Children, Grandparents, and Differing Beliefs

By Richard Rizzi

It's not uncommon for adult children to have a different faith than their parents. It's even more common for extended families to vary on small but significant points, like how holidays should be celebrated. When grandchildren are added to the mix, things get very complicated. How do we honor our parents while raising our kids in the way we believe God is leading us?

Many years ago, when my children were very young, about three and five, my wife and I were going to go to a couples' retreat and leave the kids with Grandpa. It was Christmastime and we were all excited. When talking with my dad about our plans, he mentioned he was going to take the kids to the mall to see Santa Claus. Well, we don't do Santa, and I tried to explain that to my dad. He said that if I was leaving the kids with him he could do whatever he wanted — it was his house and it was his decision.

I then said, a bit ticked off, "Well then, we won't be coming for Christmas."

That may not have been the best response, but it did begin a conversation that ended with him agreeing to take the grandkids but skip Santa. We did see my dad at Christmas that year and many more after.

The idea of honoring a parent must have its basis in the faith we have in the Lord. The Fifth Commandment is clear: "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12). The word for honor here means to make weighty or honorable decisions. To make glorious or give glory. The context in which this is given is very important — it's given for the people of God to honor and glorify God and not mankind.

We need to remain strong in our position to raise our children and lead them to a biblical faith in the Lord, even if that faith contradicts what our parents believe. I have always tried to live by this:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6.1-4
I must be very aware of my responsibility to raise my children with respect for God first and not do anything that will lead them away from God. If I am raising my children to obey the Lord, they have every reason to then honor me. But if I am not raising my children "in the Lord," there is no reason for them to honor and obey me. It's outside of the commandment.

When faced with such a situation, sit down with the grandparent and calmly explain your position — that it is your responsibility to raise your children with only the Bible as the basis for teaching them about God. You must reassure them you love them, but that love and respect does not extend to giving permission to teach your children anything that undermines the Biblical doctrine and theology that you have been convicted of by faith. If you can't be sure they will abide by your wishes, it may be wise to only have visits with her when you are present.

Image Credit: S P Photography; "Grandparents"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Celebrating-Holidays  | Christian-Life  | Family-Life  | Personal-Relationships  | Theological-Beliefs

comments powered by Disqus
Published 3-7-16