Ask Your Preacher

Ask Your Preacher

FAMILY

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A House Divided

Tuesday, February 13, 2018
I am a teen who grew up in the church, and both my parents were converted when they were teenagers.  Their marriage is in a pitiful and sad state.  If they weren't christians, I have no doubt in my mind they would have divorced long ago.  The main problem that I see is simply that my mother has become strongly embittered against my father, and she acts on her emotions; too often in an ungodly way.  She yells, slams doors, accuses, lies, and other things.  She scrutinizes everything about him and truly defines Solomon's teachings of "a rottenness in his bones" and her contentions "are a continual dripping."

I feel as a fellow heir that I have a responsibility to intervene and help resolve all the sinful behavior.  The roles in the house may be upside down, but I still want to honor my parents.  How do I balance the two?  Is there something I can say or do to help end the misery for everyone?

Sincerely,
Troubled Teen

Dear Troubled Teen,

There is a unique pain that is felt as we watch loved ones struggle through life… but sometimes ‘watch’ is exactly what we have to do.  Having personally spent many sleepless nights because of our own parents’ marital struggles – our heart goes out to you.  We wish we could tell you that there is an easy solution, and if you step in and get involved, it will change everything, but that isn’t true.  Sometimes, getting involved can make things worse.  Pr 26:17 says that getting in the middle of someone else’s disagreement is like grabbing a dog’s ears.  You’ll get bit every time.  Just because you feel you have the solution and see the situation clearer than your parents, doesn’t mean that they would be receptive to hearing it.  The most likely scenario is that you would add fuel to an already burning fire.

Another thing to consider is that your advice isn’t likely to be accepted by either parent because you are their child.  Jesus said that a prophet has respect except amongst his own family and in his own house (Mk 6:4).  Time has not made you equals with your parents, and you aren’t in a position to help them – it just isn’t the way life works.  This doesn’t mean you are wrong or that you are seeing things incorrectly – it just means they won’t listen because you are the child and they are the parents.  Whether or not you are correct is irrelevant.

But all of this doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do.  Jesus’ preaching didn’t affect his family, but his lifestyle did.  Multiple times in the Bible it says that Mary saw Jesus’ behavior and “treasured these things in her heart” (Lk 2:19, Lk 2:51).  Jesus’ example made a lasting impact upon His family.  When you see your parents fighting, calmly walk away.  If they ask why – tell them it hurts you.  When you have a chance to show respect to your father and love to your mother, do it.  As parents, we can tell you that mothers and fathers notice these acts of selflessness and maturity in our children more than they ever know.  Many parents have become better people because of the example of their children.  You can’t preach to them, but you can live a sermon every day.  And most of all, remember that regardless of what your parent’s marriage looks like, it isn’t your fault and it isn’t your burden.  You are only responsible for you, and someday if you get married, you can apply the lessons you are learning now to change your family tree so that your children don’t need to feel what you are feeling now.

Stay Your Hand

Wednesday, January 31, 2018
What can a physically abusive man do to stop his ways?  He loves Christ, but he gets mad and flips out; then he repents over and over.

Sincerely,
Hoping To Help Him

Dear Hoping To Help Him,

He can stop his ways whenever it is important to him.  Contrary to what he says, this abusive man isn’t out of control – he can stop being abusive whenever he wants to.  In fact, abusive spouses are in complete control of their behavior.  Saying they “lose control” is just an excuse to continue sinful behavior.  Consider that:

  1. Abusers pick and choose whom they want to abuse.  Abusers don’t assault or threaten everyone in their lives, only the ones they claim to love and care about.  Abusers have enough self-control to safely interact with employers, grocery clerks, and a thousand other people.
  2. Abusers carefully choose when and where to abuse.  Abusive spouses act appropriately in public but unleash their rage in private.  They have enough self-control to hide their behavior from society.
  3. Abusers are able to stop when it benefits them (for example: when the police show up, their boss calls, etc.).
  4. Worst of all, the most violent of domestic abusers are able to show enough control to aim their blows where they will be hidden from the public.  Many physically abusive adults specifically pick to leave marks only in places that won’t show.

In short, domestic violence isn’t uncontrollable – it is a choice.  All sin is something we have a say in, and it is our decision whether or not to let it be our master (Gen 4:7).  If you are in an abusive relationship, do not accept the lie that they can’t control their behavior.  Physical abuse is inexcusable.  God says that we should love our children (Tit 2:4) and love our spouses (Eph 5:28).  Domestic violence is the exact opposite of that command.

