Oh my God my Parents Don't Believe God is Love!
How do I get them to understand that God is good?
Written by Edna Davidsen ∴ Saturday, Januar 20, 2018, updated February 6, 2018
1. Let's go learn how to be children of God
On August 8, 2013, Aysha Ives (Ayshaives.com, TW: @AyshaIves) wrote a blog post called “My Parents Don’t Have a Relationship with Jesus! What Can I Do?” published on Projectinspired.com. Aysha sums up the topic in the following with flying colours. Here's a quote from her blog post: "My parents don’t believe in God, and I desperately want them to! I know that I can’t force Jesus on them and that they have to experience Him for themselves, but I desperately want them to know God! What should I do? It’s really tough when you’ve developed a relationship with Jesus, and your family and friends are still lagging behind in that area. It’s even tougher when they refuse to listen to you when you try to tell them all about God’s AMAZING glory! Every believer wants their family and friends also to be believers, so what do you do when those who are closest to you DON’T believe? I think every believer has been in this same situation at one time or another. I myself currently have family and friends whom I SO want to experience a committed relationship with Jesus. Unfortunately, they’re still blinded by Satan’s deception. So this is what I’ve learned to do…I think these tips will help you, too!" I encourage the audience of Edna's Blog | OurChristianBook.com who doesn't know whether to wind a watch or bark at the moon regarding this topic to read Aysha's blog post. It's short and written by a talented writer. The five thorough tips, Aysha Ives, touches in her blog post are: 1. Love them [ED: The parents] even MORE! 2. Try not to be too critical.3. Don’t take it too personally. 4. Remember that GOD does the growing.5. Don’t give up on them! This blog post number 27 Oh my God my Parents Don't Believe God is Love! Published January 20 will focus on number 3. Don’t take it too personally. As we get the ball rolling, it'll be apparent why. Contrary to contemporary opinion, Christianity and the Christian faith are not subjective matters. It gets its strength from a 2000 years old tradition. A tradition with tremendous treasures for those who take the time to study it.
I get a kick out of studying the early Christians because of their different approach to life, love, language and liberty. This will be the perspective in the following:
Let's go learn how to be children of God.
Aysha Ives found it problematic that here parents didn't believe in God. She desperately wanted to draw them to what was dearest to here, Jesus Christ. She knew she couldn't force Jesus on them and that they had to experience Him for themselves. Many Millennials like Aysha Ives desperately want someone in their family to know God! The question is: What should we do? Before we dive deeper into these dangerous waters, I'll pause and emphasise a point: In the Evangelical Lutheran church, it's important people come to church and understand what's the pastor's preaching plus the other patterns we meet there. The pastor's preaching has one primary goal, and it's to give the congregation a helping hand to reach an understanding and useful experience of God's protection. It's time to bury the hatchet and call a spade a spade among contemporary Christians: God's not hunting us. God will not chew somebody's head off if we cheat, create chaos, or cause conflict.
God's not handing out cold shoulders.
Cheating, creating chaos, or creating conflicts are all terrible activities. In God's eye's people who do this are no more black sheep's than we are. We all have the same colour in God's eyes, cf. Ephesians 2:8-9: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." It's »not by works«. I'm full of joys of the spring about this Bible verse because it means we're all, without exception, equal to God.
We can always trust God.
1.1 Martin Luther's God-experience
Psychology teaches us God is an extension of our childhood-experiences or a reaction to these. I'm all ears when psychologists say something about God. The seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation Martin Luther (1483-1456) had parents, who were incredibly pushy and ambitious on the son's behalf. Martin Luther had to »take the bitter with the sweet« and there seems to have been a great deal of »the bitter« in his childhood. In his book, Young Man Luther published 1958 the American psychologist Erik Erikson exemplified his (now famous) identity crisis theory with Martin Luther's childhood as the leading example. Erik Erikson emphasis Martin Luther's God-experience as an adult and uses this as a takeoff and target for his psychological theory. He describes how Martin Luther met an extraordinary demanding God, which could never be satisfied, and almost drove him crazy in his monastic life. Erik Erikson understood and explained Martin Luther's radical and raw God-experiences in the light of his childhood experiences. In Martin Luther's monastic life God had become a magnifying mirror and medium for all the negative memories he held of his father from his childhood. At some point, we don't know when, Martin Luther realised God was definitely different, self-giving and loving without limits. With this Martin Luther's God-experience turned into a thoughtful testimony and a total transformation of today's Christianity.
