Loving Your Rebel

Confusing, isn't it, that kids brought up in a loving, Christian home choose to rebel against their parents, or worse, against God? After all, they've had Jesus' love served up in huge helpings. Many have enjoyed the luxuries of a deep Christian heritage — some since the day they were born. Yet they still turn their backs on truth.

If you are one of those parents with a rebellious son or daughter, please take heart. God knows what you are going through, In fact, He told us how to handle this dilemma in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15, which shows us that even God — the perfect Father — has children who rebel. But notice He isn't panicking, nor is He beating himself up, You shouldn't either.

If you are in the midst of your child's rebellion, here are some things to help you through this season.

1. Employ the power of prayer.

We can help prepare the young person's heart, but it is God who is going to change it. Pray for your child every day, and don't be ashamed to recruit others to pray for him.

2. Ask for his forgiveness for ways you may have failed him.

Remove any obstacle that would block him from moving toward forgiveness himself.

3. Let consequences do their work.

To the best of your ability, let him face the results of his choices. Resist the urge to intervene; you don't want to stop the process of repentance.

4. Turn to the Bible.

Sometimes the line gets fuzzy between maintaining a tender heart and allowing consequences to happen. That's when you need to lean on God for divine wisdom. James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."

5. Don't add bitterness to his rebellion.

Keep all lines of communication open. Enjoy interaction with him outside the times you are forced to deal with his rebellious attitude. Give him plenty of reasons to believe you not only still love him, but also enjoy his company and have confidence in his future.

6. Don't let your rebellious child ruin your other relationships.

Sometimes rebellion requires that you put boundaries in your life so the situation doesn't adversely affect your other children or your marriage.

7. Make sure the rebel knows he always has room to repent.

He needs to believe that your door is always open. Like the prodigal, your rebellious child needs to have confidence that if or when he comes to his senses, you have a place for him at your table, as well as in your heart.

8. Be willing for God to use you to help others.

Be available to help other people going through similar problems. As 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 reminds us, "Praise be to the God and Father … who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."

9. Make your life more attractive.

Give the prodigal a reason to want to turn around. You don't want to exemplify the things that may have turned him off to faith. Show him what a vibrant grace-based faith looks like. Don't be preoccupied with convincing him that Christians are right. Instead, show that Christians are good. Let him see that within your goodness is an overwhelming capacity to forgive him when he finally gets tired of running from God.

10. Don't give up.

You never know when someone's heart will turn around.

Taken from Focus on the Family magazine, Oct/Nov 2004.
Article copyright © 2004, Tim Kimmel.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Used by permission.

Tim Kimmel has been a broadcast guest on Focus on the Family radio
and is the author of Why Christian Kids Rebel.