My adult child rejects our faith. How can I convince her?

Sorry I wasn’t able to post a blog last week. My family – all 34 of us took a week long cruise to Alaska to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday. I’ll be posting some pictures for those who want to see some of Alaska’s beauty on my facebook page. We had lots of fun in spite of all the rainy weather. However, we did not have easy access to internet and I decided not to get anxious over a missed week of blogging.

Our family consisted of four generations and throughout the week we had lots of opportunities for family discussions around politics, religion, lifestyle and other hot topics. I answered this particular question for last week but have lost it on the computer. But I think I can answer this week’s question better now having listened to them this past week.

Question: My adult daughter is living a lifestyle I don’t agree with. She knows our values but rejects them. She functions in an adult capacity, is responsible and a nice person but I am heartbroken that she doesn’t really want anything to do with God, church or the Christian faith. I’m not sure what to do at this point to help her to see she’s heading down a destructive path, even if society says that she is doing fine and is successful in a worldly way. Any advice?

Answer: I know your heart hurts for her. You see her bedazzled by the world and the things of God seem boring and irrelevant. It saddens me too but I think those of us in the baby boomer generation have to take some responsibility for this problem. I don’t think we’ve done a great job making our faith very real to the younger generation. We’ve taught them all the right things to believe but I don’t think we’ve done a great job living them out in our culture, our world, or in relationships with one another.

Abuse, injustice, and immorality are all around us, not just in the world, but also in the church. They’ve heard Jesus’ words about love and kindness but have observed our complaining, pettiness, and gossip. They see more selfishness than sacrifice in our daily lifestyles.

So they reject this brand of faith (as they should), but that does not mean that they will reject Jesus. So here is where I think we need to start if we want to have an opportunity to be a light in their lives. We need to be different ourselves, without focusing on how they need to be change. Let me share with you some tips I garnered from my discussions with my nieces and nephews this week.

First and foremost, people want to be loved and valued for who they are. They hate feeling like they’re a project where your mission is to convince them or transform them. If your daughter experiences your love for her even through your differences, she will be more open to your influence in every way.

On the other hand, if she feels that whenever you are together you have an unspoken agenda (to convince her of the truth, get her to repent and/or change her lifestyle), she will likely close herself off to you. I’d encourage you to spend lots of time with your daughter where there is no agenda. In other words spend time shopping or having dinner or playing a game but do not manipulate the conversation toward what the Bible says about something or ask her to listen to the latest Christian speaker’s views on a particular topic. Your goal is to simply love her and show her that you want to be with her for who she is, not convince her that she’s wrong and you’re right.

Second, live your faith before her without words. If you’re against something, such as homosexuality or abortion or materialism, what specifically are you doing to show love and kindness to a pregnant woman who feels abortion is her only choice, or people sick with HIV, or hungry children in your community?

Our walk speaks much louder than our talk. Your daughter will pay far more attention to how you treat her father when you’re upset with him, how you handle difficult life stressors, and what you do when you’re angry, scared, hurt, or tempted than she will to a specific book you want her to read or program you want her to listen to. If she has been raised in the church, she has already heard it, read it, and been taught it and for this time in her life rejected it. One of the definitions of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results. I’m not saying that you will never share a verse with her or talk about values but do it in a context of your life, not hers. Surprise her with truth in a new way.

For example, if you blow it and behave sinfully in a moment of frustration you can say,

“I’m really sorry. That is not who I am or want to be. It was how I felt in the moment but I am learning by God’s grace I don’t have to give into my temporary emotional states whenever I’m feeling them.”

Or, if you share different values about an issue you can say,

“I understand that you don’t see anything wrong in homosexuality and it doesn’t bother you but would you consider this possibility? If it’s true that God made us and he loves us, wouldn’t he know best what’s good for us?”

Allow room for disagreement and discussion. Listen respectfully. Show interest in her points of view and if she offers something for you to read, read it. These are ways that build a relationship that expresses mutual caring, mutual respect and mutual caring. It is in that context that we will have the greatest influence.

People today crave authenticity, genuineness and transparency. For some, we are the only bible they will ever read, the only church they will ever attend, the only Jesus they will ever see. The question we must ask ourselves is do we look like him?

This week’s question is: What specific things do you do to live more authentically in front of your children and others who are watching you live out your faith?

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