1.2 Pressured Pastor-children
Today, it's possible to find a group of people, who share Martin Luther's childhood experiences. The group is especially vulnerable and thus valuable to study: I'm thinking of children of pastors and people coming from a Christian environment where the children have been taught to temper all that has to do with having a fun and flower-filled life. This Christian environment seems to dismiss satisfaction, and focus on saving souls to the degree that is directly dangerous and beyond debate. For many, a consequence of growing up in this childhood environment is the same as we saw with Martin Luther: Total rejection. An article Pastor's Kids, Ministering Children published on Christianity Today (Christianitytoday.com, TW: @CTmagazine) gives several examples of how this rejection looks like in contemporary American culture. In the article, we get Carl' story. Carl was a bright, balanced son of a successful pastor. He was an eager beaver about becoming a doctor devoted to helping desperate people. Carl did not make it. He dropped out of mainstream society. Furthermore, he literally disappeared from his dear parents' lives, »only surfacing for a few days every six months or so«. The visits were tense times for Carl's family because he had become a heavy marijuana smoker. Why did Carl's life take such a toxic turn? Could it be from the pressure he had felt in the Christian environment as a child? I encourage the audience of Edna's Blog | OurChristianBook.com to read the other stories about Kristi, Jack and Becky in the article referred to above because this is a severe and little-written-about topic in the Christian online community. The pastor-children and children from radical Christian environments, who turn away from Christianity as grown ups are the best examples of how difficult it has been for the last generations to facilitate the faith to the next generations. Forewarned is forearmed.
The way modern generations have handed the holy gospel to the Millennials is similar to the Gnostic sects old church approach. The story about the pastor-children above is an example of the adverse effects the focus on the individual experience can cause within the church.
The Gnostic sects all died because they focused on the experience of the individual instead of on an organised community.
With that in mind, let's go learn a lesson from what Aysha Ives said earlier: "My parents don’t believe in God, and I desperately want them to!" Who else is likely to be familiar with Aysha's feeling and thus face the fear that is a fierce follower of this frame of mind? I think of one particular group.
1.3 The »born-again« Millennials
The »born-again« Millennials, who come from a non-Christian environment. In church, these are newcomers with little or no church experience. The phrase: »Let's go learn how to be children of God« points to what's essential for them to learn in the first period of their active church life. If one is grown up with the church as a central checkpoint in a cheerful life, it can be challenging to characterise how the church charges and changes life because it's like one can't see the forest for the trees. Nevertheless, let's try to chart what it is the church ceremony connects in contemporary culture.The first churches in the Roman Empire changed the way our civilisation captured and challenged the answers to central ethical questions. The Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37 had not been told and since brought into a strong Christian tradition without effect. Across Europe, The Parable of the Good Samaritan spread like a tornado and kick-started the ongoing gospel spreading. The Christian Charity ideal has more than anything else given Christians strength and a scene to speak from. In blog post number 26 A Characteristic of Him who founded Christianity published January 2018 readers of Edna's Blog | OurChristianBook.com saw how this led to the implementation of hospitals, elderly care, social protection, the tax system etc. The old church did also see it as its duty to demonstrate and defend how the idea of Christian charity could be preserved and passed on the future generations by its teaching. When people wished to be baptised, they had to go learn about the Christian faith first and meet Christ as the saviour and about what was expected regarding changes in the way they lived their lives. The church offered the Christian newcomers help to connect the dots, so they did not get off on the wrong foot while stepping into faith.
1.4 The First three Commandments
The old Roman Empire church had at first three themes or commandments: 1. Prohibition of adultery. 2. Prohibition of murder. 3. Prohibition of withdrawal from the Christian/Roman Empire ideology. Later, the Roman Empire church added the seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins.
1.5 The Seven Deadly Sins
1. Lust (cf. Google Dictionary: 1. strong sexual desire. 2. a passionate desire for something.) - Latin: Luxuria. 2. Gluttony (cf. Google Dictionary: habitual greed or excess in eating.) - Latin: Gula.3. Greed (cf. Google Dictionary: intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.) - Latin: Avaritia. 4. Sloth (cf. Google Dictionary: reluctance to work or make an effort; laziness.) - Latin: Acedia. 5. Wrath (cf. Google Dictionary: extreme anger.) - Latin: Ira.6. Envy (cf. Google Dictionary: a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else's possessions, qualities, or luck.) - Latin: Invidia. 7. Pride (cf. Google Dictionary: a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of one's close associates, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.) - Latin: Superbia. The goal, in the old church, was to get forgiveness for these sins before facing death. Otherwise one could expect to go to the everlasting fire. The old church's pastors played the role as »the judges« on behalf of God. They could set people free who were willing to pay a small or significant fee depending on the pastor and his power. Martin Luther (1483-1456) the leading figure in the Protestant Reformation began a process, which brought this practice to an end.
