A life of rebellion can pull children into a web of regret. Once they are in it, it is hard for them to get out. As parents we need to help them find their way back into the bosom of the family. It should be our aim, regardless of what our children have done to us, to do everything we can to help restore them to fellowship with God and be in harmony with their extended family.
We are called to be peacemakers (1Pt 3:7). Our government sometimes sends out our armed troops to some hot spots in the world to serve as peacekeepers. Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are the peacekeepers.” He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Peacekeepers are simply people with big guns and more money in their pockets to keep a rebellion from getting out of hand. Peacekeeping doesn’t solve the rebellion; it just keeps it in check.
A peacemaker helps bring rebellion to an end. That’s what we’re called to do with members of our family who have chosen a life of rebellion. Peacemaking isn’t about avoiding conflict or trying to calm down someone’s anger. It is using whatever means that is beneficial to bringing another person to a point of reconciliation and restoration. It might mean working to avoid a conflict or bringing a conflict to an end. I want to suggest a few principles to follow when acting on God’s leading in restoring a rebellious child back to God and the family:
Talk things out with God before you discuss them with the rebellious child. You want to make sure your heart is right before you attempt to get your child’s heart right. God may need to change you first. He most likely has been teaching you things all along. Allow Him to continue to teach you. Talk with Him, but also listen to Him.
Don’t be afraid to voice your own despair and frustration to God. You may have a good deal of anger of your own to ventilate with Him. Speak what is on your heart respectfully to Him. But speak it!
God speaks very clearly to us through His Word. Put the Scriptures before you and meditate on them. Ask God to reveal to you the unmet needs in your son or daughter that might have stirred him or her to anger. God may wait days, weeks, or months before He gives you the calm assurance that you are ready to make your approach. Wait for His peace. In the meantime, God may not only be changing your heart; He may also be changing your son’s or daughter’s heart, too.
Take the first step. You may have been on the receiving end of a lot of dishonor. Your fragile ego tells you, “It’s your child’s duty to take the first step. He/she’s the one that has rebelled and caused you pain. He/she should have to initiate peace talk.”
Don’t let your flesh do the talking or allow your wounded heart to call the shots. Let God’s Spirit take the lead. And remember that holding back only hurts you. The Bible says that refusing to deal with unresolved conflict will block your prayers.
Identify with their pain. People don’t get angry and rebel for no reason. There may be a lot of pain stirred up inside them. Listen, speak less. Ask questions.
Go with the goal of sympathizing before attempting to find solutions. It’s not the time to rehearse the hurts or try to clarify the mistakes your child has made. Nor is it the time to remind him/her just how much pain he/she has dished out.
The key at this stage of the restoration process is to communicate that your child is tremendously valuable to you. His/her opinions, feelings and wounds matters to you. The Living Bible says, “We must bear the ‘burden’ of being considerate of the doubts and fears of others. Let’s please the other fellow, not ourselves, and do what is for his good” (Rom 15:2).
You may have to listen to some accusations and unfounded assaults. Don’t get into defending yourself. Let your child get the bile out of his/her system. When he/she sees that you aren’t rationalizing, explaining, or arguing, it will show him/her that you are more interested in him/her than in yourself. And remember, if you have to take some insults you don’t deserve, you’ll be doing the same thing for your son or daughter that Christ had to do for you.
Own up to the negative part you played. No parent is perfect. And if you got caught off guard by a child’s rebellion, you may have done or said things you shouldn’t have. Because your child has been so close to you, you may have unintentionally let him/her down.
Don’t try to explain why you did what you did or said what you said. Just ask for forgiveness. Jesus said, “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt 7:5).
Your attitude of humility and remorse can play a huge role in changing your rebellious child’s attitude. Be thorough, humble, and gentle as you confess the part you played in his/her decision to turn his/her back on God’s best plans. Ask for forgiveness.
Deal with the problem, not the person. It is very important that you go through the process, not accusing your children or convincing them of things they did wrong. God will reveal that to them. This is not the time to attach blame to their actions or to rehearse your hurt.
The book of Proverbs reminds us that “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Pro15:1). Your tone of voice, your posture, and your facial expressions can communicate so much that is in your heart. Just let your child see God’s grace and mercy in your eyes and feel it in your voice. The Bible says, “The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction” (Pro16:21).
Regardless of whether they use sarcasm, put-downs, arrogance, or insults, don’t give back in kind. Paul said, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph4:29).
Figure out how you can cooperate rather than compete. You may have to swallow some pride. It’s not that you are compromising on absolute principles but rather looking for some common ground where you and your child can both agree. The key here is that you’re not trying to win a battle. Your goal is unity, not victory.
Don’t aim at resolving; aim at restoring. There’s no way both sides of a major conflict are going to agree on everything. Don’t even try. Reconciliation isn’t about evening scores and fixing all the problems that have occurred. Your goal is the restoration of the relationship between you and your child, not in resolving every difference of opinion. When hearts are brought back together, many of the differences between them become irrelevant.
Not even the best of friends and the healthiest married couples see eye to eye on everything. That’s not the goal of love anyway. Grace has room for different perspectives and different interpretations of a situation. Concentrate on bringing your hearts back together and deal with the differences later, after God has brought healing to your relationship. Shalom.
- Free from the Stronghold of Rebellion (ptl2010.com)