Subverting Parental Authority
This story is not hypothetical, but is a part of the sordid account of Absalom's murder of his brother Amnon (2 Sam. 13 ff). The father is David, and the permissive relatives are Absalom's maternal grandparents.
We are quick to note the sin of these permissive grandparents, and most of us would condemn their undermining of David's authority as a father. Many of us would discern that Absalom's wrong character was actually reinforced by his indulgent grandparents, and their subverting of parental authority. Could it be possible their sheltering and coddling of a felon against his father's wishes actually encouraged Absalom to attempt a coup which ended in the loss of 20,000 lives in Israel?
Be Careful What You Hear
Rebellious sons and daughters are capable of giving slanted news to whomever they can find who would have a sympathetic ear. A fallen nature in rebellion toward God-given parents will have great creativity in describing the weaknesses and failures of their parents, but will be strangely silent about their own failures. Anyone listening to a youngster describe the faults of his parents needs the sagacity and perspicacity of Solomon!
Our fallen nature is quick to "choose sides" and be offended at supposed injustices suffered by a son or daughter at the hands of "tyrannical parents." In our pride, we believe we could have done better with this child, and find ourselves unwittingly playing the part of Talmai (Absalom's grandparents) rather than following Scriptural principle.
Scripture presents strong warnings about drawing conclusions before hearing both sides of any controversy. "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him" (Prov. 18:13). Whoever first gets our ear is capable of prejudicing our hearts and distorting our objectivity. "He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him" (Prov. 18:17).
Over these many years we have seen incalculable damage done by mature Christian adults who should have known better than to take the side of a rebellious youngster against his parents. Tragically, it is often a member of one's own family that will end up taking offense against a parent or parents and giving aid and comfort to a rebellious son or daughter. This ought not to surprise us when we see that our Lord's own siblings did not believe on Him during His earthly ministry, and even believed Him to be beside Himself (Mark 3:21, John 7:5). Moreover, our Lord felt the awful pain of an intimate friend betraying Him. "Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me" (Ps. 41:9). This pictured the betrayal of Christ by Judas (John 13:18-19).
We expect the unregenerate of this Satanically dominated world to undermine parental authority. In fact, it is happening in a pervasive way today via the educational system, welfare authorities and other social agencies. Many God-fearing parents, seeing these encroachments on their authority as parents, have fled the government schools, and seek to avoid social welfare agencies like the plague. But where can a God-fearing parent go to avoid the betrayal of a friend or family member determined to undermine that parent's authority over their child or children?
Opposing Parents Is Opposing God's Authority
God has established the various organizations of authority in this world: family, human government and the church. It is a clear violation of his mandated lines of authority to undermine a parent by siding with that child against his parents. To take up the cause of a child in rebellion against parental authority is to implicitly say that God has made a mistake in giving those specific parents to that child. What pride and audacity to suppose I can improve on the family circle God has established!
No one knows the needs of a child better than his God-given parents. While there is no doubt many parents can and should improve their parenting skills, there is no excuse to supplant and undermine a parent's authority with their children because of supposed failures we perceive in their role as parents. Be careful dear friend, as you feel compelled to intervene in the way a parent is disciplining, correcting or counseling their child. On what authority do you gainsay a parent's guidance of their child?
Rebels Seek Rebels
It is no excuse that a rebel has sought you out for help. In fact, if a rebel seeks your assistance, it is very likely you yourself are a rebel because rebellious hearts have "rebel radar," and will instinctively seek out those with whom they have a compatibility. "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Cor. 15:33). "As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man." (Prov. 27:19). You will note that when Absalom ran, he did not run to anyone who would be spiritual or likeminded with his father David, but rather to permissive, indulgent grandparents who were only too glad to subvert David's authority as a father.
Interfering With God's Plan
By your very interference with and supplanting of God-ordained parental authority, you may be the very tool Satan uses to prevent this youngster from coming to true repentance. For example, you may believe it was heartless for the father of the Prodigal Son to let his son learn vital lessons through the reproofs of life, so you undertake to bail the Prodigal out of every difficulty he experiences. In so doing, he never would have experienced the deprivation and humility of the pig pen which God used to bring the Prodigal to himself and to true repentance.
No doubt there are children who need to be rescued from perverted and demented parents. Wherever there is physical or moral danger to a child, careful and judicious interference is justified for the sake of the child's safety. However, the burden of proof that there is a clear and present danger is clearly on the shoulders of the one who would intervene because the family unit is God-ordained.
For 26 years, we have directed rebellious young hearts back to the authority of their God-given parents. Have we ever disagreed with parental advice, procedures and methods? Of course! … some times vehemently. But to sabotage a parent's authority over his child simply because I disagree with matters of procedure or philosophy is to violate the larger principle of the God-given authority and the sanctity of that home.
Only a parent who has personally experienced the exquisite pain involved in having their authority as parent undermined by a friend, family member or Pastor can tell you of the anguish, trauma and torture involved in not only seeing a child turned away from them, but also in the betrayal of that intimate personality in whom they trusted.
Extreme Caution Needed
Be careful dear friend, as you feel tempted to improve on the family of another person. You may honestly believe you have justification to do so based on what you perceive as mitigating circumstances and compelling situations. But, consider the example of Hagar. She was treated so harshly by Sarah that she chose certain death in the wilderness rather than face more of such treatment at her hands. When the pre-incarnate Christ spoke to her in the wilderness, He did not sympathize with Hagar, nor did He criticize Sarah, but rather told Hagar to "return to thy mistress and submit thyself under her hands" (Gen 16:9).
