“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
How we treat our own sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters and our neighbors is a very important topic to dwell upon, especially in this day and age when the world is filled with darkness—with little understanding of God the Father.
Many Christians misunderstand the character of the Father and actually, by their behavior, educate and rear their children with a wrong understanding. Beholding Him with a right understanding of Who He is and how He treats sinful, corrupted humanity will transform us.
The judgment aspect of God is easy to understand. Yes, He forgives, but there is a limitation to His patience. There is a time when He judges and condemns—there is a judgment day, but this is usually the only concept of God—judgment!
God knows everything from the beginning to the end about each one of us and, for Himself, He does not need to record the actions and words of our lives. So why are there books of record, and why is there a need to investigate? The investigative judgment begins with the dead, for when a person dies his destiny is sealed. Then, God allows the intelligent beings, or the angels, to open the books to see if God’s judgment is correct. God does not investigate to see what this person has done and what kind of words he has spoken and then pass judgment—that is not so. He has already concluded, and judgment has been made for destiny. He knows each heart and the true motivation for all actions from the bottom of each heart, and the records are to convince others that His judgment is righteous.
The investigative judgment deals with both the righteous and the wicked. Sometimes we misunderstand how God really deals with people. If parents would learn of God’s character, they would then know how to deal with their own children and use the methods God uses in treating His own children. Only then will they learn how to become good parents.
We are living in the end of time, and the world is full of darkness and misapprehension of God and His character. We have been called to be the light of the world. The fourth angel’s message in Revelation 18:1 says, “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory.” The earth was charmed with his glory, his character. (See Exodus 33 and 34.)
The fourth angel’s message repeats the three previous messages (Revelation 14:6–12) and comes down to shine his glory upon the whole earth. The everlasting gospel is to fear God and give glory to Him. That combination includes knowing God and His love and how He treats His creatures. God never provokes our hearts to anger—He never provokes His children. He asks that children be brought up the Lord’s way, in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” [Ephesians 6:4].
Paul says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Colossians 3:21. Dealing with children in anger, and in such a way of showing that the parent’s reputation is more important than the child’s own well-being, provokes them to anger and actually discourages them mentally and spiritually.
I made this mistake when my children were very young. Though I was a pastor, it was not until I fully surrendered to Christ that I became a changed man. One day I went to my two children and asked them to forgive me because I was wrong. I was a bad father and a bad pastor. My children threw their arms around my neck and said we forgive you; even though we did not like you at the time we played instruments, we still love you. Children are easy to talk to and willing to forgive, but we adults, when we grow old our heads grow old too, become hard and stiff-necked, making it very difficult to forgive each other.
I expected my children to perform better than all others because they were the pastor’s children. Sometimes we push our children because of our own reputations and pride, and I was certainly in that category. I provoked them even though my intention was good, but my real motivation was something only God knew. Everybody else thought my children had a good father encouraging them. I also pushed them with studies and grades.
If you provoke your children, their spiritual hearts will be hardened and doors will be shut. God does not force anyone into heaven or to study the Bible or pray. God does not force anybody, period. But we, as good intentioned people, tend to use force.
As pastors, as elders, deacons and fathers and mothers, we often misuse our authority to force people. We force our children to study well, to go to church and pray. We force our neighbors, and we force our brothers and sisters in the church. There is a huge difference between appeal and force, and many times force is used due to our own ignorance of the character of God, Who is so patient and longsuffering.
If He so desired, He could send down one glorious angel to earth to tell us that Jesus Christ is coming and everybody is to repent, and they most probably would repent. If the three angels literally came down to earth and went around forcing people to believe, do you think they would believe? With something supernatural like that, everybody would repent, but not out of love; only because they would be scared to death. But that is not how God operates. He allows each one of us the privilege, as His humble servants, to preach the gospel to our neighbors.
Under force, a person will never understand the Scriptures. Force shuts the heart and eliminates any willingness and ability to learn of God. Those who are not willing to understand the real character of God cannot receive any spiritual benefits even though they may study the Bible.
This attitude of provoking also applies to other fellow human beings either in or out of the church. We can only make appeals and talk about the word of God with His authority, but we have no right to use force. Christians often do much damage in sharing God’s truth, with their wrong attitude using human methods. Truth is important, but how to dispense it is more important. Many people have been turned off from Christianity because of Christians.
I was one of five children—the only boy. I had one older sister and three younger sisters. When I was a young boy of about 10 or 12 years of age, the age where boys can become very naughty and playful, my mother had a hard time rearing me. She did the best she knew how and, though well read in the Spirit of Prophecy books, she needed a lot of patience with me. My mother would crawl up to the roof with me to fly kites. My great joy was to cut the string of another’s kite. I knew it made my mother sad, but she did not get angry; she would just sigh sadly because I hurt somebody’s kite. Her actions made me feel bad, and I quit flying kites because my joy was in being destructive to others.
