|beautiful photo used by permission: Gilbert Lennox|
What motivated me to share this is my love for God, His Word and for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who have been misled by the a recent resurgence of an article written by John Piper's, once prodigal son (now believer in Christ), Abraham, regarding 12 ways parents of prodigals can love their children to the Lord Jesus Christ.
I found this article years ago, and agreed with some of it, and disagreed with much of it as it contained quite a bit of worldly psychology and little Scriptural foundation for how parents of prodigals ought to shepherd their children's heart toward repentance and faith in Christ.
Up until the other day, I hadn't really thought much about it, until it resurfaced in social media and was re-printed in Billy Graham's "Decision Magazine", First Boynton and mentioned on Christianity Today's interview with John Piper in March of 2012; with which many are sharing links to these sites and passing this I'm sure, well-meaning, yet dangerous advice to parents (like me) who have prodigals. It's dangerous because it has just enough truth sprinkled in that if a Christian is not on guard, they will be deceived into believing the hollow, worldly philosophies that are shared in this article.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world...Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
~1 John 4:1, Acts 17:11
I want to assure all of you that I have nothing personal against John Piper, his son Abraham, or the Desiring God ministry.
Truly, the sole purpose and heart of this post is to demonstrate my utter gratitude to God Most High for the gift of Christ, salvation found only in Him, His love, grace and mercy that made me His child and for the deep love I have for my brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I am bound to, in God's love, through His Holy Spirit.
Abraham Piper's article (12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child) is making it's way around the internet, into homes and unfortunately, into the hearts of well-meaning and heart-broken parents of prodigals who are desperate to find ways to help their child to know Christ as Lord and Savior.
|click photo to enlarge and read|
Though I believe Abraham Piper wrote this with altruistic intentions, that doesn't trump biblical teaching or release any of God's children from being obedient to God's Word first; for to our heavenly Father, this is love (1 John 5:3).
When we are not careful to test everything with the Word of God no matter who is speaking, we jeopardize our training in righteousness and participate in misleading others away from biblical parenting and help draw them to sentimental vanity—mere chasing after the wind.
My husband and I know this all too well, as we have a prodigal and it's already heartbreaking enough to have one, but Abraham Piper's article does more to give fuel to the fire of a prodigal's heart rather than allow their heart to be reconciled to God, through repentance and faith in Christ. And you don't have to take my word for it. Click the photo (on right) of what our youngest and wayward son, who we dearly love, wrote in regards to his thoughts on Abraham Piper's article.
Unfortunately, Abraham Piper's article mirrors Dr. Spock and other worldly psychologist who advise parents not to say anything "negative" to their children; just praise them for good behavior and they'll naturally begin to implement good morals into their lives; though God says, the only natural inclination any of us have is to sin until we have our sins illuminated for us with the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom 7:7).
"The law of the LORD is perfect,reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb."
Below are Abraham Piper's 12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child and my comments regarding each step.
- Point them to Christ: Agreed because of Deut 6:5-9, Eph 6:4.
- Pray: Agreed because of 1 Thess 5:17.
- Acknowledge something is wrong: Agreed because of Job 32:21-22; Prov 3:11-12, 6:20-23, 13:24, 19:18, 26:28; Ps 94:8-15; John 8:31-32. Never lie or flatter your children...or really, anyone for that matter, for both lying and flattering are sins and all professing Christians ought to abstain from practicing both.
- Don't expect them to be Christlike: Semi-agree. If you've raised your child as you ought, in the love and discipline of the Lord (Eph 6:4) and at some point in their lives (much like Abraham Piper and our sons) they confess Christ as Lord, then you should expect them to behave Christlike, as we are commanded to do with all believers (Col 1:9-10). But should they, later in life (like Abraham Piper and our youngest son) confess they are only a false convert, then yes, you should no longer expect them to be Christlike, but as Christian parents, your love and devotion is to Christ first, therefore your household (that may include believers and unbelievers) ought honor God by adhering to God's precepts for a Christian home (Joshua 24:15). Remember, you're responsible to God Almighty first, and you will have to answer to Him about how you did or did not uphold His standard for your family (2 Cor 5:9-10).
