The book of Philippians teaches the church how to relate to one another. These same principles for godly relationships must also be applied to family life in general and to families with teenagers in particular. For example, just the first four verses of Philippians 2 offer powerful guidelines for relationships. Paul is counseling the church to be encouraged with one another by focusing on the love of Christ for them. Many relational problems between parents and teenagers exist because the life-changing message of the gospel has been submerged and lost in the turmoil of everyday life. Here is what Paul says to the Philippians in these four verses:
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. NIV
Notice Paul’s first words in this section – if you have any encouragement. Too often, the measurement of performance is at the heart of parent-teenager relationships. Focusing on performance is counterproductive to living with the power of the gospel. These words of Paul cut across the grain of life in the flesh. As we labor to become like-minded, when we are struggling against the flesh, the remaining corruption that resides in the flesh cries out for manifestation, giving many and multiple excuses for us to indulge in our sinful desires. The flesh whispers, if you have any reason for discontent, indulge your sinful desires. This text opposes that temptation. Paul says if you have any encouragement from your union with Christ, become like-minded, work together, consider others more important than yourselves, look to the interests of others. This the same theme that Christ teaches in Luke 17:3-10, when the disciples ask him to increase their faith in response to his teaching on forgiveness. Jesus says that it is not quantity of their faith that is important – it is the quality of their faith. So, here in Philippians, Paul takes the same approach.
This attitude of hope is a prerequisite for working with teenagers in your home. In 2 Corinthians 13:10 Paul teaches that the reason for authority is to build up, not to tear down. Many teenagers have the idea that parental authority is for anything other than to build them up. They see their parents’ authority as an obstacle to freedom, rather than something that is good for them. At least part of the reason for this attitude is that parents are not visibly encouraged by their union with Christ. Parents can become easily discouraged with all that is wrong, instead of following Paul’s admonition to work together if there is any encouragement from Christ. If this mindset is essential for working together productively in the church, is it not also essential for working together in the family?
This is a weighty thought. Paul is reasoning with you not to live by sight. As Christians, we tend to be easily discouraged. There is so much wrong with the world, with those around us, and with ourselves. When we focus on these things we get frustrated and discouraged. Paul is gently calling you back to the greater reality, the reality of faith in Christ and in his power. If you know even a little encouragement from Christ, then you have access to the full power of God. That is what he is teaching in this passage. Don’t focus on all the things that are wrong and then conclude that there is no hope for working together. Sadly, that line of reasoning occurs all too often with relationships in churches. We see this problem, that problem, and this person and that person – why bother? The same is true for the family. There are problems everywhere. One child is upset that another child doesn’t seem to care. To both situations, Paul says, if you know any encouragement from Christ at all, then work together. Rejoice in the mercies of Christ and the power of his gospel.
Give this some thought and make application to your family situation. These four verses are filled with treasures of hope for you and your family. Pray and ask God to richly bless our study of these verses over the next several days.