If we haven’t experienced it, we know someone who has—a child who was raised in a good Christian home but left it all behind. How should a loving parent deal with such a child?

Too many pillows are soaked by the tears of parents who have tried to be consistent, to keep their kids in church, and to raise them in obedience to God’s Word, only to see them leave home, leave church, and leave God. It hurts.

Jude dealt with false teachers who rejected the Lord, but his bold confrontation ends with an obvious wave of pity and compassion for those they were deceiving. In Jude 22–23 he gives us specific help to deal with three different types of rebels.

Some Are Playing with Fire and Must Be Warned

“And have mercy on some, who are doubting” (Jude 22, NASB).

You must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Show the same mercy and compassion that God has shown you. Hear them out. Tell them why you believe what you believe rather than demanding blind allegiance. It is especially vital to help them see the flaws in the secularist reasoning that surrounds them. Solomon said, “My son, give me your heart” (Proverbs 23:26). If you don’t have the heart of your children, you will never impact their lives. Go on a vacation and take time to win back their hearts. Through their times of doubt they need patient listeners and biblical direction.

Some Are Falling into the Fire and Must Be Helped

“Save others, snatching them out of the fire” (Jude 23a, NASB).

Until kids are eighteen, you have the opportunity to put as many restraints and reminders in their paths as you can. They may hate you for it at the time, but they will thank you later. Don’t be afraid to lovingly limit their entertainment, filter their computers, or question the foolishness of their friends. Our fear of God and our love for our kids should motivate us to rescue them from even the possibility of God’s judgment.

Some Are Being Burned by the Fire and Must Be Committed to the Lord’s Grace

“And on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (Jude 23b, NASB).

Even if your kids have left home, they are never out of God’s reach.

Even if your kids have left home, they are never out of God’s reach. When you pray, make sure God is the object of your faith. If He can change the heart of a king, He can change the heart of your child. Release your kids into His care to do whatever is necessary for them to be reconciled to Him—whatever is necessary. Be careful not to fund their sin, soften God’s chastising hand, or rescue them out of the pigsty. And always guard your own relationship with Christ against contamination. As Bible commentator William Barclay notes, “He who would cure an infectious disease always runs the risk of infection.”

Even the best parents will make mistakes, but in the end our children are responsible for their own choices. We can prepare our kids for judgment, but they will kneel alone before God. The only perfect Father is our heavenly Father, and yet consider how we treat Him. “Lord, we need Your mercy for our kids and ourselves.”

Rand Hummel has more than 30 years of experience in Christian camp ministry and is now the director of The Wilds of New England. Rand has written several Bible helps for adults and teens. Rand holds a B.A. in Bible and an honorary doctorate from Bob Jones University.

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