Apologies, readers, for the inconsistent text fonts, which are the result of this starting out as a response on Facebook, then being copied into Word, and finally transferred here. The "travels" were hard on my little post, but hopefully, you will still find it worth the read.
My friend, James Watkins, posted the following on Facebook the other day. Thank you, Jim, for allowing me to springboard from your post to share what God laid on my heart:
"After years of being taught 'follow your heart,' we have a culture of hearts following racism, sexism, nationalism, and narcissism. What we need is regeneration of hearts filled with God’s unconditional love for all." Then he quoted Jeremiah 17:9.
That post really set me to wondering. I went to sleep pondering the whole matter of unrepentant sin, which drives many of the "-isms" Jim cited. Woke up, did some praying, some thinking, and some research. In the final analysis, I couldn't find any ground to stand on that affirms God has changed His mind on this very vital subject. Couldn't find any basis in Scripture for affirming ourselves or our children in sinful behaviors, be they matters of sexuality, disregard of authority, or any other form of self-destruction.
What I did find was lots of evidence of God using parents and His word to correct and steer the next generation down a healthy, God-fearing road. Here are just a few examples:
“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore, do not despise the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5:17).
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12).
“Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction” (Proverbs 19:18).
“’My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’ If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:5-11).
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19).
And, perhaps most convicting: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).
Isaiah punctuated his warning with an exclamation point, something the Bible uses sparingly, suggesting the dire situation one places himself in when he condones that which ought to be lovingly corrected and dismantled. How much more this admonition must apply to parents, to whom Jesus said, “Or, what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).
This last verse also carries an exclamation point, suggesting the extreme importance of providing healthy guidance to one’s children – “feeding” them, as it were, on life-giving fare, rather than approving a “diet” that will destroy them.
Indulge me for a few more moments, as I relate an extraordinary occurrence that took place yesterday. I was readying myself for the day and had my medicine cabinet open. It so happens that my particular unit is faced with three mirrored panels which each open out (it sounds fancier than it is). I had the door on the left open almost 90 degrees, which gave me a view into the hallway to my right. The reflected hall appeared different from the actual hall, placing a doorknob on the opposite side, for instance, and making the entire runway present as longer than it actually is. A few minutes later, after thinking I had closed the left panel, I realized it was still slightly ajar. This oversight, when combined with the reflection of the center mirror, produced a new distortion, giving my drop ceiling a kaleidoscoped, “fun house” look, and doubling a painting of a turtle that we added to said ceiling for the kids’ amusement during bath time.
In considering these strange misrepresentations of reality, I see a connection with the subject at hand. Parents may mistake their good intentions for God’s best. What may seem like a loving attitude – tolerance for and even approval of behavior which God deems sin – is, in actuality, deceit, and dangerously misleading. When we go along with and condone a child’s missteps, we are no better than the parent who gives his offspring a tooth-shattering stone instead of wholesome bread. We collude in destroying the very people we were put here to nurture.
So, what ought a parent’s loving response be when faced with a child whose decisions are propelling him towards disaster? I know of one loving couple who offered their erring son the choice of following parental rules or finding another place to live. This young man was desperately involved with drugs and the whole lifestyle it takes to maintain such a habit. The parents – for his sake and the sake of his younger siblings, who were looking on to see how Mom and Dad would respond to their brother’s rebellion – brokenheartedly insisted their son leave when he refused to make efforts to change.
The troubled fellow ended up on the street. From time to time, he contacted his parents, whose hearts he knew remained open, even as the door to their home stayed closed until he changed course. The parents welcomed the opportunity to meet with their son in neutral places like restaurants, where they happily picked up the tab to feed their child, whose body was now ravaged with malnourishment. Each time, they assured him of their ongoing love, while reiterating the boundaries they had established. Tears were shed – lots of them. But these wise parents knew there would be more and bitterer tears if they didn’t hold to the Rock-solid principles the Bible defines as love.
That, folks, is called tough love. It’s not only tough on the target, but achingly tough on the provider of such love. This type of love affirms God’s tried and true plan for success, rather than affirming shifting cultural values. It affirms and elevates the truth of Scripture over an individual’s perceived “truth” for his or her life. In short, it calls for conformity with what God calls right, and requires repentance over what He repudiates. It diminishes “following one’s heart” to its rightful place, replacing that flawed concept with following the Creator’s heart.
There's no safer place to land than in the camp of the Redeemer.
There's no safer place to land than in the camp of the Redeemer.