Today's question comes from a divorced sister with a 10 year old son.
NOTE: This question has been modified from it's original form in order to protect sensitive information.
Question: I have a 10 year old son. I had him before I was a Christian, I considered myself an Agnostic at the time. Well I came to the Lord about 2 years ago and up until our son was 9 years old his father, who is a very devout Atheist, was not involved in his life at all.
My son, who is a Christian, is constantly witnessing to his dad whenever they are together. While I have not yet shown him how to witness, he is talking to his dad about Christ anyway.
My ex had our son with him last week and my son told me when I got him back yesterday that his dad yelled at him to stop telling him about Jesus because he doesn't believe it and since I told him that he couldn't discuss Atheism with our son, then our son wasn't allowed to discuss Christianity with him.
Needless to say it upset my son as he wants his dad to be saved which leads me to my question.
Children are supposed to honor their father/mother. I am showing him how to witness and his father told him he cannot witness to him. But God says to witness.
Where is the line? How should I advise my son? I don't want him to dishonor his father at the same time I don't want him to dishonor God but also he should be able to have fun with his dad without always feeling like he should witness. They should both be able to enjoy their time.
Answer: First of all, your son is 10 years old. As wonderful, smart and loving as he might be, he's only 10 and is obviously being driven by emotion. Your son is probably scared senseless over the fact that his father is on the road to hell. So to say that, "My son is a Christian" is not really supportable at this age and will only be determined once he is not only above the age of accountability, but also by time itself. At best, you could say that your son is "walking in the statutes that you have set". Only time will tell if your son truly and adequately understands the how's and why's of his Redemption and the Atonement that Jesus offers.
The Bible does however offer us some insight, as to how to handle this situation you're dealing with.
First of all, I know you've only been a Christian for a short time, but there is something you should know about Mark 16 before we continue. Verses 9-20 DO NOT APPEAR in the oldest copies of the NT texts that we have. While the information contained in those verses is not technically wrong, it's argued that perhaps they are not written in the inspired way that the rest of the Bible is. I believe that knowing this is important, because when you're in a position to either evangelize or apologize with a non-believer, it might be a good idea to steer clear around those 12 verses and use others to make your case. Again, I'm not saying those verses are "wrong", but the Great Commission outlined in Matthew (which we know is reliable) is markedly different in one big respect. We tend to hang on the "every creature" wording revealed in Mark, when Matthew says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations". There's a huge disparity between "every creature" and "all the nations". The Greek word being used there is "ethnos" which literally means "nations". A more thorough study of the word ethnos, also reveals it's usually used to refer to "Non-Jewish Tribes or Nations". Not the "every creature" that's depicted in Mark. All I'm saying here, is if one day we find a whole bunch more texts and those 12 verses are still missing in Mark, it may finally be decided that they should be removed. Of course if the inverse happens, then we can thoroughly and completely embrace those verses. Either way, I'm praying that the Rapture happens sooner than the time needed to find more scrolls! For more information on the Mark 16 issue, go to this link at the CARM website. (In other words, I'm not making this up.)
So with that out of the way, now we're tasked with "What did God intend for us to understand in regards to the Great Commission"? Were we to go to every nation and convince "the powers" (or rulers) to be baptized? Or were we told to go to every single human being, one at a time? I don't know, so I'm hedging my bets and desiring to do both.
As a matter of fact (and a little off topic), one of our Ministers (Pastor Jeff), will arrive in the Philippines tomorrow, in order to help set up a Birthing Center in a city that is extremely far away from the nearest hospital. Infant mortality is off the charts in this particular area of the country. In any event, most Filipinos are Catholic and Pastor Jeff has become personal friends with the Mayor of this city. God willing, the Mayor will be open to the true message of the Gospel and not what the Catholic church has fed him his whole life. If we can change the leaders we put in place, we can change the people. This has already happened in the USA, under Presidents such as Wilson and Roosevelt. The only problem, is they caused us to begin moving further away from God, not closer.
So back to the question at hand, "Should the 10 year old son obey his father in reference to talking about God or should he press on because the Bible tells him so?"
One of the problems we have, is the MISINTERPRETATION of the 5th commandment. Honor is not a synonym for OBEY. It's a commandment to bring HONOR to your family by your actions. There are times (many as fate would have it), that God would PREFER that you DO NOT OBEY your father.
Ezekiel 20:18-19 - But I said to their children in the wilderness, 'Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, nor observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols. I am the LORD your God: Walk in My statutes, keep My judgments, and do them;
Like I said earlier, your son is 10. He's still below the age of accountability. As such, he can not possibly comprehend anything beyond an emotional level or "how he feels about it"... If he could, you could point him to 1 Corinthians 1:18.
1 Corinthians 1:18 - For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
But no matter how you slice it, your son has already:
- Discussed God and the bible with his father
- Shared the Gospel with his father (albeit against his wishes)
- Been yelled at for his troubles
Your son already approached the line, crossed it and then crossed it some more...
No matter how much your son loves his father, that love will not affect any conversion...
Perhaps you can explain to your son, "Salvation is a choice sweetheart. Just as I have made a choice and just as you will one day hopefully also make a choice, daddy needs to make the choice to accept it ALL BY HIMSELF. You can't save your daddy, only Jesus can. We just need to place all of our trust in Jesus and we can pray that daddy will one day make that choice for himself."
As for the thing about your son being below the age of accountability, it's kind of a parallel to one of the unbiblical practices within Catholicism. The Catholics believe that their baptism at birth somehow offers them their Salvation, even though Acts 22:16 makes it clear that YOU MUST CHOOSE TO DO SO. Neither an infant nor a young child is able to make the comprehensive choice necessary in order to affect them being "born again". A child can no more understand the concept of "free-will" than they could about how dirt is "made". Only God knows that. HE MADE IT! Besides, I know some 50 year old men who still don't understand that their Salvation is a FREE GIFT FROM GOD. They think they have to earn it somehow...
As for what the age of accountability is, is a matter not easily put in numbers. Jewish tradition places that age between 12-14 years old, while the law in the United States says it's 18. While the age that a child truly can comprehend these things is certainly different from child to child, I think it's safe to say that there aren't many 10 year old's who have REALLY been saved at that age. Every time I hear someone say, "So I received Christ at the age of 4 and I was baptized when I was five. Mom says that I went into the church afterwards and then read from the book of Revelation and then explained it to everyone, it was a real miracle!", so every time I hear these outrageous stories, I roll my eyes. Someone lied to this poor kid and now he's passing it along as fact. Anyway, you're his mom, you'll KNOW when he's truly comprehended it all and when he's been saved. For now, all you can do is raise him right, train him in God's ways and pray that he too makes this LIFE ALTERING CHANGE.
I pray that you can appreciate this answer, knowing that I don't believe it's necessary to always give "baby answers" to real issues that people have to deal with in their life. In other words, I'd rather have you think and reflect on God's Word than to have you walk away smiling, all happy and proud of yourself.