Monday, March 7, 2011

A 'Christian' Who Wants His Parents to Go to Hell

We received the following email from Anthony, about a week ago.

"I truly enjoy watching the show everyday, if not live at least when I get home. I sit and watch with Natalie and the kids . . . I have had a situation come up in the past couple of days that I would love, almost covet, to hear what you think of this.

"I have a friend who I have heard in person, and have read [posts] on Facebook that he rests knowing that his mother and soon his father will be in hell. Here is a little about my friend. He is a 50-yr-old professing Christian. He has told me that he is saved but his fruit does not show it. The best I can say about his childhood is that it was very rough and, of course, he blames his parents. I think he has said this about his mom and dad three or four times to me, and I think it's high-time I say something. What is your opinion about this and where do I start."

Anthony, thank you for emailing us; and thank you for caring so much about your friend.

While it only takes biology (procreation) for a person to become a mother or a father, it takes a great deal more to be a parent. Having worked as a deputy sheriff for many years, I can attest to the fact that there are many people in the world who have no business raising children. The most difficult calls for service I ever handled involved children. Some children live horrendous lives. Children around the world experience neglect, verbal and physical abuse, even homicide. Of course this should not be; and it is evidence that we live in a fallen world, marred by sin.

Other children, while they may not face the horrors described above, experience the pains of broken homes or parents who are too busy chasing the American dream to have time for their children. For many, it's not easy being a kid.

Sadly, many children who grow up facing one or more of the before-mentioned circumstances enter adulthood and repeat the sins of their parents.

Yet the Bible says this. "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you" (Exodus 6:12; see also Ephesians 6:1-3).

One of my parents died twelve years ago. I have been estranged from my surviving parent for some time. Our relationship has never really recovered since my parents divorced when I was in my early teens.

Be that as it may, I am commanded by God in His Word to honor my parents. Recently, Ray Comfort helped me to understand what the means. He said, "We do not honor our parents because they are honorable. We honor our parents because God has commanded us to." While Ray was providing that sage counsel to the viewers of our show, he was unaware that he was speaking to my heart, too.

It was at that moment I realized honoring my parent did not necessarily mean we would ever be fully reconciled. I may never hear certain words from my parent that I have waited to hear all my life. But because of the grace of God in my life, and the very real presence of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life, I can honor my parent in thought, word, and deed. The question of whether or not my parent deserves honor is subjective at best, and is, in the end, utterly irrelevant. It has taken me years--too many years--to realize this truth. I am thankful to God for His patience and the gift of repentance.

I took the time to share this to give context for my answers to your questions, Anthony--and to let anyone else who may be struggling to forgive and honor their parents know that I give my answer not while sitting in an ivory tower, but while remembering my own challenges and my own mistakes with my parents, throughout my life.

Anthony, your friend professes to be a Christian while hating his parents. As you said, such an attitude is not in keeping with the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Rather, such an attitude is in keeping with sinful flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). And the Word of God makes it clear that "if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:26-27).

Regarding how to best confront/approach your friend with this: I believe a direct, respectful, yet gentle approach is in order. Show him, from the Word of God, that hatred is tantamount to murder in God's eyes (1 John 3:15). But do so with compassion and understanding.

Since you likely have no direct knowledge of what life was like for him with his parents, give him the benefit of the doubt that his early life was difficult. Tell him that while you feel for him, it does not justify his sin against God. When his parents stand before God, they will give an account for their own sin, as will he. On that day, he will not be able to use his parents' sinful behavior (what ever it was) to justify his own.

Remind your friend, also, of what Jesus said about forgiveness. "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).

Granted, it is difficult at times to forgive. And there are circumstances that require a great deal of time, before forgiveness is given and received. We fallible human beings have a tendency to hurt one another--at times leaving emotional wounds and scars that can be slow to heal. Nevertheless, there is a difference with struggling to forgive and refusing to forgive. Those who refuse to forgive, while professing to be Christians, should honestly ask themselves if they have been forgiven by the Lord--if they are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

I hope this answer is helpful, Anthony.