The biggest punishment I ever got from my mother was not a spanking. She took both of my hands and looked straight into my eyes. When I looked up, I saw tears falling from my mother’s eyes. This was the most fearful chastisement. There was no yelling or anger, just tearful eyes. She knew how to deal with this rebellious kid. She did not provoke me; she loved me and kindly guided me into a spiritual experience. I appreciated that very much. My mother was not the perfect mother, but she was the best mother I could have asked for. She never provoked me. If she had, I could have easily gone into the world and never come back into the church.
Parents have no right to provoke, chastise or force their children. Appeal to them, love them, guide them, educate them and sit down and talk with them with teary eyes; but never provoke. Don’t force your own religion upon your children or they will be turned off. Your duty is to reflect the character of Jesus Christ upon them. I have seen many young children in godly families, in conservative Christian homes, very rebellious and turned off from the present truth simply because they have been forced. This is the best way to lose the souls of your own children. We are to reflect the love of Jesus Christ from our character and our lifestyle. Every individual has his or her own right to choose and to make his or her own commitment.
It is when children are young that we need to teach them and educate them and allow them choices and respect them as individuals. God has given His children, born into your family, to rear. The Bible calls our children His children. We, as stewards of God’s children, give them tender care. When they grow up we give them to God and they are individual entities. We are all brothers and sisters. This is something that I did not understand for many years.
One time when I was about high school age, I was really tempted by my friends to go to the beach for three days. I had no money so was encouraged by my friends to steal some. At first I resisted, but my friends continued to urge me. My family was poor at that time, but I noticed that when my mother needed to buy a sack of rice, she had some golden jewelry or things like that hidden down in the cabinet drawer that she would take to a pawnshop to sell, and then she would return home with a bag of noodles and rice. She sometimes worked as a colporteur selling books. Often, hungry, we would wait for mom to come home to see if she had noodles or rice.
One day I stole from my mother and went to the same pawnshop, never thinking that I would be caught. With the little money I received I hit the beach with my friends. The next time my mother went to the pawnshop, I was with her. The pawnshop lady, a church member, greeted my mother and said, “Mrs. Kang, you sent David alone last time; did I give you the money for that?” I squirmed.
“Pardon, what did you say?” asked my mother.
The shopkeeper repeated and my mother knew immediately what had happened.
She said, “Oh, that one. Yes, thank you.”
Nothing more was said. We finished our shopping and started the 25-minute walk home. Usually I would walk along side my mother, but guilt kept me three steps behind for the length of the journey, I could not walk with my mom. When you have sinned and feel guilt, you cannot walk with Jesus. All the way home I thought about the consequence if my mom told my father, I was dead! At home I just waited for my father to come at me with anger and with a stick in his hand. I waited—one day, two days, three days passed and he did not come.
Even then, my mother chose not to provoke me. Of course, she agitated me and asked me to repent. I am sure that if she had ever provoked me or forced religion on me I could have easily gone to the world. But she did not do that and that is one of the reasons I am an evangelist.
Do not force your religion upon your husband or upon your wife. It is you who has learned about the Sabbath truth, not your spouse or your children. Maybe you want to wear long skirts and your children are not convicted. Counsel them, talk to them, discuss it with them, show them the Lord’s way, but never force them.
At a tent meeting a table discussion came up on the education of our children. Many brethren shared their way of educating their children. Some said that they let their children know that as long as they were living under their roof and eating their food they had better follow house rules or get out, and they were proud of their firm stand for principle. I just sat there quiet and did not say anything for about a half an hour listening to the others. Then one asked me why I was quiet, encouraging me to give my opinion.
I said, God, the way I understand it, is different. Jesus once told of a father who had two sons, the second of whom was a very bad boy. One day he came to his father and asked him to give him his inheritance early. He said he was going away to a far country to live on his own. He said, “I am sick and tired of living in your house and abiding under your rules, so let me get out. You are obligated to give me half of your wealth.” I know that this story is not written in detail like this, but obviously that is what happened.
The father said, “Son, it is not your money; it is mine.”
The son said, “Well, when you die, half of your wealth is going to be mine anyway.”
So he told his father, “From now on I am going to treat you like you are dead. When I go, I will never e-mail you; I will not write you a letter; I am not going to telephone you; I am not going to contact you at all. As far as I am concerned, you are already dead. So give me my portion.”
How would you respond to this kind of situation? Would you say, “As long as you are living you will be under my rule?” As a matter of fact, Jesus Christ was introducing to us His own Father in heaven in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15). Jesus said that the father gave half of his wealth to his rebellious son and off he went to the far country to use all of his money, but after a while he became poor. One day as he was tending a herd of swine, something clicked in his mind. Even the servants in his father’s house were treated better than this. He decided to return to his father. Not to his good furniture, good food or fancy neighborhood, but as a servant, and he began his journey back home to his father. Why? Because of his father’s method of education and because of his character—the door of hope was always open. As soon as his son left home, the light on the porch was turned on and every night the father waited for the return of his son. Day after day he watched the hill and every night the light was left on, waiting for his wayward son to come home.
