One of the most familiar verses on spiritual warfare is Ephesians 6:12, where we learn that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood. And yet, while we read that verse and meditate upon its meaning, some of us are confronted with the reality that it seems we do indeed wrestle with flesh and blood, the flesh and blood that is related to us. Sometimes, the greatest spiritual battles seem to take place in and around our extended family.
The reasons for such conflict are manifold. While the Bible clearly declares that when a man and woman become one flesh and become their own household, parents struggle with the biblical directive to let go. They misconstrue Scripture, assuming that honor dictates blind obedience. Some parents expect that their children need to manage their own households exactly as they have. And when their children begin to teach their children’s children concepts which seem foreign, parents can be personally insulted and feel that their children are condemning and discounting what they learned.
Honoring Believing & Unbelieving Parents
Of course, the potential for conflict is even more heightened when children come to faith after leaving their parents’ home. Well-meaning yet unregenerate parents can stand with increasing dismay as their children embrace elements of conservative Christianity: homeschooling, modesty, creationism, biblical church structure. Maybe even (gasp) suggesting that Santa Claus isn’t real. The familial debates ensue, phone calls become tense, visits become less frequent, holidays become feared. And then, sometimes, children move away, seeking to align themselves with a more like-minded community or church environment. Parents can feel betrayed and abandoned. Perhaps they can even inadvertently strive to guilt their children into compromising their stands. What do we do to when such conflict comes?
There are a number of crucial things that we need to understand and remember with regard to honor and submission when it comes to these issues. Let me first address Christian parents, those of us with adult children. When the Lord gives us children, he does so for His purpose, not ours.
Christian Parents Must Remember
Psalm 127 tells us that children are a heritage from the Lord, they are like arrows in the hand of a mighty warrior. Arrows, if left in a quiver, are worthless during the time of war. They need to be sent out, sometimes away from us, in order that they might fulfill their mission that God has given to them. And the thing to remember is this: their mission is not necessarily our mission.
My goal, as a Christian father, is to raise my children up so that they will embrace the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ in a richer and more meaningful way than I ever have. That means, in some ways, I expect that they will live differently than me. And I need to remember, my role in their lives changes from that of authoritarian to complementarian. I have become an advisor to my adult children. If we would understand and accept our responsibility, and our limitations, toward our adult children, conflicts would be assuaged, as we trust the Lord and His sovereignty.
And even to those who have married and established their own households, it is indeed important for you to always remember that you are to honor your parents. If nothing else, remember that your children are watching you; they are learning from you, and when you honor your parents, your children are learning to honor you.
Honor is not Blind Obedience
But again, honor is not blind obedience. Yet it does entail listening, considering their words, considering their concerns, remembering that God has given them more decades on this Earth to experience the trials and pitfalls of life. When your parents come to you with a concern about the way you are living your life or raising your children, listen to them, and balance what they are saying against the Word of God. You are always called to obey God rather than man, but it could be that God might speak through your parents and give you needed insight. And remember, the Lord might use you to help your parents better understand the word of God if you approach them with a humble and respectful heart.
And lastly, if you have parents who are not Christians, the points in the paragraphs above still apply. But even more than that, the Lord can use your prayerful countenance and balanced responses to communicate the gospel to your lost parents. It is a wonderful and amazing thing when we see the forces of darkness pushed back, especially when that means that our parents are set free from the penalty of their sin. This can happen as we stand on the front lines for truth exercising humility and grace, and remembering what the real battle is all about.
This article was first published in the November 2013 issue of Every Thought Captive magazine.