1.6 The Seven Virtues
1. Chastity (cf. Google Dictionary: the state or practice of refraining from extramarital, or especially from all, sexual intercourse.) - Latin: Castitas. 2. Temperance (cf. Google Dictionary: abstinence from alcoholic drink.) - Latin: Temperantia. 3. Charity (cf. Google Dictionary: the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need.) Latin: Caritas.4. Diligence (cf. Google Dictionary: careful and persistent work or effort.) Latin: Industria. 5. Patience (cf. Google Dictionary: the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.) Latin: Patientia. 6. Kindness (cf. Google Dictionary: the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.) Latin: Humanitas. 7. Humility (cf. Google Dictionary: the quality of having a modest or low view of one's importance.) Latin: Humilitas. Much of the ideology behind these seven sins and virtues was borrowed from the classical Greek Philosophers Aristoteles (dead 322 BC) and Plato (dead 348 BC). Saint John Cassian (dead 435) a Christian monk and theologian wrote about the seven deadly sins in a form that became widespread in the old church.
1.7 Martin Luther and the Catechisms
John Cassian's writings were an attempt to chart human mind. The sin-view and sin-classification changed after the Reformation in the 16th-century. Martin Luther and the Protestant reformers focused on the ten commandments, which they meant were founded in the Bible. The Protestant reformers spread their teaching in so-called catechisms. The Google Dictionary defines catechisms as small books with a summary of the principles of Christian religion in the form of questions and answers, used for religious instruction. What's worth noticing about these well-written books that became popular all over Europe was that they didn't just declare how Christianity should, or could be understood. The small books did also contain specific sentences about how to bring Christianity into a social context.
1.8 Ethical Values Today
Today, it's also important our churches dare to speak up about ethical and social questions. The interest for ethical values and question has skyrocketed the last several years. The church should not let this opportunity slip away for answering these abstract questions with its accurate message. Since its beginning the church has been an institution people listen to; if we play our cards right, we'll continue this pattern. The church has to handle the ethical questions from another perspective than we see in secular debates about these ethical topics where the participants prefer to point towards particular partner-agreements with an appeal to the concept of self-interest. It's a smart way to get the Millennials on board because the majority of this group manage and map their life by asking »what's in it for me?« Today, the idea about social contracts based on the appeal to the self-interest concept has occupied too much of our ordinary life as I observe it. It's like almost all obligations ought to be objects for the social contract thinking, and that's evident wrong because they presume the contracts are committed to on a voluntary basis, which is not the case. The social contracts have become an inconvenience in many schools, for example, both for the students as well as the teachers. It's on this scene the church has the potential to deliver a powerful and practical package with its preaching about a perspective many modern people have figured out we can safely forget.
1.9 The Purpose of the Pastor's Preaching
The pastor preaches and teaches about solidarity and how a self-centred life separates us from what truly shapes our lives in a social context. The main message in the modern church is that we cannot create and chase a life where the output of our actions is measured by asking: »What's in it for me?« It's not enough. The church is preaching a view of humanity where the human, not I, but God and my »neighbour in a broad sense« are the central parts of life. According to a Christian and a church perspective, we'll always be number three in our lives because God's number one followed by our neighbour.
