Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Serve God if My Parents Oppose Me?
THEY were beaten, subjected to threats and privations, and finally forced to move away from home. The source of this mistreatment? Members of their own family. Such was the experience of Kamal, Chani, and Jaswinder, three young sisters from India living in England. They wanted to become Christians, but their parents—indeed their whole family—bitterly opposed their abandoning traditional religious beliefs.
Perhaps you are in a similar position. Through a study of the Bible, you have cultivated a desire to be one who ‘worships the Father with spirit and truth.’ (John 4:23) It may be, though, that your parents have become disillusioned with religion or that your newfound faith conflicts with their long-held religious beliefs. Whatever the case, it should not surprise you that family opposition exists. Jesus himself prophesied that true Christianity would often divide families. (Matthew 10:34-37) The question is, Just how should you handle the situation?
Kamal, Chani, and Jaswinder stood firm for the Scriptural principles they were learning. They were able to worship freely only after they moved out on their own from the industrial Midlands to the southern part of England. Likely, however, you are still legally subject to your parents. What, then, can you do, while living at home, to overcome opposition from those whom you love? The Bible gives some guiding principles.
Maintain a Respectful Attitude
At 1 Peter 3:15 the Bible encourages us to share our faith “with a mild temper and deep respect.” Yet, you may be so enthused about newly learned Bible truths that you tend to be overbearing or pushy about your beliefs, perhaps even making your parents look foolish. No one likes to appear ignorant. So if you are constantly correcting your parents as a result of things you have learned, expect a negative reaction on their part.
Rita, a teenager living in Germany at the time, confesses: “Everything I learned I told my parents right away, in effect telling them that what they were believing was not right.” But parents have a right to hold personal opinions and beliefs without being criticized—especially by their own children. Admits Rita: “I should have been more respectful toward them and should have acknowledged their own belief in God.”
Paul told the young man Timothy that he should “not severely criticize an older man.” Would that not also apply at home, with your parents who love you?—1 Timothy 5:1.
Obey Your Parents
“Children, be obedient to your parents,” commands the Bible. (Ephesians 6:1) Kay followed this principle. She came in contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses when she was just eight years old. “My parents raised us to be tolerant of others,” Kay says, “so they permitted me to study the Bible and go to meetings.” Even so, Kay had to work hard to make sure that all she said and did reflected well on her faith.
“As I started to associate with Jehovah’s people,” Kay explains, “I realized that if I was disobedient, not only would my parents not like it but they would not see the truth as a good influence on me. So if I was asked to take out the trash, be home at a certain time, practice the piano, or whatever, I would try to obey as best I could. I would never talk back.”
Kay’s parents never did come to share her beliefs. Because of her obedience, however, she was able to practice her faith without opposition, becoming a baptized Christian at the age of 19.
Communicate With Your Parents
Said wise King Solomon: “I proved to be a real son to my father, tender and the only one before my mother.” (Proverbs 4:3) Yes, the fact that your parents do not share your faith does not make them your enemies. You should still endeavor to be “a real son” or daughter. Try to understand their deep hurt over your pursuing a faith that seems strange to them. At the same time, freely share your feelings and concerns with them. True, because your thoughts are now guided by Bible principles, you may differ with your parents on certain issues.—1 Corinthians 2:14.
A young man named Alan, for example, wanted to spend more time in the Christian ministry. His parents, though, wanted him to continue his college education. Alan recalls: “I guess I was a little bit fearful about confronting my father on such a major decision. So I decided to leave school secretly—and that caused many more problems. I had to work hard afterward to build up our mutual trust, whereas had I explained my plans, even though it may have been tough initially, I think he would have respected me more, and I would have saved both of us a lot of heartache.”
But what caused Alan to be so hesitant about talking with his parents? He confesses: “It is possible to develop a persecution complex when parents block something we might want to do. We may think: ‘This is what I learned about! A man against his father; his enemies, persons of his own household!’” (Matthew 10:35, 36) Alan learned the hard way that parents need not be treated as enemies. He now advises: “Communicate! Let them know your feelings. I think most parents will give a listening ear—if they see that sincerity is really there.”
While you must be firm for godly principles, “if possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.” (Romans 12:18) By letting your parents know how you really feel about certain matters, confrontations can often be avoided or minimized. Of course, if your parents insist upon your taking a certain course of action, by all means obey them as long as such a course does not conflict with Bible principles. Rather than being inflexible, “let your reasonableness become known.”—Philippians 4:5.
Gain the Support of Fellow Christians
“Listen to your father who caused your birth, and do not despise your mother,” says Proverbs 23:22. At times, though, your unbelieving parents may have difficulty understanding some of your concerns. A preteenager named John, for example, tried discussing a Bible principle with his father. His father’s response? “I do not want to be dependent upon a Bible or an organization, so you’re on your own!”
But you are not really on your own. Jesus promised the support of spiritual “brothers and sisters” within the Christian congregation. (Mark 10:30) Kay, mentioned earlier, found this to be true in her case. “My Christian brothers and sisters,” she recalls, “became like my family.” Not that any other person, however beloved, can replace in all respects a natural parent. Yet, within the congregation we can find those who will be dear to us—like fathers and mothers—and who can give us invaluable counsel and advice.—Compare 1 Corinthians 4:15.
Keep a Positive View!
Admittedly, even with the help of the foregoing counsel, you will no doubt find your situation quite difficult. But remember: Both people and circumstances can change! The three Indian sisters mentioned at the outset report: “Because of our steadfastness and respectful attitude, we now enjoy a happy relationship with the entire family.” An English girl named Jane similarly writes: “I have had to struggle many times and fight for the truth, but now my parents accept more readily my beliefs as a true Christian, and I look forward to being baptized soon.”
In some cases parents, moved by the sterling examples of their own children, have themselves become dedicated servants of Jehovah! So it is possible for you to earn respect for your godly course of action and become an example not just to “the faithful ones” but also to those you dearly love at home. (1 Timothy 4:12) Do not give up in your determination to serve God. Prayerfully follow through on the suggestions made here, and rely upon Jehovah. Assured the psalmist: “Roll upon Jehovah your way, and rely upon him, and he himself will act.”—Psalm 37:5.
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Unbelieving parents may at times have difficulty relating to a Christian youth’s concerns
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These three young women stayed firm in their Christian faith in spite of family opposition