or lack of actions or words that he wished he could correct…but it was too late. The more he thought about it, the more the guilt piled up. There are times that a parent should go to the children and ask forgiveness for the mistakes made as a parent. We do not see this element in the story of the prodigal son because the story is symbolic of our relationship with God the Father…He never made mistakes so He never had to ask forgiveness.

But with all the rejection and humiliation and guilt, the story of the prodigal son is more about a loving and forgiving dad than anything!

Remember these three principles:

  • Parents must demonstrate love and forgiveness to their children.
  • Nothing will ever cause me to stop loving my children!
  • A parent should go to the children and ask forgiveness for the mistakes made as a parent.
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