DEALING WITH REBELLIOUS CHILD:

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The child who exhibits a rebellious streak may be doing so for a variety of reasons. Harsh, unloving, and critical parenting will nearly always result in rebellion of some sort. Even the most compliant child will rebel—inwardly or outwardly—against such treatment. Naturally, this type of parenting is to be avoided. But no matter what style of parenting a family embraces, a child might rebel.

Assuming that the rebellious child naturally possesses a strong-willed personality, he will be characterized by an inclination to test limits, an overriding desire for control, and a commitment to resisting all authority. In other words, rebellion is his middle name. In addition, these strong-willed, rebellious children are often very intelligent and can “figure out” situations with amazing speed, finding ways to take control of the circumstances and people around them. These kids can be, for their parents, an extremely trying and exhausting challenge.

Fortunately, it is also true that God has made children who and what they are. He loves them, and He has not left parents without resources to meet the challenge. There are biblical principles that address dealing with the rebellious, strong-willed child with grace. First, Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not turn from it.” For all children, the way they should go is toward God. Teaching children in God’s Word is crucial for all children, who must understand who God is and how to best serve Him. With the strong-willed child, understanding what motivates him—the desire for control—will go a long way to helping him find his “way.” The rebellious child is one who must understand that he is not in charge of the world—God is—and that he simply must do things God’s way. This requires parents to be absolutely convinced of this truth and to live accordingly. A parent who is himself in rebellion against God will not be able to convince his child to be submissive.

Once it has been established that God is the One making the rules, parents must establish in the child’s mind that they are God’s instruments and will do anything and everything necessary to carry out God’s plan for their families. A rebellious child must be taught that God’s plan is for the parents to lead and the child to follow. There can be no weakness on this point. The strong-willed child can spot indecisiveness a mile away and will jump at the opportunity to fill the leadership vacuum and take control. The principle of submitting to authority is crucial for the strong-willed child. If submission is not learned in childhood, the future will be characterized by conflicts with all authority, including employers, police, law courts, and military leaders. Romans 13:1-5 is clear that the authorities over us are established by God, and we are to submit to them.

Also, a strong-willed child will only willingly comply with rules or laws when they make sense to him. Give him a solid reason for a rule, constantly reiterating the truth that we do things the way God wants them done and that the fact is not negotiable. Explain that God has given parents the responsibility to love and discipline their children and that to fail to do so would mean the parents are disobeying Him. Whenever possible, however, give the child opportunities to help make decisions so that he does not feel completely powerless. For example, going to church is not negotiable because God commands us to gather together with other believers (Hebrews 10:25), but children can have a say (within reason) in what they wear, where the family sits, etc. Give them projects in which they can give input like planning the family vacation.

Further, parenting must be done with consistency and patience. Parents must try not to raise their voices or raise their hands in anger or lose their tempers. This will give the strong-willed child the sense of control he/she longs for, and he/she will quickly figure out how to control you by frustrating you to the point of making you react emotionally. Physical discipline often fails with these kids because they enjoy pushing parents to the breaking point so much that they feel a little pain is a worthwhile price to pay. Parents of strong-willed kids often report the kid laughs at them while they are being spanked, so spanking might not be the best method of discipline with them. Perhaps nowhere in life are the Christian fruits of the Spirit of patience and self-control (Galatians 5:23) more needed than with the strong-willed/rebellious child.

No matter how exasperating parenting these children can be, parents can take comfort in God’s promise not to test us beyond our ability to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13). If God gives them a strong-willed child, parents can be sure He has not made a mistake and will provide the guidance and resources they need to do the job. Perhaps nowhere in the life of a parent do the words “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) have more meaning than with the strong-willed youngster. Parents of these children have to spend lots of their time on their knees before the Lord asking for wisdom, which He has promised to provide (James 1:5). Finally, there is comfort in the knowledge that strong-willed children who are trained well often grow up to be high-achieving, successful adults. Many rebellious children have turned into bold, committed Christians who use their considerable talents to serve the Lord they have come to love and respect through the efforts of their patient and diligent parents.