In the above, I've given a characteristic of the context in which Christianity got its shape. First, we met Aysha Ives, who wanted her parents to experience Jesus, and the five spiritual steps she suggested for people in situations parallel to her perspective. I gave priority to the following step: Don’t take it too personally. The upcoming paragraphs will fill in the missing dots and show the reader why it's the preferred approach. I paused the personal »Oh my God my Parents Don't Believe God is Love! How do I get them to understand that God is good?« approach and replaced it with another perspective saying: Let's go learn how to be children of God first. When OurChristianBook.com launched Edna's blog, there was no doubt it should be the Evangelical Lutheran church and its message about mercy, which was the Christian foundation for the faith I'd represent on this Christian affiliate marketing website. I drew a parallel to Martin Luther and his childhood as an example of how emotional experiences can evaporate or erase the essence of God's nature. Luther's experiences did not stand alone; they were backed up by more recent experiences, which I referred to with Carl's, Kristi's, Jack's and Becky's seldom told stories. Next, we saw why the Gnostic movements were silenced because they focused on the experience of the individual instead of an organised community. I defined the »born-again« Millennials, who come from a non-Christian environment as especially vulnerable to the dangerous aspects of wanting one's parents to experience Jesus pointing to the fact that these lack or have little experience with church and Christianity. Furthermore, we explored how the church relates to contemporary culture by bridging the old Roman Empire's church's three commandments or themes with the seven deadly sins and later the seven virtues. This led us up to the 16th-century, and the changes brought about by Martin Luther and the other Protestant Reformers. That context gave us the central ideas in Christianity, which enabled us to see church and Christianity in a contemporary context as complete contrarians to today's social contract campaigns.
1.11 A Particular Way of Seeing
The phrase: »Let's go learn how to be children of God« points to a particular way of seeing. It can be compared to travelling the world just to watch what meets the eye without a well-researched plan what to look for while taking the trip. To travel the world just »to see the world« as we say has little or no value compared to the value that comes from a carefully planned trip to cities we want to check out. The same goes for walking with Christ. The more we know about Him and the History of Christianity, the more we see with our inner eye. If we lack the knowledge that'll enable us to »see« the world or the secrets behind the old Christian traditions, then we won't see much. But what about those, who think: »Oh my God my Parents Don't Believe God is Love!« and therefore ask: »How do I get them to understand that God is good?« We are now ready to use what's said above to approach this question. I hope the first part of this blog post number 27 Oh my God my Parents Don't Believe God is Love! has given us sufficient knowledge to »see« the upcoming points and perspectives in a new and necessary light in the second part of the blog post: Fear not for God did not give us a spirit of fear.
1.12 Camille Nelson
Before we jump to the next blog post part I wish to point the audience of Edna's Blog | OurChristianBook.com to a version of What a friend we have in Jesus played by Camille Nelson (Camillenelson.com, TW: @camillenmusic). Her fantastic version of this well-known melody is called Israel, Israel, God is Calling. It was published on Camille Nelson's YouTube-channel November 2017. Camille Nelson's melodic version of What a friend we have in Jesus pins out a central theme in what's left of this blog post. Jesus is our friend.
2. Fear not for God did not give us a spirit of fear
Martin Luther was a game changer regarding how Christians view sin. The seven deadly sins and the seven virtues, which were written down in monasteries before Martin Luther can be seen as an attempt to access and chart/control the mind. The mission was to defeat the deadly sins with help from the seven virtues. Sin was thus a complex system before Martin Luther.
The early church practised indulgences, which meant that not only the monks but everyone should confess their sins once a year and pay a penalty fee to get forgiveness. With time the indulgences abuse grew into a significant problem for the medieval church. Meanwhile, the church was unable to measure and address most of the commercialisation. Therefore, Martin Luther and the other Protestant theologians thought of the indulgences as a thread and treated it as one of their top targets. Martin Luther and the Protestant movement rejected the idea of the indulgences and penance, where people had to pay a pastor to get forgiveness for their past sin-patterns. The Protestant movement moved focus from the sins to the sin. They had no interested in pinning down the sins into categories or capture the nature of different types of sins. Instead, Martin Luther and the other protestants viewed sin as a basic category whereby we are turned away from God and towards ourselves.
2.2 Incurvatus in se
In his lectures on Romans, Martin Luther used the phrase incurvatus in se (Latin: Turned/curved inward on oneself) to express an essential thought in the In the Evangelical Lutheran church. The purpose of talking about the sin in our church should according to Martin Luther thus not be to take it away. Rather talking about the sin should remind us of how vulnerable we are. When we realise this, we'll »see« with our inner eye that we need God's grace. When we're in the incurvatus in se state of mind, we're unable to see our neighbour, which is problematic since God and our neighbour come before us viewed from a Christian perspective as mentioned before. In Luke 16:20-31 we read about the rich man and the beggar Lazarus. What's the primary problem in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus? Was it the that he was rich? No, it wasn't.Was it that he enjoyed what he had? No, it wasn't.The problem was that he was in the incurvatus in se state of mind cf. Martin Luther. He didn't sense the surroundings. He didn't notice the poor and sick man. Lazarus was laying right outside his door, yet the rich man left him alone unnoticed with the dogs washing his wounds. Measured by the standards of many modern people the rich man lived a successful life. He had good food; life was a party. Nevertheless, he had an unrealistic approach to life and his neighbour. Maybe he didn't understand the life of Lazarus? Maybe he understood it but neglected it, which is even worse.