For Safety Of Hearth And Home

Thursday, January 04, 2018
Is using deadly force ever justifiable in defense of self or family?  If there were ever a situation where there was complete societal breakdown (no government or police), food and water became scarce, and armed looters and gangs searching for food became a real threat to your family, would you be morally responsible to defend your family by any means necessary?  Would God expect you to turn the other cheek or fight for survival?

Sincerely,
Getting Prepared

Dear Getting Prepared,

When the Bible commands us to not kill, the word used for ‘kill’ is the word that we would use for ‘murder.  Some of the most faithful men in the Bible were soldiers and had to kill people in the defense of their country.  David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14), and yet David killed many people as a soldier.  Jesus marveled at the faith of a centurion soldier (Matt 8:8-10).  The first Gentile convert was Cornelius, a well-known Roman soldier (Acts 10:22).  When a group of soldiers asked John the Baptist what they needed to do to live a faithful life, he told them to be honest and faithful… but he never told them to stop serving in the military (Lk 3:14).  These are all examples of the difference between murder and self-defense (or war-time killing).

In the Old Testament, God made specific rules that allowed an individual to kill if they were defending their home or family (Ex 22:2).  In Lk 22:35-39, Jesus tells His disciples that persecution will begin after He leaves and that they ought to “buy a sword” – this is certainly an endorsement of self-defense.  All of these point to the fact that God distinguishes between defensive force and vigilante murder.

Pushing Forward, Looking Back

Tuesday, December 05, 2017
My English is not so good, but I'll try to explain my question to you.  Two and a half years ago, my dad died.  He was everything to me.  I tried to move on with my life and make wise decisions, but it didn't work so well.  I have the wrong friends, and I got the wrong man.  Every day, I pray to God to help me.  I can't do it on my own.  I want to get a better life with hope, love, and happiness.  I think that God is punishing me for my mistakes in the past.  What can I do, so He will forgive my mistakes?  I am a better person now and have respect for all kinds of people.  I don't know what to do anymore.  Please help me.  Lots of love (name omitted) from Holland.

Sincerely,
Grieving Daughter

Dear Grieving Daughter,

We are so sorry to hear of your loss and the pain it has brought you.  The loss of a beloved parent is a great grief.  Your honesty is refreshing, and it also makes it a lot easier to answer your question.  No matter how much God loves us, He still allows us to suffer the consequences of our choices.  As you mentioned, you’ve made some bad decisions in the past, and you have surrounded yourself with unhealthy relationships.  God tells us that we “reap what we sow” (Gal 6:7).  That means that when we make bad choices, we pay the price for those choices – even if we are remorseful.  We appreciate your desire to rebuild your life and start fresh.  Part of a new start is to remove the bad influences from your life – bad company corrupts good morals (1 Cor 15:33).  Since you are in Holland, we can’t recommend any specific congregations near you, but we can say you should try and find a faithful congregation to attend (read “Finding A Church” for help with that), and if you aren’t yet, you should become a christian (read “What Must I Do To Be Saved?” for details on how to be saved).  We also recommend that you start reading and studying your Bible.  We have a lot of sermons online that you can listen to if you find it helpful.  You can find those sermons at mvchurchofchrist.org/sermons.  You are doing the right thing by trying to make changes in your life.  The more faithful changes you make, the better your life will become.  It does take time though.  You are in our prayers as you seek a new direction for your life.

Building Bridges

Wednesday, September 06, 2017
My sister-in-law and brother-in-law lost their daughter to a terminal illness she was born with.  She lived many years longer than doctors advised she would.  My sister-in-law has always tried to be there for me over the years, but I have not tried to have a relationship with her other than when necessary.  I have never been there for her.  Her daughter's death has hit me like a ton of bricks and has made me realize that I am not the person I should be.  I should have tried to understand their circumstances; I should have allowed us to become great friends.  I want to write her and tell her that I am sorry that I have never been there for her and how brave I think her husband and her are.  Should I tell her how I feel?  Should I just move forward and be a better person to her now and in the future?  Or am I being selfish, and this is not about me, and this is my punishment?  Thank you for any help you can give me.

Sincerely,
Regretful

Dear Regretful,

As the old saying goes, “honesty is always the best policy”.  The Bible says it in different words: “know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (Jhn 8:32).  Truth always frees us and, in the long run, it always makes things better.  God tells us to treat others as we would have them treat us (Matt 7:12).  If you were in your sister-in-law’s shoes and received a letter explaining all the regrets you just mentioned, sorrow you feel for their loss, and bravery they have shown – how would you feel?  Only you know the specifics of your relationship with your sister-in-law and what is the best way to treat her, but if you consider her feelings above your own, you are likely to make a good decision.  Whatever you do should be about them and not about you – only when we place others before ourselves do we make healthy decisions (Php 2:3).

 

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