Prophet Nathan Emol

FAMILY:

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The concept of family is extremely important in the Bible, both in a physical sense and in a theological sense. The concept of family was introduced in the very beginning, as we see in Genesis 1:28, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'” God’s plan for creation was for men and women to marry and have children. A man and a woman would form a “one-flesh” union through marriage (Genesis 2:24), and they with their children become a family, the essential building block of human society.

We also see early on that family members were to look after and care for one another. When God asks Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain’s response is the flippant “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The implication is that, yes, Cain was expected to be Abel’s keeper and vice versa. Not only was Cain’s murder of his brother an offense against humanity in general, but it was especially egregious because it was the first recorded case of fratricide (murder of one’s sibling).

The Bible has a more communal sense of people and family than is generally held in Western cultures today, where citizens are more individualized than people in the Middle East and definitely more so than the people of the ancient near East. When God saved Noah from the flood, it wasn’t an individual case salvation, but a salvation for him, his wife, his sons and his sons’ wives. In other words, his family was saved (Genesis 6:18). When God called Abraham out of Haran, He called him and his family (Genesis 12:4-5). The sign of the Abrahamic covenant (circumcision) was to be applied to all males within one’s household, whether they were born into the family or are part of the household servant staff (Genesis 17:12-13). In other words, God’s covenant with Abraham was familial, not individual.

The importance of family can be seen in the provisions of the Mosaic covenant. For example, two of the Ten Commandments deal with maintaining the cohesiveness of the family. The fifth commandment regarding honoring parents is meant to preserve the authority of parents in family matters, and the seventh commandment prohibiting adultery protects the sanctity of marriage. From these two commandments flow all of the various other stipulations in the Mosaic Law which seek to protect marriage and the family. The health of the family was so important to God that it was codified in the national covenant of Israel.

This is not solely an Old Testament phenomenon. The New Testament makes many of the same commands and prohibitions. Jesus speaks on the sanctity of marriage and against frivolous divorce in Matthew 19. The Apostle Paul talks about what Christian homes should look like when he gives the twin commands of “children, obey your parents” and “parents, don’t provoke your children” in Ephesians 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:20-21. Furthermore, we see similar New Testament concepts regarding the importance of family in the process of salvation in the book of Acts when on two separate occasions during Paul’s second missionary journey, entire households were baptized at the conversion of one individual (Acts 16:11-1516:31-33). This is not to condone infant baptism or baptismal regeneration (i.e., that baptism confers salvation), but it is interesting to note that just as the Old Testament sign of the covenant (circumcision) was applied to whole families, so also the New Testament sign of the covenant (baptism) was applied to entire households. We can make an argument that when God saves an individual, His desire (from a moral/revealed-will perspective) is for the family to be saved. Clearly, God’s desire isn’t just to save isolated individuals, but entire households. In 1 Corinthians 7, the unbelieving spouse is sanctified through the believing spouse, meaning, among other things, that the unbelieving spouse is in a position to be saved through the witness of the believing spouse.

From a covenant perspective, membership in the covenant community is more communal than individualistic. In the case of Lydia and the Philippian jailer, their families/households were baptized and made part of the church community. Since we know that baptism doesn’t confer salvation, which is only by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), we can assume that not all were saved, but all were included into the community of believers. Lydia’s and the jailer’s salvation didn’t break up their families. We know that salvation can be a strain on a family, but God’s intent isn’t to break up families over the issue of salvation. Lydia and the jailer weren’t commanded to come out and be separate from their unbelieving families; rather, the sign of the covenant (baptism) was applied to all members in the household. The families were sanctified (set apart) and called into the community of believers.

Let’s now turn our attention to the theological concept of family. During His three-year ministry, Jesus shattered some prevailing notions of what it meant to be part of a family: “While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:46-50). Now we must clear up some misconceptions with this passage. Jesus is not saying that biological family isn’t important; He is not dismissing His mother and brothers. What He is doing is making the clear theological point that in the Kingdom of Heaven, the most important family connection is spiritual, not physical. This is a truth made explicitly clear in John’s Gospel, when the evangelist says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13).

The parallels are quite clear. When we are born physically, we’re born into a physical family, but when we are “born again,” we are born into a spiritual family. To use Pauline language, we are adopted into God’s family (Romans 8:15). When we are adopted into God’s spiritual family, the Church, God becomes our Father and Jesus our Brother. This spiritual family is not bound by ethnicity, gender or social standing. As Paul says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).

