My daughter says I am the cause of what is happening to her in her life right now…a pending divorce she initiated and whatever else is wrong. She refuses any personal discussion. How would Jesus answer her?
– K. from Virginia
A friend e-mailed her parents announcing she is divorcing her husband of 4 years, moving out and leaving him with their two kids. Her husband and parents are baffled and devastated as are the little ones. It’s her life and she wants to live it. She has been getting some bad and misleading advice from a counselor. She won’t listen to any of us. What is Jesus response to this awful situation?
– A. from Virginia
Note: Since these questions are so similar I’m answering them together. Both readers are from Virginia and while I have no way of knowing, I wonder if it’s actually the same case from two different perspectives?
Determined rebellion (Part 1)
Remember the parable of the prodigal son from Luke 15? The father let the son go, knowing what a foolish mistake he was making. He even allowed the son to take his inheritance with him which I think is incredible. Realizing that it would be squandered, I wonder at how magnanimous he was.
Though there are many lessons to be taken from this story, there is one in particular that I feel is applicable here. How do we respond to determined rebellion like the prodigal had? It seems from these two questions that may be what we’re looking at in these situations.
Sometimes when someone is determined to sin we need to stand aside just as God stands aside when we exercise our own free will to sin. No judgments, no arguments, no reprisals—just prayer. Once they are gone we can watch for their return like the father in the parable did.
I remember what a close friend of mine went through with her son many years ago. He became engaged to a girl who was totally wrong for him. Everyone could see it except himself. The wedding was coming up and I asked Evelyn if she was going to try to stop him. “No” she said, “because he’s determined. When he finds out what a bad mistake he’s made I want him to be free to admit it without our relationship being ruined.” It all turned out exactly as she knew it would.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to approve or dismiss the behavior. It is totally appropriate for the spouse, parents and even children if they are old enough, to diligently try to bring the wayward person to repentance. A friend can offer truth and godly counsel if the person is willing to listen. But suppose every attempt fails?
If the rebellious one is no longer willing to accept any kind of correction (“She won’t listen to any of us”; “She refuses any personal discussion”), then the path of the prodigal’s father can be taken with confidence. Like my friend, it’s a good idea not to close doors or burn bridges as you wait for the person to come into their right mind.
How would Jesus respond? (Part 2)
Both questioners wonder how Jesus would respond. We want a way to handle these kinds of difficult situations with love that does not compromise truth and the balance is hard to find. Truthfully, Jesus would probably look straight into the woman’s eyes and say nothing yet she would be pierced through and just fall on her knees. Most of us don’t have that level of anointing.
There are two things we can choose to do even so: cause no offense and take no offense. Causing no offense means not saying things in the heat of battle that will later be regretted. Hurling accusations, shaming the person, calling names and getting ugly things off your chest will not produce good fruit. “For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20) Unfortunately, I haven’t always followed my own advice so I know!
Secondly, taking no offense means refusing to be offended when the other person lashes out. For instance, in one of the questions, the daughter is blaming her own actions on her mother. She says the mother is “the cause of what is happening to her in her life right now.” That’s nonsense.
Actually, the daughter is trying to shift her guilt onto someone else rather than face her own sin. It’s an immature response but it’s also a typical one. Hopefully, as things settle down she will come to realize it and take responsibility for her own decisions. She may yet come back and ask for forgiveness — as she should. The mother will have a much easier time responding, “That’s okay, I knew you never mean it” if she has not allowed the offense to take root inside her heart.
In the story of the prodigal son, once he admitted his pigpen he had little trouble recognizing the smart thing to do. The father had been smart too and was watching and waiting for the son’s return. There’s always a solution for sin with real repentance. If we want a response modal for determined rebellion, we need look no further.