- Welcome them home: Here Abraham Piper says that parents of prodigals ought to welcome, condone and cover their child's wicked and sinful behavior, "If your daughter stinks like weed or an ashtray, spray her jacket with Febreeze and change the sheets when she leaves, but let her come home...If your son is broke because he spent all the money you lent him on loose women and ritzy liquor, then forgive his debt as you've been forgiven...and let him come home. If he hasn't been around for a week and a half because he's been staying at his girlfriend's—or boyfriend's apartment, urge them not to go back, and let him come home."
I'm sure Abraham Piper meant well, but to advise a Christian parent to simply "let them come home", with no word of wise instruction, reprove or rebuke (when necessary), but just "cover up" their sins and harbor their wicked lifestyle in the comfort and protection of your home, completely defies God's word and instruction on how to parent (Deut 6:5-9, Matt 10:37, Prov 22:6, Ps 94:12, Prov 5:21-23, 19:18, 29:17).
Rather than encourage parents to adhere to God's biblical model that commands a parent to: reveal why your child's participation in wickedness is destroying them, and because you love them, you beg them to stop and can't condone it by giving them a "cover" in which to continue (for though you forgive them for wasting your money on lascivious and debased living), you'll give them an opportunity to work to pay back the money to teach them what God tells us to teach them: What they reap, they will sow and those who do not work, should not eat (Gal 6:7-8, 2 Thess 3:10).
God never commands His children to condone or simply "cover up" sin, rather we are commanded to lovingly, compassionately and truthfully confront it (Eph 5:7-11), especially with those we claim to love. According to God, to do what Abraham Piper suggests here, is displaying hatred towards your child as you condone and harbor their sinful lifestyle with the deceptive ideology of love, according to this world and not according to God.
- Plead with them more than you rebuke them: "She probably knows—especially if she was raised as a Christian—that what she's doing is wrong. And she definitely knows you think it is, so she doesn't need this pointed out...Your gentle forbearance and sorrowful hope will show her that you really do trust Jesus." Completely disagree. Just because someone is raise in a Christian home doesn't automatically mean they agree with God's definition of right or wrong (which is often the reason they reject the Lord [John 7:7, Prov 15:5, 18:2]), therefore doesn't already know or recognize when they're in error or sin.
This is why loving Christian parents need restrain their prodigal child's foolishness by faithfully, lovingly, compassionately and patiently teaching them truth from error (2 Tim 2:24-26, Heb 12:11) in accordance with God's Word to prove it's God's definition of right and wrong, and not the parents; that way, whether or not they want to dispute it, you can lean on the Lord and simply answer, "As you can see for yourself, this is what God says about this matter. If you have a problem with it, take it up with Him, not me." (Ps 40:1-2, Prov 3:5-8). Remember, open rebuke is better than hidden love (Prov 27:5), and faithfully speaking painful truths to your rebellious child is what God says is good and trustworthy (Prov 27:6).
- Connect them to other believers. Semi-agree...again. Abraham Piper writes: "Obviously, you are distant from your wayward child; otherwise you wouldn't think they're wayward. This is another reason why pleading is better than rebuking—your relationship with your rebellious child is tenuous and should be protected if at all possible. But rebuke is still necessary. A lot of rebellious kids would do well to hear that they're being fools, but you're probably not the one to tell them. Try to keep other Christians in their lives and trust God to connect your son or daughter with a believer who can point out your child's folly without getting the door slammed on them."It's just as inaccurate to say that a parent of a prodigal is distant from their child, as it is to assume that simply because parents are close to their children their children must not be wayward; that's just nonsense...I know, I have a rebellious child (I'll share more about that later). As we covered, pleading rather than reproving or rebuking your children is not a biblical precept, but rather a worldly, feel-good ruse that supports lazy parenting and deceives well-meaning parents into believing that all praise with no sage produces a humble and repentant heart that submits to the authority and Lordship of the Son of God, Jesus, the Christ.While I'm delighted to hear that Abraham agrees rebuke is necessary, it's completely unbiblical and emasculating to tell parents they ought not assert their God-given authority and obey God's command for every Christian parent to disciple (which includes rebuke) their own children. I believe this worldly philosophy is one of the greatest stimulants for lazy, unbiblical parenting and the reason why Christian families don't seem to fair much better than those of this world's.
