Youths, Parents and the Christian Congregation
AS YOU young folks well know, you are often confronted with situations that call on you to make decisions. Some of you have also observed that, if the decisions are wise, the outcome will usually be good. On the other hand, if the thinking that underlies the decisions is not sound, a person may mar his entire life. Now, where can you get the help that is so badly needed to meet in a successful way the challenging situations in your life? Parents, what can you do to help? Lovingly, Jehovah has outlined in the Bible provisions that will protect and lastingly benefit each one of us.
Even though you may have read it before, consider the wise admonition found at Proverbs 6:20-22, remembering that it may well be the solution to the problems you face: “Observe, O my son, the commandment of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother. Tie them upon your heart constantly; bind them upon your throat. When you walk about, it will lead you; when you lie down, it will stand guard over you; and when you have waked up, it itself will make you its concern.”
So, God has not left you young folks on your own, to find out by trial and error what life is all about. Wisely he arranged for you to come into the world in the protective shelter of a family arrangement. Your parents, who have already faced many of the problems with which you will be confronted, are there to give you guidance. If you do as the Bible says, keeping close to your heart the counsel of your parents and obeying their instructions, this will guide you in coping successfully with the problems of life. Particularly is that so if your parents are devoted to Jehovah God.
In thus showing deep respect for your earthly parents you lay the foundation for a proper relationship with our heavenly Father Jehovah God and his motherly organization. If you are obedient to your human parents, “this is well-pleasing in the Lord” because it is in harmony with his will.—Col. 3:20.
You parents, also desiring to be well-pleasing to the Lord, do well to make it a point, not only to pass on to your children your own observations on life, but also to inculcate in them an accurate knowledge of God’s Word and a deep appreciation of it. Particularly do you fathers bear the primary responsibility in this matter, because you are the ones designated by God’s Word as head of the house. Ephesians 6:4 pointedly states: “You, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.”
This takes time and effort on your part, in cooperation with your wife. It requires regular discussion of God’s Word in the home and patient repetition to be sure that points are remembered. (Deut. 6:4-7) It calls for you as a father to help your children to understand just what the Bible means when it says to “flee from the desires incidental to youth,” and why it says that, “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (2 Tim. 2:22; 1 John 2:15) Yes, you need to help each member of the family to see how to apply Bible principles to the specific situations in life with which he is confronted. Where this is done, the result is a strong family unit, one that is pleasing to Jehovah. On the other hand, where the father fails to shoulder his responsibility, problems multiply.
Do you not agree that it is also pleasing to the Lord for your family to attend and participate in the meetings of the local congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses and to share in its program of field service, not just occasionally, but on a regular basis? Possibly this has already strengthened your family spiritually and drawn them together. As you have seen, it helps to keep each one aware of his responsibilities to God, to members of the family group and to others of his fellowmen. By availing yourselves of these provisions for spiritual upbuilding you facilitate the flow of God’s spirit in your household and, all together, are thus enabled to manifest the pleasant fruitage of that spirit. In this way, too, your family is fortified against succumbing to the works of the flesh, with the resultant loss of Jehovah’s approval.—Gal. 5:19-24; Rom. 8:8.
WHO MAKES THE DECISIONS?
You young people who have been raised in harmony with such a fine Christian pattern of life are thus protected against being unwittingly enticed by others into immoral and delinquent conduct. Having been taught the Scriptural principle of headship, you know that, as long as you are a minor, your father has the final say on what you may do and what you may not do. (Prov. 4:1) When problems arise, you know that you should turn to him for advice and then act in harmony with the counsel given. It may be that children in other families are permitted by their parents to do certain things that you are not, and you probably know youngsters who use this to try to change their own parents’ minds. But it shows a wholesome Christian outlook on your part if, instead, you willingly submit to the decisions of your parents, appreciating that this is God’s arrangement for your good.
Of course, in those homes where the wife is a dedicated Christian and the husband is not, the situation becomes more complex. But the Bible principle still applies, that the husband and father is head of the house and the primary responsibility for the children lies with him. (Col. 3:18;1 Pet. 3:1) Children in such a home should not ignore their father’s wishes; while they are minors, they are under his jurisdiction. At the same time, they do well to copy their mother’s example of godly devotion, going with her to the meetings of the Christian congregation and building up strong faith in Jehovah God and his righteous ways. Even in those cases where the father may not permit them to go to these meetings, young folks who desire to please Jehovah can listen attentively when their mother talks to them at home and can inquire of her as to Bible principles that ought to govern their desires and their conduct.—Acts 16:1, 2.
WHEN PROBLEMS ARISE
Raising children in this modern-day world, filled as it is with influences toward unrighteousness, parents need to keep in constant touch with the activities of their children to guide them in the right way. But what if one of your children, in spite of your efforts to guide him aright, got into bad company and shared in doing things that just do not befit a Christian? What should be done about it?
Since he is a minor, the best thing for him to do is to talk to you as his parents and tell you exactly what happened. Do your children feel that closeness to you, so that they readily come to you and discuss problems when they arise? Probably, if he had listened to your advice in the first place, he would not have gotten into the difficulty. But some young people have to get a severe jolt before they appreciate that their parents are really trying to help and protect them, and that they are not just trying to keep them from having a good time.
If, on hearing what happened, you as parents feel that steps ought to be taken to make amends for what your child did, then it is up to you to supervise the matter to see that it is done. If you feel that apologies are in order or that restitution for damage should be made, then it is your responsibility to see that it is done. It is your job as parents to handle the situation, and if you feel that certain firm restrictions need to be put on the child to prevent a reoccurrence of the situation, that is something for you to work out.—Heb. 12:9.
It is not the responsibility of the mature brothers making up the committee in the local congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses to take over the raising of the children and to reprimand and correct them if they get into difficulty, and that is true even if those children are dedicated and baptized members of the congregation. The responsibility rests with the parents, particularly the father. If the child’s conduct put the congregation of Jehovah’s people in a bad light, then the parents should tell the congregation committee what they have done to handle the situation. But as long as they are shouldering that responsibility, the committee is not to step in and try to do the job. However, if parents let their dedicated children run wild and engage in loose conduct and do little or nothing to keep them in check, the congregation committee may inquire into the situation. Principally, however, they will endeavor to do this through the parents, since they are the ones responsible for the children. Yet, if the parents continue to fail to take firm hold of the situation, even after loving counsel has been offered to them, then the congregation committee may take what steps are needed in connection with the children to keep the congregation clean. Similarly, if a dedicated and baptized minor persists in serious wrongdoing, refusing to submit to probation imposed by his parents, the congregation will take action to disfellowship the persistently sinning youth.
But that spiritually disastrous situation need never arise. The principles of the Bible and the efforts of the congregation are directed, not toward congregation intervention in family affairs, but toward the strengthening of family ties. If you are a father, why not organize the affairs of your household now to give the needed attention to the spiritual welfare of each member of the family, so they will be strong in faith and conduct themselves in a way that will glorify God? If you are a young person, why not make it a habit to keep your parents informed on the things you do, seek their counsel and then obey it, not just when it pleases you, but all the time, because this is “well-pleasing in the Lord”? In this way youths, their parents and the Christian congregation will be maintaining a high standard of conduct that will move others, too, to glorify God.—1 Pet. 2:12.