Stop, Think and Pray
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:1-2).
Have you as a parent ever felt like giving up on a teenager when he turned his back to you and God and went the route of the Prodigal? Then today’s devotional is just for you. Is it possible for a parent to separate behavior from acceptance? Not only is it possible, it is absolutely necessary. Sooner or later almost every parent has to say, “Look, kid, I love you, but what you are doing isn’t ok. You reject the behavior, not the person.
That is the opposite of what one Dad did. When his son started smoking pot, the father who had raised his three boys with rigid discipline said, “You either get rid of that stuff, or get out of the house.”
Ultimatums are dangerous. When you say, “You do this, or else…” you are drawing a line and saying, “I dare you to step over it.” Ultimatums to a teen or a young adult who considers himself to be very mature (when he is, in reality rather immature) is like waving a flag in front of a bull. In defiance, he rears back and says, “Oh yeah, just try me.”
You’ve probably guessed what happened. The teen left home. With no place to go, he started sleeping in the back seats of parked automobiles until the police found him. It was either go to jail or get off the street. With no place to go and no money, he went back to the pusher and started selling marijuana. In short order, he had graduated to heroin, and by the time the dad realized what a tragic mistake he had made, the boy had become addicted.
There are times when the situation requires of you the loving action of saying, “This is it. You need help and I’m going to see that you get it.” That’s tough love. You don’t want to, but you have to for the sake of the other children in your family. However, before you say, “You do this or else,” think and pray about the implications and see if there might not be a better way to handle the situation.
Unconditional love, the tough kind which God has for us and the kind which we must have for each other in the family, means acceptance, but it also separates behavior from acceptance. Another thing about unconditional love is that it embraces forgiveness and finally leads to self-acceptance and assurance. It’s a package and the last two characteristics are tremendously important.
Paul wrote, “Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). The model of God’s tough love that encompasses forgiveness was the Father’s love for us. Forgiveness isn’t something you earn or deserve; it’s something freely extended as the result of the kindness of your heart.
You don’t deserve God’s forgiveness any more than your son or daughter deserves to be forgiven when they have fallen on their faces. Sometimes we parents do what no animal would ever do: shoot our own flesh and blood that have been wounded in the battle of life. Yet at times, our pride has been wounded, our image has been tarnished, we’ve been embarrassed by the things our kids have done, and because of it, we step on them when they need our help the most.
Tough love – to love without having the love returned – demands the unconditional love which God has for us. Paul spoke of it saying, “God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).