Questions From Readers
● If a young person is forbidden by his father (or his mother) to study the Bible or to associate with Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, is he obligated to obey in these matters?—U.S.A.
The Bible commands children: “Be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous.” (Eph. 6:1) “Be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.” (Col. 3:20) As firm advocators of the Bible, Jehovah’s witnesses constantly urge youths to follow that divine advice. However, the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is brought into the matter shows that obedience to parents is not absolute. The authority of Jesus Christ is far greater than that of any earthly father. Jesus has been given ‘all authority in heaven and on the earth,’ and is the “head of every man.”—Matt. 28:18; 1 Cor. 11:3.
Accordingly, whenever a father demands that his children disobey the law of Christ and hence also the law of God, he is going beyond the realm of his authority. At such times, therefore, children have to decide what they will do. For example, what if a father commands his son to steal, lie, cheat or engage in other lawless acts? The son may be aware that God forbids these things. Hence, a son may choose to obey the superior law of God and of Christ and not go along with his father.
Even the law of the land places a certain responsibility on children in this regard. It may hold a child accountable for committing a crime at the direction of the father. Says American Jurisprudence: “A child acting under his parents’ command may, in a proper case, be excused for a crime committed by him, although the father’s command does not always excuse the infant in committing a crime. When a child commits an unlawful act in the presence of his father, at his direction, and because of the criminal intent of the father, it must appear that the child was of immature years or mind and entirely under the domination, direction, and control of the father, before the crime becomes that of the father, and not of the child.”
Similarly, the law of God does not excuse children for lawless acts merely on the basis of their being minors. For instance, when small boys showed gross disrespect for the prophet Elisha, Jehovah God did not spare them from punishment, even though it may have been the attitude of their parents toward Elisha that moved them to do it. (2 Ki. 2:23, 24) This illustrates that Jehovah God holds children accountable for knowingly violating his commands.
Of course, very young children neither know nor understand all of God’s requirements. Therefore, even if only one parent is a true servant of God, young children are mercifully viewed as holy or clean from God’s standpoint. (1 Cor. 7:14) Of course, the believing parent has a responsibility of teaching the children the divine will regardless of the attitude of the unbelieving mate. (Prov. 6:20) Then, as children grow older, they come under responsibility before God to act in harmony with what they know to be right. This includes matters relating to true worship. It is God’s will that his approved servants study his Word, assemble with fellow believers and proclaim Bible truth to still others.—Matt. 24:14; John 17:3; Heb. 10:24, 25.
However, if a father forbade such Christian activity, the children might reasonably and respectfully explain their position to him. Such an explanation will carry weight when backed up by exemplary conduct. Really the father should have no legitimate complaint to make about children who are seeking to do the divine will. If children can help him to appreciate that they have become better sons and daughters since starting to study God’s Word, this can do much to break down any prejudice. It can help him to see that his children are a real credit to him and stand out in stark contrast with the growing number of disrespectful and lawless youths in the world today. After reflecting on such points he may not at all object to his children’s continuing to pursue a course that is making it easier for him as family head.
There are times when children are the only ones in a family that want to learn about God’s Word. They might come to the home of one of Jehovah’s witnesses and ask Bible questions or even attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall. If parents demand that their children cease all association with Jehovah’s witnesses, the children will have to decide what they are going to do on the basis of what they know to be right. If parents begin directly supervising every aspect of the activity of their children and cut them off from all possible association with Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, this does not prevent youths from demonstrating their desire to do God’s will by maintaining fine conduct, studying the Bible on their own and praying that the time may come when they will be freer to pursue true worship and can continue to seek the permission of their parents to share more fully in Christian activity.
On the other hand, though denying a child’s request to attend Christian meetings or to let a minister come and study the Bible with him, perhaps the parents do not exercise any strict supervision. What is the responsibility of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses toward such a child? Jehovah’s witnesses rightly respect the wishes of parents as to what will be done in their own home. But this does not mean that Jehovah’s witnesses cannot answer Bible questions raised by youths who visit them or who meet them on the street or elsewhere. Jehovah’s witnesses have no responsibility to turn children away from their Kingdom Halls because parents may not want them to attend meetings there. The Bible says: “Let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.” (Rev. 22:17) If youths are among those desiring life’s water, who is there that should turn them away? Jesus Christ told his disciples: “Let the young children alone, and stop hindering them from coming to me, for the kingdom of the heavens belongs to suchlike ones.”—Matt. 19:14.