“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
Whenever I write about the calling of parents and family discipleship, there is a friction that develops.
I know that there will be some families that are reading what I am writing that are in a situation like the father from the parable of the prodigal son. They have a son or daughter—or many sons and daughters—that have walked away from the church and faith in Jesus Christ and/or they are living in a way that is contrary to the teachings of their parents.
Last week, after sending out our email about the “burning heart”, we received an email from a parent that is suffering through the stress of multiple children living away from Christ. I know there are many out there that are enduring the same thing. And, those of you that are not enduring this situation, you are terrified that your children might walk away from the faith once they leave home.
So, I want to address this…, and give you a secret that will fortify your family and help draw back the ones that have walked away from the faith.
First, I want to make sure that there is no misunderstanding in this area. You can not save your son or daughter. You are not the Redeemer and your suffering will not wash away any sins. You can not do the work that is reserved for Jesus Christ alone. Only by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ will anyone be saved.
However, you are to bring them to Christ…
In order to do that, you have to be relevant and credible to your children, and they have to believe that you love them and that you love Jesus.
Love is what I want to focus on.
Don’t ever allow your children to doubt that you love them. In the story of the prodigal son, the father was waiting expectantly for his son to return. He was ready.
There was no sense of abandonment from the father. Or, that the son embarrassed his father. Or, that the son damaged the pride or ego of the father. There were no conditions put forth by the father in order for his son to come back into the fold.
The father loved his son unconditionally because he was his son and the father was primed to embrace his son as soon as he was within view. Matter of fact, the father rushed out to meet his son.
The father didn’t justify any of the actions of the son. He didn’t scold the son.
He just embraced him. As soon as the son recognized that he needed the love of the father, the father pounced on the opportunity to show his love.
This is where this discussion might get hard for some of you.
If you are experiencing rebellion from your son and daughter—no matter the age—, you need to be very suspicious that your son or daughter is not feeling loved by you.
If you are experiencing a lot of anger and rebellion in a relationship, I would investigate love first. Do everything you can to make sure they know you love them. If the rebellion is bad enough, flood it with as much love as possible. Write letters, call them, pray for them, etc.
If they are young, take them out on “dates” with just the two of you with no distraction. Soak them in love.
Just to be clear, you don’t have to change your views, accept a sin, change rules, or even back off a punishment. But, you have to make sure they know you love them just because they are who they are, and they don’t have to do anything to earn your love.
Do everything you can think of to communicate to them in a way they’ll comprehend the depth of your love for them. One last thing, time is the main way that your children will translate your actions and responses into love. If you take time with them, they will interpret it as love. Now, when I say time, I mean inconvenient time. Time that you have to carve out and plan on. Time that is not dominated by you but them. Sacrifice—willingness to give up something– is a major element of unconditional love.
Don’t underestimate the impact of this in the relationship with your children. If you have not seen it, we have been doing daily 10-minute videos called Homeschool Family Bites. We pick a word for each episode. So far, we have done attention, freedom, anger, questions, and many others. Check it out!