2.3 Don't Pitch
Let's go back to Aysha Ives' quote at the beginning of this blog post: She said: "My parents don’t believe in God, and I desperately want them to! I know that I can’t force Jesus on them and that they have to experience Him for themselves, but I desperately want them to know God! What should I do?" In blog post number 23 Let's go Learn How to Make Money, published November 2017, I wrote about Chet Holmes (Chetholmes.com, TW: @ChetHolmes). Chet Holmes is big cheese in sales and marketing. In his book The Ultimate Sales Machine he discovered that:
In every market, only about three percent of people are ready to ‘Buy Now!’
When the suggestion from Edna's Blog | OurChristianBook.com to those who say: "My parents don’t believe in God, and I desperately want them to!" is: Don't take it too personally, part of the explanation can be found in Chet Holmes statement about the small part (3%) in every market, who are interested in »buying the product« now.
2.4 Is the Gospel a Product?
Are faith and the gospel products? Yes, of course, they are! When parents say, they don't believe in God, that He's a loving God etc. it means they're not among the 3% who are interested in »buying the product« right now, perhaps they'll be later. By learning about the psychology of sales, people with non-believing parents could take a different approach next time we face a faith-related situation with non-believing parents - or with non-believers in general. Blog post number 1, Could Gary Comer’s Soul Whisperer help Shane? Published March 2017 began with a true story about Shane and his boss, which illustrated an example of an unnecessary situation that can occur if we don't realise that faith and the gospel are products.
2.5 The Psychology of Sales
What are the top three reasons Christians, in general, ought to learn about the psychology of sales? 1. Faith and the gospel are products. 2. It'll reduce misplaced gospel-pitching on- and offline and move focus to sincere relation-building instead with one aim: To help. 3. The Millennials will lend us their ears because they respect and relate to our life-approach.
But don't we lose something essential if we reduce the faith and the gospel to mere products? Isn't there more to it than that? What about the power of God? Isn't God able to do anything? My answer to this is no and yes. No, there's not more to it than this, yes, God can do anything. When I dare to answer with a definite no to the first question, it's because it's evident that most of the ways the gospel is shared on- and offline aren't working. It has little or no appeal to the Millennials. With a little bit of knowledge about sales and marketing, it's piece of cake to find out why.
2.6 Martin Luther and Modern Psychology
One of Martin Luther's favourite images was (Matthew 7:18) "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit." The early Christians, along with Martin Luther were not in doubt due to, which kind of »tree« humans where and what fruits we can expect. In our modern culture, we've become more optimistic regarding human nature. Today, there's a massive interest in the person we meet when we look into the mirror. The hidden treasure is there; we just have to find it. If we cannot find it ourselves, we can get psychologists or lifestyle experts to guide us. Martin Luther and the early Christians didn't expect to find much of interest by looking into the mirror. For them, the interesting part of life could not be found through the individuality, but in what binds us together.
2.7 An Advice from Stephen R. Covey
In his wonderful book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen R. Covey writes: "We have such a tendency to rush in, to fix things up with good advice. But we often fail to take the time to diagnose, to really, deeply understand the problem first."
(Covey, Stephen R.. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (p. 249). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.)
Perhaps this is the solution to the problem mentioned above. Perhaps our tendency to rush in, to fix things up with our good advice are causing us to feel miserable because we haven't taken the time to diagnose and deeply understand the problem first. Perhaps we should listen to Stephen R. Covey, who was a Christian man when he says: "If I were to summarise in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication."
(Covey, Stephen R.. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (p. 249). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.)
The Google Dictionary defines 'the gospel' as: the teaching or revelation of Christ or a thing that is absolutely true. It's natural for us to have a desire to share the gospel gift because we want others to experience the joyful life the gift gives us. It's one of those experiences in life we can't keep for ourselves, like when we experience to have children. It becomes a defining part of life. If you're one of those who says, feels or thinks: "Oh my God my Parents Don't Believe God is Love! How do I get them to understand that God is good?" you could try another approach with Steven R. Covey's principle:
Build genuine relation and focus less on who's believer or non-believer.
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