In the last post the subject was about how you teach Christ to your teenage son who has come home late and has a fresh dent in the side of the car. If we take a good look at the Holy Spirit’s instruction in Ephesians 4:17-20 and Colossians 2:6-8, we see that we must avoid doing things that the world does. The wording in both passages is strong – don’t be taken captive by the world and don’t live, think, or walk like the world. It is a mistake to read these warnings as general platitudes and hopeful guidelines. Paul writes these words because your spiritual life and the spiritual life of your children (see Ephesians 6:4) depends upon doing exactly what these verses command.
Paul contrasts living like the world and learning Christ. So, in our scenario with the teenage son what should this look like? To begin with the lateness and the dent, must addressed. This fact is not in question. However, the issue is when are they to be addressed.
Of course, you could chose to attempt to win a popularity contest and tell your son that it doesn’t matter if he is late and that you will get the car repaired yourself and he shouldn’t worry about a thing. This may result in an immediate jump in popularity, but it will not result in growth in godliness for you or your children.
However, the alternative is not a confrontation over being late and damaging the car. Many conflicts between parents and teenagers stem from trying to convince teenagers of something that they already know. In this situation the teenage son already knows he is wrong. Yet, the first words spoken by the parent are often along the lines of informing teenager that he has, once again, done the wrong thing. He should know better. (In this case where stating the obvious is not helpful.) When there is not an immediate admission of guilt and an attitude of contrition, the situation escalates to anger and disbelief. The parent cannot believe that his son is being so obstinate and disrespectful. The son cannot believe that his parents are so judgmental and unforgiving. They both are angry. The parent(s) may argue that if the son was really interested in following Christ, none of this would have happened in the first place. The son may be thinking, “if this is what being a Christian is like, I want no part of it.”
It is safe to say that Christ is not being taught or learned in this confrontation. This is why Paul is so explicit! This sort of conflict is what the world does best. Paul is saying don’t go there!
The real problem the teenager has is not with his parents but with God. The real problem the parent has is not controlling his teenager, but trusting God to show Christ to his son.
When the son comes home late, realize that you are in a war zone. This is exactly what the enemy of your soul is wanting. Yes, war must be waged, but not as the world wages relational wars. This is spiritual warfare. You must use the Spirit’s weapons not the world’s.
Tell your son that you love him and that you will talk about this tomorrow. Both of you need rest at this moment, not conflict. Use the time before you talk to pray for you and your son. Your immediate responsibility is not to resolve the lateness and the dent, but to show Christ to your son. When you do talk, tell your son about your hope in Christ. Tell him about your daily challenge to live in a way that represents Christ well. Ask your son if there are ways that are you living before him that it make it difficult for him to trust you. Tell him that you want him to know and experience the love of Christ in his life, especially when there are problems. This may diffuse things a bit. In this conversation, your goal must not be to please your son, but to bring honor to God.
As I said, your son already knows that he is wrong. But often, he, like you, may attempt to justify wrong behavior because of perceived wrongs done to him. Beginning the conversation this way may help with this issue. There is no guarantee of smooth sailing. But at least you have begun well. You now can address the situation with at least some of the tension removed. Trust God that this conversation will be a step in showing Christ to your son, that he may learn Christ!
This material is based on the emphasis in Shepherding a Child’s Heart regarding helping teenagers focus on internalizing the gospel.