A statement in The Signs of the Times, November 11, 1903, speaks of the power of love: “Never treat your children harshly; for harshness arouses stubbornness and resistance. You will find that they are most easily and successfully governed by kindness and gentleness.” Kindness and gentleness is what we need. “Love breaks down all barriers, and gentleness subdues the most stubborn will. Treat your children as you would wish to be treated were you in their place. Let there be no scolding, no loud-voiced, angry commands.” Ibid. Do not be discouraged, friends. Remember to have faith and say, “Lord, this is how You have told me to speak. I am choosing to follow Your counsel. Give me the grace to speak this way.” Friends, the Lord will do it. The Lord will answer your prayer. If you keep praying, the Lord will keep answering.
Counsel is also given that the father and mother, in reference to their speech, should not have verbal disagreements between themselves in the children’s presence. Mrs. White says, “Not a particle of variance should be shown by parents in the management of their children. Parents are to work together as a unit. There must be no division. But many parents work at cross-purposes, and thus the children are spoiled by mismanagement. If parents do not agree, let them absent themselves from the presence of their children until an understanding can be arrived at.” Review and Herald, March 30, 1897. Oh friends, if parents would honor this, it would save so much trouble in the home.
As parents, we must have a united front. We must not have the father saying one thing and the mother saying another. That will destroy harmony, and it will ruin the child. Having said this, it does not mean we are to be wishy-washy. When we say, “No,” it has to mean no, and when we say, “Yes,” it has to mean yes.
“Scolding, loud-voiced commands, or threatenings should never be heard. Parents should keep the atmosphere of the home pure and fragrant with kind words, with tender sympathy and love; but at the same time, they are to be firm and unyielding in principle.” Ibid. If a principle is involved, we are not to give way. “If you are firm with your children [this simply means that when you say, ‘No,’ it means no], they may think that you do not love them.” They may think this way for a while, but Mrs. White says, “This you may expect; but never manifest harshness. Justice and mercy must clasp hands; there must be no wavering or impulsive movements.” Ibid.
Counsel has been given on a subject about which you would think Christians would never need to be counseled, but Ellen White spent considerable time on this subject. Our words at home are always to be true. Oh friends, one of my cherished memories of my own home is that I can never, ever remember either my father or my mother, at any time, telling me something that was not true. My parents did not have to explain to me, as I grew up, that there was not a Santa Claus, because they had never told me that there was a Santa Claus. Neither did they have to explain to me that there was no real Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse or a hundred other things that some children believe. If you tell your children fictitious or untrue stories or speak anything that is untrue, someday their confidence in you is going to be weakened, because a child believes everything that their parents tell them—until they find out their parents do not always tell the truth. Then they flip the other way, and they do not believe anything their parents say.
Mrs. White says, “Never let your children have the semblance of an excuse for saying, Mother does not tell the truth. Father does not tell the truth.” Review and Herald, April 13, 1897. Children, from their earliest years, should have confidence that if mommy said it, it is so. If daddy said it, it is so. We often do not realize how our words affect whether or not our children are going to believe what they hear in Sabbath School or church.
Ellen White also speaks about criticism. She wrote, “We should abstain from all evil-speaking and evil-surmising.” Review and Herald, April 21, 1891. Do you know what evil surmising is? I suppose it is something that every individual has been tempted to do at some time or another. Have you ever had suspicions about someone or something—you did not yet have the facts, but things just did not seem right to you? When this happens, you may have suspicions, and you may have to watch things develop, but it is dangerous to talk about your suspicions. This is evil surmising. You think something is bad; you do not yet have the facts; you do not yet have the evidence, but it looks bad. You think there is something awry, so you start talking about it, which starts all kinds of trouble in homes and churches and institutions and everywhere else.
“We should abstain from all evil-speaking and evil-surmising. Our children will be in danger of losing all respect for religion if we indulge in criticism of others.” Ibid.
I have thought about this so many times. How would I feel if someone who knew me really well began telling everybody all of the mistakes I have made? I have made so many mistakes that if anyone but the Lord knew them all, I suppose they would think that I am a bad person. I would prefer that all of the mistakes I have made not be publicized to everybody. Do you suppose that there are other people who feel the same way? When we are talking about the subject of criticism, people think that we are talking about something that is not true, but this is not the case. We can destroy each other while telling the truth! We can destroy our neighbors, and in the process, we will destroy our children. Ellen White says that they will lose all respect for religion.
Respect Those Older
The relationship of our children with the elderly has become very painful in America today. Our young people do not respect older people. Ellen White wrote: “Teach your children to be kind and courteous to all, and especially to respect the old. If you do all that God has given you to do, you will have no time to criticize your neighbor.” Ibid.
Jesting and Joking
I was once acquainted with a person who told a lot of jokes. He was one of the funniest persons I ever knew. When I was with him, I laughed and laughed and laughed, and everybody else did, too. He was a religious person, but when he would give a testimony in church, the young people did not give it much account. Our words need to be true.