So what does the Bible say about family? The physical family is the most important building block to human society, and as such, it should be nurtured and protected. But more important than that is the new creation that God is making in Christ, which is comprised of a spiritual family, the Church, made up of all people who call upon the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. This is a family drawn “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9), and the defining characteristic of this spiritual family is love for one another: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Prophet Nathan Emol

HONORING ABUSIVE PARENT:

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It would be so much easier if God had asked only that we honor our parents if they are good, kind and loving to us, but the command of Exodus 20:12 is “Honor your father and mother,” period. Ephesians 6:1 says to “obey” them. There are many hurt and damaged people who find these commands nearly impossible to obey. Should we honor and obey an abusive parent? Where do we draw the line?

Abuse comes in many forms. A child can be brought up well clothed and fed with all his needs supplied except for the all-important need for love and approval. No physical harm is ever done to him, yet, as each year goes by, his spirit shrivels up inside him more and more, as a plant will shrivel without sunlight, desperate for the smallest demonstration of affection. Eventually, he grows to adulthood; everything seems to be normal, yet he is crippled inside by the indifference of his parents.

Then again, a child’s spirit may be broken at an early age—even though he suffers no physical abuse—by being constantly told that he is useless and a waste of space. Everything he attempts is sneered at until he gives up trying to do anything at all. Because very young children naturally believe what their parents say about them, the child who suffers this treatment will gradually withdraw into himself, retiring behind an invisible wall and simply existing rather than living. These children grow up never suffering physically at the hands of their parents but nevertheless crippled in their spirits. As grown-ups, they find it difficult to make friends and are unable to relate normally to other adults.

So, child abuse can be subtle. There is, of course, the more obvious kind—when a child is neglected, kicked and beaten and, worse still, sexually abused. The damage such abuse causes can last a lifetime. Now for the big question: how do we obey God’s commandment to honor parents who behave with such cruelty toward their own children?

Those who have trusted Jesus as their savior have a real Heavenly Father who desires only our good and never to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). He is “a father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5). The Lord will use everything, even horrible acts, for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). When we surrender our will to Him, we will see His work in our life. Trusting God may feel disconnected or impossible for those who have never known what it is to love and trust. Someone in this position need only take one small step toward God saying, “I want to learn to love and trust you—please help me.” Jesus is “meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29), and we can confidently go to Him and pour out our problems, knowing that He will hear and answer (1 John 5:14-15). It will not be long before any child of God willing to trust Him will begin to sense the Holy Spirit at work in his heart. God will take the heart that has been turned to stone by an abusive childhood and replace it with one of flesh and feeling (Ezekiel 36:26).

The next step for someone who has been abused is to be willing to forgive. This, too, will seem to be utterly impossible, especially for those who have suffered the worst kinds of abuse. Bitterness can sink into their souls, weighing them down like iron, yet there is nothing the Holy Spirit cannot soften and cleanse. With God all things are possible (Mark 10:27). Our Lord understands our pain; He “was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power” (2 Corinthians 13:4).

There is no need to fear being honest with God. If you find it difficult to forgive the wickedness of a parent’s behavior, talk to God about it. It is true that unforgiveness is sin, but only deliberate unforgiveness, where we have set our hearts like flint and vowed that never again will we even consider forgiveness for those who have hurt us so badly. A child of God going to his Father for help with something he cannot do for himself will find not an angry, threatening God waiting to punish him, but a Father with a heart full of overwhelming love, compassion, mercy and a desire to help.

So, what does honoring an abusive parent look like in real life? Here are some practical tips: by the grace of God, be willing to forgive. A willingness to forgive honors both God and the parent. Pray for your abuser. Let go of expectations that your parent will ever be the parent you want him or her to be; replace your disappointment and sadness with acceptance of who the person is. Cultivate an attitude of compassion for the things your parent did right, and express gratitude for even slight efforts to show love. Refrain from making disparaging remarks about your parent. If it is safe to be in communication with your parent, establish wise boundaries to reduce sinful temptations for you and your parent.

