As I close this series on wayward children, I must say that the previous articles were easier to write than this one. Each parent may revel in the joys of the different stages of child development while not understanding the responsibility attached to that privilege (Prov. 22:6). Seeking not to attack any who may have erred – because we are all imperfect parents (Rom. 3:23) – this article is written to recognize some of the pitfalls and to suggest ways to help. As a father of grown children, this verse is becoming more and more meaningful to me. Most readers know of a family where one, several or all of the children have left the Christian path of their upbringing. no doubt all parents wrestle in prayer over their children’s choice of paths. In parts 1 and 2 of this Family article, we’ve considered that some of our children became wayward because of their own lack of commitment, while others may have been driven away by hypocrisy, legalism, majoring on the minors, shooting the wounded and lukewarmness in others in the church. Parents are not immune to these faults that may have affected their own children. While children may be blamed for going astray, waywardness may be but a symptom of a problem of the parent. In his book, To The Parents Of My Grandchildren, G. C. Willis gives us several examples of the latter.
- Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s command brought the downfall of the human race into sin (Rom. 5:12) and may have led to Cain’s refusal to heed the Lord’s warning (Gen. 4:7).
- Noah’s self-indulgence (drunkenness) allowed his son Ham to dishonor him and resulted in a curse put on the next generation (Gen. 9:21-25).
- Lot’s pursuit of wealth rather than of God (Gen. 13:10-11) caused the destruction of almost all of his family. Although he was a righteous man vexed by the sins of Sodom (2 Pet. 2:8), His attachment to Sodom brought ruin to his family.
Other illustrations from the Old Testament include some of the very first kings of Israel:
- Ahab and Jezebel’s errors produced terrible results for their children (1 Ki. 21:5-25).
- Saul rejected the word of the Lord and was rejected by God from being king, and his son lost the right to the throne after him (1 Sam. 15:23).
- David’s infidelity resulted in rebellion within his own home and cost the lives of four of his children (2 Sam. 12:5-12).
- Solomon’s disobedience in going after many gods and the influence of his many heathen wives caused his son to lose control of 10 tribes (1 Ki. 11:5-12).
Of course, examples for our learning (Rom. 15:4) do not need to come only from the Bible. Through the ages, the faults of parents have negatively affected their children in both the spiritual and secular realms. Each of us is aware of an example where a family (maybe our own) has been damaged or where children have been driven away by their parent’s actions. Unfortunately, outsiders often see this more easily than those involved (2 Sam. 12:1-13).
What Can The Children Do?
The responsibility of children needs to be reiterated. The Bible points out that children are to obey their parents (Eph. 6:1). But they come to an age when they must make their own decisions as to salvation. As children mature and become more responsible for their own decisions, they will have to answer to the Lord for any waywardness and rebellion. But woe to the parent who caused a child’s waywardness. “Whoever (this includes parents) causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea (Mk. 9:42).
What Can Parents Do?
When parents are responsible for their children’s decision to leave the pathway of faith, there are still ways that they can assist in the restoration and the redirection of their children. Parents should confess their errors, first to the Lord and then to the affected children. They may also confess their sins to mature Christian mentors who can counsel and support them in the process of restoration (Jas. 5:16). Then, there is more that observers can do.
What Can We Do?
- We should pray that the Lord show both the parent and the wayward child where correction is needed. Many do not see themselves as part of the problem. “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me” (Ps. 19:12-13).
- We should be willing to help both the wayward children and their parents. “If a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of gentleness, considering yourself, lest you are also tempted” (Gal. 6:1).
- Mature Christians should offer to mentor parents who have failed. They may offer assistance to bring reconciliation with their children and rebuild a proper relationship within the family. “We were gentle among you, even as a nursing mother cherishes her own children” (1 Th. 2:7).
- We should encourage parents of wayward children to humbly confess their part in the problem and to ask their offended children for forgiveness. “Confess your trespasses one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed” (Jas. 5:16).
- We should confess to the Lord that we have failed (Ezra 9:6-7), and have not been willing to confront the problems that are driving away the next generation. “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you hast received and heard; hold fast and repent” (Rev. 3:2-3a).
- We should have more teaching and ministry, both by word and example, on the responsibilities of parents and children. “He Himself gave some to be … pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints … for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). “The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior … teachers of good things” (Ti. 2:3).
- Most importantly, we need to pray (1 Th. 5:17). Pray believing! Pray expecting! Pray that the Lord restores those who are wayward. Pray for those who may have driven them away. Ask the Lord to bring them closer to Himself for His glory and for their blessing. “He restores my soul; he leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Ps. 23:3).
By Hank Blok
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org