In Western societies, a growing gap between parents and children is tearing families apart; and painful divorce is endemic with ensuing oceans of misery for children and parents. Prominent Christian leaders’ families often need a heavy dose of forgiveness and reconciliation. As a leader, you must lay out steps for your family, parents and children, to experience joyful, lasting reconciliation. The following story exemplifies how to do so.
Denise had led Marcie, a teenager, to Christ and was discipling her. “Marcie, what you are to do now is share your new faith and joy with your family.”
Marcie frowned. “I can’t. Mom behaves so selfishly that I can’t even hold a conversation with her.” She recited a catalog of the mother’s evil behavior, her voice overflowing with pain and anger. She seemed to have rehearsed the list well.
“Jesus forgave you. Now you must forgive your mom, Marcie. This is vital.”
“But Denise, I’m the one that’s been hurt! My mom should beg forgiveness.”
“That won’t work, Marcie, and it’s not what Jesus taught us. Your mother will never start the process of reconciliation. You will. You have the Holy Spirit now, and your mother does not. You must start things by confessing to your mother your own wrongs and asking forgiveness.”
Marcie balked, groaning, and started repeating her catalog of her mother’s selfish and hurtful deeds. Denise interrupted, “You are hurting yourself, Marcie, repeating all those painful things over and over. They fester in your mind, causing you misery. Now, tell me honestly, have you done things that hurt your mother?”
“Nothing she didn’t deserve. She crabs at me, so I sass back. I can’t help it.”
“So round and round goes the endless cycle! She hurts you. You hurt her. She hurts you. You hurt her. Stop the merry-go-round – you, Marcie, not your mom. Broken family relationships cause bad feelings and bad behavior on both sides. Up to now, you’ve focused on your mom’s behavior. Starting now, you will focus on your own. It’s hard and it hurts, so you need God’s help.”
Denise prayed, and told Marcie, “Now, you ask God to help you confess wrongs you’ve done to your mom. Not your mother’s faults – your own.”
Marcie began, but broke out sobbing, unable to continue. Denise embraced her, and she tried again. Her prayer, full of pauses, was inarticulate, but she ended it laughing for joy, and Marcie knew that Denise had gotten through to God.
Marcie hurried to her mother, and begged her forgiveness for sassing and her other bad behavior. Her mother listened dumbfounded, unable to speak. Then she cried, and asked Marcie to forgive her faults, too. A long embrace ensued; hot tears dampened the floor. Marcie told her mother how Jesus had softened her heart, and to Denise’s amazement, her mother received Jesus into her heart, too, just like that!
Marcie joyful told Denise what happened the next day, and her mentor replied, “So you see, it isn’t always a parent who takes the initiative to bring loving reconciliation. The only person who is unhappy about this now is the old devil; you let Jesus break down Satan’s wall between you and your mom.”
The Apostle Paul summarized family duties in Ephesians chapters five and six:
- Husbands are to love their wife as Christ does the church, for which He gave His life. Husbands are to treat their wife as they would their own flesh, as they are one before God.
- Wives are to respect and submit to their own husband. Husbands are not to force their wife to submit; and there are times when both submit to each other.
- Parents are to bring up their children in the faith, not provoking them to anger.
- Children are to respect and obey parents.
Wise shepherds must:
- Teach regularly about family relationships.
- Keep the family together often in church activities.
- Help fathers shepherd their families and have them gather for a daily devotional time to pray, read the Bible and discuss it.
- Do not wait until a marriage becomes rocky. Let family relationships form a significant part of every group’s curriculum, dealing with forgiveness and reconciliation.
Satan’s ploy to destroy active Christian workers’ families:
The demon plots with guile
to pierce with pain one’s heart.
Wide grows his twisted smile,
“I’ll tear this home apart!”
How fun it is to tempt
those dedicated workers
Each hour to toil and serve
lest guilt be felt as shirkers!
Forget your wife and child,
your lord demands your all!
Then weep and feel the shame
when home life starts to fall!”