Have you ever experienced a bad storm where trees fell across the electric wires and tore them apart putting your place or others "out of connection" with the power source? Or have you ever turned the key to start a piece of equipment only to find out it would not start because some safety wires had become disconnected? The good thing about these problems is that with a little physical effort, the problem can be solved by those who understand how such things work.
There is a problem that is facing Christian families of today that is of a much greater magnitude and of a far more devastating affect. This is the problem of spiritual storms that are producing "torn connections" between individuals and their Maker. Along with these "torn connections" comes a wave of influence. Christian families now are forced into making decisions about how they will relate to such close family members (brother, sister, husband, wife, child, etc.) The purpose of this article is to give some Scriptural admonition and encouragement to any who are in the middle of such situations.
In looking at this subject, one is made keenly aware of the fact that a proper response in one situation may be improper in another situation. For instance, how parents with younger children at home may need to deal with a rebellious "teenager" may be totally different for another set of parents who have no younger children at home. Why? "Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes" (SS 2:15). The one set of parents have more at stake in their response to this "torn connection." Such situations behoove us to fall on our knees and beseech God for heavenly wisdom [James 1:5] to make the best choices.
Primarily, the goal of all our actions to such "torn connections" should be of a redemptive nature. Consider the story of Abraham and Lot. What did Abraham do when Lot was taken captive? He and his servants went after the enemies and rescued Lot. What did Abraham do later on when God dealt with Sodom and Gomorrah? He interceded before God for Lot and his family. Abraham's continued concern and response to "worldly" Lot was that of a redemptive nature. Though time and distance may have brought physical separations, his main concern was Lot's well being. As the people of God, we too must maintain this concern and not just totally write off the "torn connections" that we relate to. Oh, for more concerned intercessors as Abraham!
Second, we must maintain a clear vision of God's interest in holiness. "Be ye holy, for I am holy" (1Pet 1:16). This verse comes in the context of "putting off" the lifestyle of the unregenerate about us. Many people have made the mistake of trying to heal "torn connections" by moving the dividing lines of separation that God's Word has already established in hope that social relationships can be restored. But what side wins in such situations? "Be not deceived, evil communications corrupt good manners" (1Cor 15:33). That verse is a clear reminder of the fact that we cannot win the world by being "like the world."
Third, we need to continue to practice and proclaim what God's Word promotes. In Ephesians 5, we read about the need to reprove wicked living by not having part in their deeds (v.7) and by speaking out clearly and kindly against such doings (v.11). This has often produced opposition; but as children of God, we cannot stop doing this. In fact, for Noah, this must have been a very real challenge when we consider how none of his siblings went in with him into the ark. Surely, some of his family heard him tell why God was going to send the flood, and they probably went home convicted of their own lifestyle even though they did not change. Are you willing to be a "preacher of righteousness" even to your close relatives? In relating at times to such, we'll find that very harsh accusations are voiced against the church leaders, etc., that we may be shocked to hear. It is very important that we are not unnerved and become sympathizers with them but rather that we refrain our lips from "sowing discord among brethren."
Another area that can be a real mountain to climb over comes in our response to their irresponsibility. For instance, a wife and children may have to struggle along financially because of a "torn connection" where the father is wayward. This calls for the need to "forgive men their trespasses" so that God can forgive us. Joseph forgave his brothers for their wrongdoing and left their accountability for such doings in God's hands. As followers of Jesus, we too must take the road of forgiveness and dig out any root of bitterness that buds forth.
Proper priorities can be tested when we relate to visits from wayward family members. Should family worship be laid down because they are around for a day or two? Should their interest in sports, entertainment, etc. be the main conversational piece at the supper table? Should we take great interest in the sports car they may show up in and just have to check it all out?
What if they invite you over for a birthday party or something else? Should you always go so their feelings are not hurt? Remember parents; do not step into such situations without some proper forethought. Romans 13:14 calls us to "make not provision (forethought) for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof." Suppose you get there and country music is playing or a TV is on that they do not turn off. What will you do? Should you just put up with it for a little while and then leave? I think not. Why not kindly remind them of your convictions and tell them you will need to leave if that is what is going to be happening? As spiritual life is quenched in a life, such situations can and may happen. Such happenings require some reasonable questioning before going should there be a repeat invitation. Remember to "Hold fast that which is good" (1Thes 5:21), no matter what situation you may face.
Since time, distance, and opposite directions of travel may bring less and less contact with our close family, I think it is still valuable to keep up a little bit of contact. Though prayer is probably the most effective agent in reaching out to them, an occasional letter, card, or phone call reveals the fact that we still love them as a person. May we follow our Master's example in going forth and seeking those sheep that have gone astray.
- Molino, FL