One thing forgiveness and honor are not, though, is a permanent submission to parental authority. The Bible commands honor but not remaining a prisoner in a dysfunctional family. Families with a destructive cycle of sin are dangerous, and children who break free need to find safety in the family of God—which is every Christian’s true family (Matthew 10:35–38). Dysfunctional families are fraught with codependence, addiction, violence, and an absence of safe boundaries. These traits will be like a millstone around the neck, dragging the child toward the same sinful patterns. Removing oneself from an abusive situation is much like overcoming addiction; when a person desires sobriety, he cannot associate with people who abuse drugs (Proverbs 13:20).

Also, in cases in which the grandchildren are exposed to the threat of physical harm or sexual assault, it becomes the adult child’s responsibility to protect their own children. There is no guilt in keeping one’s distance from abusive parents, as long as the separation is not motivated by vengeance. You can honor your parents from afar. Sadly, some parents do not value their children enough to maintain a relationship. The void left by a broken relationship should be filled by Christ rather than pining for a parental relationship that will never be.

By focusing on your own relationship with Christ, you can experience real healing. Without salvation there is no hope for anyone, but in Christ we are new creations able to do anything He calls us to do (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is also possible that the parent will repent; thus, a relationship could be formed based on Christ’s abundant love and grace. You could be the light that leads your unsaved or wayward parent to repentance and salvation (1 Corinthians 9:19).

Just as Jesus loved us in our sinful state, we can honor an abusive parent. It means showing grace and compassion to those who don’t deserve it so that God is glorified and the obedient are blessed and rewarded (Matthew 5:44-481 John 4:18-21). Remember, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Prophet Nathan Emol

SPARE THE ROD- SPOIL THE CHILD:

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The phrase “spare the rod, spoil the child” is a modern-day proverb that means if a parent refuses to discipline an unruly child, that child will grow accustomed to getting his own way. He will become, in the common vernacular, a spoiled brat. The saying comes from Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” The Lord uses discipline to reveal our sin to us. This is also how parents reveal the truth of our need for a Savior to their children. When a child does not feel the consequence of his sin, he will not understand that sin requires punishment. The Lord provides a way to salvation and forgiveness through Jesus, but that means little to those who do not see their sin.

Furthermore, correction shows us that we are not above reproach and that we are accountable for our actions. Our natural pride blinds us to our need for a Savior, and discipline reveals the truth of our wretchedness (Revelation 3:17). Since salvation is the most important choice the child will ever make, it is imperative that parents are leading him to Christ, and discipline is critical to this process. Proverbs 23:13 says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.” In the context of verses 13–14, die means “experience spiritual death in hell.” Children who respect authority and feel sorrow for their sin are much more likely to ask Jesus to forgive them and be saved.

All children are born sinful (Romans 5:12–19). Their natural self is destructive and unrighteous. That does not mean they aren’t valuable and worthy of love (Psalm 127:3). It means that they are not born with any natural “goodness” in them. That is why all children need discipline. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” Discipline is critical for wisdom (Proverbs 29:15), and a child who obeys his parents will be wise (Proverbs 13:1). And even adults who do not heed correction will feel the consequences of their foolishness (Proverbs 10:13).

Some people believe in discipline, but not in physical discipline such as spanking. However, the Bible is the final word on what is truth; it is not mere opinion or theory. The word rod indicates a thin stick or switch that can be used to give a small amount of physical pain with no lasting physical injury. A child should never be bruised, injured, or cut by a physical correction. The Bible warns that parents should never abuse the power and authority they have over their children while they are young because it provokes the children to righteous anger (Ephesians 6:4Colossians 3:21). Physical discipline is always done in love, never as a vent to the parent’s frustration. It is also just one part of discipline and should be used when the child shows defiance to a clear limit, not in the heat of the moment.

God instructs parents to parent their children the way He parents His children. Hebrews 12:5–11 tells us that God disciplines those whom He loves to perfect their righteousness. God only disciplines His own, which proves that Christians are His beloved children. Notice that David says that the Lord’s rod comforts him in his time of trouble (Psalm 23:4).

Finally, we know that no discipline feels good while it is happening, but afterwards the rewards are rich (Hebrews 12:11). Godly character, fruit of the Spirit, and peace are rewards of God’s discipline. The same is true for our human children. Children who have learned how to take responsibility for their actions are much happier people (Proverbs 3:11–18). The importance of the rod of correction is that it steers the heart of a child toward Jesus and the forgiveness of sin He offers. When parents trust God’s methods over their own, they will see the blessings for their children and themselves.