I'm not saying that having godly influence from outside of your family is not beneficial, I'm saying that to advise parents to solely rely on outside influence is both foolish and unbiblical. Furthermore, to say they ought rather "trust God to connect your son or daughter with a believer who can point out your child's folly" implies a parent who actually asserts their God-given authority over their children, are distrusting God. This only creates more heartache and confusion than it helps.
- Respect their friends. Very partially agree. "Of course your daughter's relationships are founded on sin. And, yes, her friends are bad for her. But she's bad for them, too. And nothing will be solved by making it evident that you don't like who she's hanging around with. Be hospitable. Her friends are someone else's wayward children, and they need Jesus, too." The word "respect" in the verb form (as used here in Abraham's statement), means to esteem or hold in high honor; or to show regard or consideration for. So, I agree that parents should show regard or consideration, that is, the love of Christ (which can't be severed from truth since God is love and God is truth [1 John 4:8, John 14:6]). But I disagree with this statement if Abraham means what I've seen many parents erroneously practice...showing honor to their children's friends who are disrespectful, wayward children themselves.
I agree with Abraham that parents should be hospitable, but it should never be for the purpose of palliating the sinful lifestyle of a rebellious child and their rebellious friends, rather it ought to be to demonstrate the awesome and high love of God that bears all things, but doesn't condone all things—namely, sin. Because God is holy and righteous, and has imputed the righteousness of Christ to all who've repented and believed in the only Son of God, we, as Christian parents must also behave in holiness and righteousness by loving our children and their friends enough to strongly warn them about their destructive behavior and how, without Christ, all they've lived, loved and worked for will come to nothing but ruin and despair (Gal 6:7-8).
Let me put it to you this way. If you saw your wayward child and their friends walking through a beautiful mountain meadow, and since you've walked that path, you knew there was a hidden 50,000 foot drop within a few yards of where they were, wouldn't you run towards them, shouting "Stop! Stop! You're going to get hurt! You're going to die if you keep going in that direction!" Or would you simply say to yourself, "Well, they sure seem to be enjoying what their doing and I'm sure either someone else will strongly warn them or they will just figure it out for themselves."
- E-mail them. Agree with two things and disagree with the rest. "When you read something in the Bible that encourages you and helps you love Jesus more, write it up in a couple of lines and send it to your child. The best exhortation—better than any correction—is for them to see Christ's joy in your life. Don't stress out when you're composing these as if each one needs to be singularly powerful. Just whip them out and let the cumulative effect of your satisfaction in God gather up in your child's inbox. God's Word is never useless." I agree that you should use every form of communication God has provided you to reach your rebellious child for Christ. But let us move towards rightly understanding how God defines exhortation. In Acts 2:40, 1 Thess 3:2, 2 Tim 4:2, Titus 2:15 and Heb 3:13 and in Eph 6:22, Col 4:8, 1 Thess 5:11 the Greek word used for both 'exhort' and 'encourage' is from the Greek word παρακαλεο (transliteration: parakaleó) which means to: call near, beseech, intreat. The dictionary.com definition for exhort is along the same lines: to urge, advise, or caution earnestly; admonish urgently or to give urgent advice, recommendations, or warnings.