Revelation Of Character
When you violate the sanctity of another man's home by undermining his authority over his child, you show yourself to be as unprincipled as the rebel whom you are indulging. In so doing, you have not solved any problems at all, but have become a part of the problem and have in fact made it more complicated.
We Will Give An Account
The foundation of the family unit is under unprecedented Satanic attack. God forbid that any of his children would participate in this attack by encouraging the rebellion of any son or daughter against his God-given parents. Nathan the prophet gives us a rather clear view of God's mind about violating the sanctity of another man's home in how sternly he rebuked David in the matter of Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah (2 Sam. 12:7-12). One can only wonder what some believers will face at the Judgment Seat of Christ for how they have in any way encouraged the rebellion of the son or daughter of another man!
– Used with permission from Hepzibah House
I had an opportunity to discuss this matter with my sister. Unfortunately she emotionally shut down and took control of the discussion (despite my efforts to respectfully regain my end of the communication). She eventually stated that the discussion was over and that our relationship was irreparable. She also refused to take responsibility for her ongoing actions. Instead she took the route which she always takes, which is to get defensive, take control of the situation by interrupting me and not listening to much of what I was saying. This is a sister who supposedly loved me like I was her daughter. Unfortunately her own personal issues are keeping her in severe denial of the kind of hurt that my family has experienced because of her actions.
I suggest reading the book, BOUNDARIES by Townsend. It opened my eyes in regard to dealing with difficult people and I have used its principles many times over.
The comment I posted earlier disappeared and I don’t know why.
I have been experiencing this with a family member and it has devastated my relationship with her and also with my own son. I don’t know what to do.
Comments don’t post until they are approved by the owner of the blog.
Thank you mom, I figured that out only after I posted my 2nd comment. I’m sorry about that.
I am currently experiencing this type of undermining. It is heartbreaking and my life has been captive to the emotions which go along with the hurt and betrayal. Rebels attract rebels is almost exactly where I am at.
Have you sat down with the person and discussed with them how their actions are causing a problem? Start there.
I have plans to but I am having such a difficult time dealing with predisposed control issues stemming from a dysfunctional family background. I am learning a whole new and healthier way of taking care of myself but it is hard to put these ways into practice. Timing is against me now because my son is due home soon and I feel the need to take care of it before he gets here. I would greatly appreciate your prayers.
Thank you for printing this article. It shed sunlight on the problem that I have been wrestling with for the past 11 years.
Sister, in your opinion, at what age do “children” become adults, and no longer under the authority of their parents? Does a father have the right to decide what sort of books may be read, music listened to, etc. of a post 20 year old who is living at home and financially dependent on his parents? Or has he ‘graduated’ to being responsible for his own choices, and it is no longer his parents’ business?
I can tell you what we do, but each parent must decide for themselves what they’ll do based on how God directs. When the children are living in our home, they were to follow our convictions, rules, and standards – including what they read, what music they listened to watch on tv, etc. We required each child have a job like dishes or vacuuming, and keep their bedrooms clean. We felt a 100% strong responsibility for whatever came into their lives while in our home because of God’s expectations. We referred to the biblical account of Eli when deciding this. We were still the disciplinarians as well.
Once they graduated high school, which was always after age 18, if they were still living in our home, we relaxed a little but not much, and still expected appropriate standards. It helped that we weren’t as concerned over what we let into their lives knowing they were more mature and able to handle things and were less impressionable. When we were on staff at church, their behavior affected our job, so we were tighter with those children than when we weren’t so afraid their choices would affect us. The big change came when they went off to college and then decided to come back for summers or Christmas vacation. We looked at them as adults and left most decisions up to them like dress, use of Internet, room tidiness, etc., though the rules of modesty and appropriateness were still in place. I no longer felt responsible for music choices etc., though they were courteous enough to use ear buds while listening to it. The big change for us was when they made the decisions to become financially independent, not expecting to live with us or depend on us. At that point we felt completely liberated and no longer responsible for their decisions. They became “visitors” in our home and we had no concerns or stress over what they did or didn’t do. It’s hard to completely describe in a couple of paragraphs, but you get the idea.
The thing that really took the pressure off of us as parents was when they turned 18; if they messed up, were disrespectful or causing others in the family to be at risk, then we could just tell them they had to move out. If you boot out a child under 18, then the Social Services dept. could make your life miserable. Our youngest just turned 18, so we have been liberated from the whole parental responsibility thing. We are now empty nesters. Of course each child is different, so what I told you above has been tweeked for each child, depending on our relationship and their spiritual walk. Some of our kids pushed and bated us, hoping to frustrate and anger us, others respected us and did their best to respect our standards because they felt God expected it of them. It’s easier to let them control their own life and make their own choices when you know they care about their walk with God. It’s not so easy living with and being responsible for those who have no desire for spiritual things.
Hope this helped. Feel free to give me your personal email if you’d like to chat.
Thank you for this! We have the parents (especially mom) of a young man in our church, who we have repeatedly told to stay away from our daughter, undermining my husband’s authority. It has been very painful, to the point that we are not fellowshiping with them. This is bad for the church family, and for our own. Argh! At least I don’t feel so alone after reading this! 🙂
I hear ya! We went through so much of this that I believe some of our children hate us because of it. But, God is bigger than those who meddle/judge/interfere, and we have hope that one day we will have our kids back in our life that have left us. I do not believe God will bless people who make trouble between a parent and their child. It is dangerous business to hurt families or try to take over the parental role just because they think they know better than the parent. Our only consolation is knowing God will take care of it.