Prophet Nathan Emol

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:

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Domestic violence is narrowly defined as an act or threatened act of violence upon someone with whom the perpetrator is or has previously been in intimate relationship. The term domestic violence often brings to mind the concept of the “battered wife” or perhaps a married couple’s verbal argument escalating into physical assault. Domestic violence is also commonly linked to child abuse. Even if the children are not physically injured, watching or hearing a parent being abused can have severe psychological implications.

Domestic violence is about power and control. Though the term violence has physical connotations, domestic violence or abuse can occur in non-physical ways. For instance, abusers may manipulate their victims through emotional or economic means. Verbal abuse and sexual abuse are other forms. A person of any age, gender, socio-economic class, education level, or religion can be impacted by domestic violence.

Domestic abuse can be viewed in terms of a “cycle of violence.” Tension builds; the victim attempts to keep the abuser mollified; but, eventually, an incident occurs. The abuser apologizes and attempts to make it up to the victim, perhaps by promising it will never occur again or by lavishing the victim with gifts. Then comes a period of calm before the tension begins to build again. The stages of this cycle may take only minutes or may develop over years. Without intervention, the periods of “making up” and “calm” often disappear.

Domestic violence is in stark opposition to God’s plan for families. Genesis 1 and 2 depict marriage as a one-flesh, helping relationship. Ephesians 5:21 talks about mutual submission. Ephesians 5:22–24 explains a wife’s submissiveness to her husband, while verses 25–33 talk about a husband’s self-sacrificial love for his wife. First Peter 3:1–7 gives similar instructions. First Corinthians 7:4 says, “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.” The two belong to one another and are called to love one another as Christ loved us. Marriage is an image of Christ and the Church. Domestic violence is a far cry from the character of Jesus.

Domestic violence involving children is also condemned by God. Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” God entrusts parents with children, and those parents are to lovingly care for them and train them up. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (see also Colossians 3:21). Children are to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1–3), and discipline is important. But discipline is distinctly different from violence and abuse.

Following God involves serving others, not manipulating and controlling them. Jesus told His disciples, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26–28). His command to us is to “love one another” (John 13:34). Ephesians 5:1–2 says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Christians are called to sacrificially love others, especially those in their own families.

Those who are currently in a domestic violence situation should do everything possible to get out safely. Often, the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is when she or he leaves. Contacting the police may be in order, or there may be other local resources available to help. 

Even after victims are physically safe and bodily wounds have healed, emotional and psychological scars run deep. Domestic violence can have severe spiritual implications as well. Victims may distrust God. Why would He allow such a thing to happen? Is He trustworthy? Does He really love me? Where was He when I was being abused? Walking through the healing process takes time. The emotional reaction to the situation must come. It is appropriate to express anger over the abuse. If we do not acknowledge the severity of the situation—the anger, the confusion, the hurt, the shame, etc.—we cannot heal from it. Too often, victims are prematurely hurried into forgiveness. Ultimately, forgiveness is the thing that will set a victim free. But true forgiveness cannot be extended if the scars of the abuse are not first acknowledged and dealt with. Victims of domestic violence will likely need the support of a well-trained Christian counselor to journey with them through the healing process.

We should not assume that abusers have no needs other than to stop abusing. There are likely unresolved issues that have led them to become abusive. If an abuser is willing to admit his or her culpability and desires help, there is hope. Again, Christian counseling can be of great value.

Each domestic violence story is different. The situations and people are so diverse that no one article can sufficiently handle the issue. However, generally speaking, marriage counseling is not an appropriate solution—at least not until all abuse has stopped, both parties have undergone individual counseling, and both parties desire reconciliation. The same would be true for family therapy. Children should never be put into an abusive situation or be expected to remain in one while an abuser learns godly parenting.

Domestic violence hurts the heart of God. He is not unmoved by its victims, nor has He abandoned them. His plan for human relationships—particularly those among family—is a beautiful depiction of who He is. Family is meant to reflect God’s love. It saddens Him when a home turns into a place of pain. God’s desire for those involved with domestic violence—both victims and abusers—is healing and wholeness.

Prophet Nathan Emol