As you can see neither the original Greek word parakaleó or the common dictionary definition for the word 'exhort' coincides with Abraham Piper's usage of the word in this statement, "the best exhortation—better than any correction..." Like many in the church today, Abraham seems to think one can exhort without giving correction, when the clear definition of exhort is exactly: To urge those who are wayward to turn from their error and call them near for the purpose of repentance, that is, to cease from doing what is evil and turn to what is good. Encourage means the same thing: To instill the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear.
I think one of the biggest problems we have in the church, is that for far too long God's children have accepted the connotations of words our heavenly Father uses to teach and train us in all righteousness, rather than be students of the Word and test Scripture with Scripture so that we can rightly understand and handle the Sword of the Spirit (Jer 9:23-24, 2 Tim 2:15).
Based on the actual meaning of these words (exhort and encourage), it would be foolish for any Christian to agree with the connotations of these words and desire to instill their wayward children to continue on their path of destruction without fear.
- Take them to lunch. Mostly agree. I agree with pretty much everything Abraham shares on this point, except for his erroneous assumption that every prodigal is feeling guilty or ashamed about living a life that displeases and separates him/her from God and that a face-to-face meeting is more uncomfortable for your child because of this assumed guilt that many prodigals do not actually possess. One of the many reasons some rebellious children do not feel shame or guilt is because they're too busy reveling in their sin and disagree with you that it is wrong or destructive behavior.
However, as God's dearly loved children, I absolutely agree that we ought not allow our only interactions with anyone we love to solely be through social media. Face-to-face gatherings are becoming obsolete in our fast-paced, lazy and self-made worlds where we not only believe our own press, but we think everyone else does too. Relationships are hard work and they need to be cultivated with the genuine love of Christ and earnest effort to personally meet with, demonstrate love and encourage one another.
"For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine."~Romans 1:11-12
- Take an interest in their pursuits. "Odds are that if your daughter is purposefully rejecting Christ, then the way she spends her time will disappoint you...Jesus spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes, and He wasn't even related to them. Imitate Christ by being the kind of parent who will put some earplugs in your pocket and head downtown to where your daughter's CD release show is." While Abraham Piper's first statement is true, his advise for parents to participate and support their rebellious child's godless activities are not condoned by God (Eph 5:11, Jude 1:23, Rom 16:19). Also his second statement (that's sadly become a popular, yet unbiblical saying within the church) is close to blaspheming the holy character of Christ.
Jesus never spent time with unrepentant sinners, and more specifically, while their were engaging in their sin (e.g., Jesus did not take a seat next to Matthew while he was collecting taxes, rather the Lord called Matthew away from his sinful practice, to follow Him [Matt 9:9]; Jesus did not attend a harlot's gathering, rather He forgave repentant adulterous women who fell at He's feet and then commanded them to "sin no more" [John 4:10-26 and 39, 8:9-11], etc.). In fact all throughout Scripture God is clear, He gives grace to humbled and repentant hearts while He opposes the prideful heart that calls good evil and evil good as they continue to live godless lives, without restraint.
"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night."~Psalm 1:1-2
- Point them to Christ. Wholeheartedly and joyfully agree because of: Romans 1:16-11; 2 Cor 4:16-18; Gal 6:7-10; Philippians 2:3, 17; 1 Tim 1:5; 1 Peter 4:7-11.
Abraham Piper wisely points out why we, as parents of prodigals share the Gospel of Christ, love and exhort our wayward children: For their eternal salvation alone, and not so they are no longer an embarrassment to you or others in your family.
Loving someone with God's love is never for any kind of self-gain or self-comfort, but purely to draw the greatest benefit for those you love—a saving faith in Christ Jesus the Lord (2 Cor 13:5; James 2:14; 1 John 4:1, 6, 5:3-5, 13).
May God's grace and peace be with you all as you seek to love Christ over all else, even your children...wayward or not.
"Whoever loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."