Jesus wants us to know the character of His Father in heaven and how He treats His own wayward children, His prodigal sons, you and me. Like the prodigal son, He wants us to have hope. He did not hear his father say, “You naughty boy. I am going to give you a little bit of money and don’t you ever come back! How dare you do this—you have ruined my reputation. You do all of this suffering to me and to your mom. If you want to go out—go out and don’t ever come back! If you do not want to be bound by our rules, then go.”
But that was not his father’s response. With teary eyes, the father gave him his half portion of his wealth, and then let him go. Sometimes it is better for our children, if they persist, to let them go, let them walk in their own ways and reap the consequences. We parents are to wait and pray, even though it hurts us, until they come back.
When our children see that kind of love in our hearts, that love from Jesus Christ, then, when they fall and have no hope in this world, they will remember that love. Then, they will know that when they come home, just as they are, they will be accepted with arms wide open. Our Father in heaven has been waiting for us for many years; God has been so patient and longsuffering waiting for us to willingly come back, and in tears we repent and surrender our heart to Him. But so often we do not show others the same patience.
The darkness that covers the earth is the misapprehension of God. When we truly reflect the love of Jesus Christ, that light will penetrate the darkness and the people will see the real love of God. They will see the true patience and character of Jesus Christ. Only then will people return to the truth.
I read a true story many years ago. Three men gathered in a restaurant discussing a project that they were doing together. One was a building contractor, one a roof builder and one a foundation builder. One of them was a Christian and the other two were non-Christian. Somehow their conversation turned to spiritual things and two began complaining about Christians and against Christianity. One said he had stopped going to church in middle school. When asked why, he replied that he had been in missionary school discussing about Jonah. He raised a question about whales, because in biology class they had learned that whales did not have a big throat and could not swallow a human. Even though the Bible says that the whale swallowed Jonah, he believed that to be wrong—just a myth. The Bible teacher, a pastor, was so angry that he said if this student wanted to ask that kind of a question in his class, to get out! He was so offended that he decided when he grew up he would never return to that church, and he had fulfilled his promise. The Bible teacher was wrong in his knowledge. Blue whales are huge and there was an article about a man falling from his boat and being swallowed by one. But instead, the teacher became angry and provoked one young man, causing him to stop going to church. Sometimes we do not understand the consequences of our attitude in how we deal with others.
The other man said he had a similar experience. His father and mother had come down on him so strongly enforcing their religion on him that he decided never to follow their religion. The Christian then asked if he could tell his story to which they both agreed.
The Christian began, “When I was in Romania, my father and mother worked very hard to send my brother and me to a Christian school. Our parents worked very hard to keep sending us money for school fees and meals. One day we were walking to the church and we heard loud music from a big tent pitched on the side and there was a circus going on.” As he was tossing a coin as an offering to the church, he wondered how much the entrance fee was for the circus, and it was exactly the amount of the coin. He said he would go in and see it. His little brother said he could not do that. But he said to the little brother to go to church and not to tell their parents about this. It was a secret. He went in to the circus and was enjoying it. After about 30 minutes he thought he heard somebody calling his name, and looking around he saw his mother’s face at the entrance, waving her hand trying to get his attention. He acted like he did not hear and turned around and kept on watching the circus. His mother did not stop calling his name. So he stood up and ran out angry and shouted that he was in the middle of having fun. “Why did you have to come and bother me so much?” He was angry because he was guilty, but then there were his father and mother with smiles on their faces. They said they came all the way on their wagon to see him and his brother. “We spent many hours to travel to see you, and we are so glad to see you. We have done our best; do you need any more money? We wish we could send you more money. Are your shoes okay? Do you have enough clothes? We went to the church and could not find you. That is why we came, because we wanted to see your face.” He could not do anything—he just stood frozen. Then as his parents began to depart on the wagon and as they were turning at the corner, they kept waving at their son as long as they could see him, yelling that they loved him.
As they went around the corner, he said he stood on the ground and said, “God, if you are that kind of loving person like my parents, I am willing to follow You.” He became a true Christian from that day on.
Jesus Christ is coming very soon and we need to be reflecting His true character. If you have ever forced your religion upon others, not by discussing or appealing but forcing, because of your lack of Christ-like character, you need to repent.
We thank God for His loving character and His longsuffering toward us and His willingness to wait for us.
Pastor David Kang is Director of Light for Life Ministry operating out of Georgia, U.S.A. His sermons are broadcast weekly on New York and Virginia Korean television stations. Pastor Kang also frequently travels to Asia where he trains pastors. Pastor Kang may be contacted by telephone at: 706-377-1004.