When I was in academy, I learned how to tell jokes. I was very fortunate that about the time I started learning how to tell jokes, I read some statements in the Spirit of Prophecy stating that if I jested and joked, I would lose the Holy Spirit. When I found that out, I had to make a decision whether I was going to be a jester and a joker and a popular person, or whether I was going to have the Holy Spirit.
In the same article, it says, “Instead of indulging in jesting and joking, suppose you begin to exalt Jesus, talking of his wonderful charms.” Ibid. Oh friends, that is what we need in our homes. That is what we need in our churches. We need to be exalting Jesus and talking of His wonderful charms, the unsearchable riches of Christ.
The Way Jesus Spoke
One of the main facets of the unsearchable riches of Christ is the way that He spoke. When the people that were sent to arrest Jesus returned without Him, the rulers and the Pharisees asked, “Why did you not bring Him?” They said, “Never a man spoke like this Man.” (John 7:45, 46.)
Friends, if we would learn to speak in our homes as did Jesus, the Christian religion would have an irresistible power, a charm over our children. They would go out from home, telling whomever they meet that the Christian religion is true. They would know it is true, because they have seen the image of Christ demonstrated by their father or their mother. The way we speak at home can mean the salvation of our children. It could be one of the most powerful Christian influences on our children, if we learn to speak to each other in our homes like Christ spoke. You know the children are listening to the way that we as parents speak to each other.
“If you had good home religion, you would be a bright and shining light, and represent Christ to a lost world.” Review and Herald, April 21, 1891.
“In the parable of the virgins, five were found wise, and five foolish. Can it be possible that half of us will be found without the oil of grace in our lamps?” Ibid. The apostle Paul said that our speech is always to be with grace. (Colossians 4:6.) “Shall we come to the marriage feast too late? We have slept too long; shall we sleep on, and be lost at last? Are there those here who have been sinning and repenting, sinning and repenting, and will they continue to do so till Christ shall come?” Ibid.
Ellen White had some special words of counsel to speak to mothers concerning their words. These are some of the most beautiful statements in all of the Spirit of Prophecy, in my opinion, in relation to speech.
She says, “It is the heart that needs culture; for it is with the heart-life that women have to do. . . . The precious, finer feelings are to be carefully nourished that they may bloom into actions of goodness, truth, and holiness. . . . The words that are spoken by a mother should be choice words.” The Signs of the Times, March 23, 1891. God will give you the power to do it. He will give you the grace to do it.
“The mother should keep herself under perfect control, doing nothing that will arouse in the child a spirit of defiance. She is to give no loud-voiced commands. She will gain much by keeping the voice low and gentle. . . . If she is a wise Christian, she will not attempt to force the child to submit. She prays earnestly, and as she prays, she is conscious of a renewal of spiritual power. She sees that the same power that is working in her is working also in the child. He becomes more gentle, more submissive. The battle is won.” Ibid., April 1, 1903.
Our Child’s Faults
We are not to mention our children’s faults in the presence of others. “Remember that your child has rights which should be respected. Be very careful never to bring against him an unjust charge. Never punish him [now read this carefully] without giving him an opportunity to explain. Listen patiently to his troubles and perplexities. Never tell others in his hearing of his faults, or his clever sayings or doings. Even in the presence of his brothers and sisters these things should not be spoken of.” Ibid., April 23, 1902.
She goes on to say, “By speaking of his bright words and acts, you encourage self-confidence. By speaking of his faults, you humiliate him without softening him. Hatred springs up in his heart against your course, which he regards as cruel and unjust.” Ibid.
Friends, the things we have been studying are the way in which people talk in heaven. They do not speak any unpleasant words there. There are no loud, angry-voiced commands there, no angry, passionate words. They do not utter any unpleasant words there. In fact, a statement from Upward Look, 163, says, “No unpleasant words are spoken in heaven. There no unkind thoughts are cherished. There envy, evil surmising, hatred, and strife find no place.” We are to learn here how to speak, so we will be able to go to heaven. We are to learn it here, and the place we learn it, friends, is in our homes.
When I was a boy, I thought that everybody in the Adventist Church understood this, but I have had cause to wonder. The apostle James says, “He that does not offend in word is a perfect man.” James 3:2.
I do not know about you, but I have had to go to many people a number of times in my life and confess that what I had said was either not so or not right. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.
Friends, the Lord wants to cleanse us from our improper speech. He wants to cleanse us from all the things that we have said in the past to our wives or our husbands or our children that have been wrong. But He cannot do it if we do not confess. This is so simple and basic; I was a minister for a number of years before I realized that there were many Christians who did not understand this.
Confession of sin is not just kneeling down by your bed at night and saying, “Lord, I confess my sins.” That is not proper confession; it is not wrong, but Ellen White states, in the chapter “Confession,” in Steps to Christ, that true confession is specific. Friends, if the Holy Spirit is speaking to your heart right now and telling you that you have something to confess to someone about words you have spoken, I want to appeal to you to not forget it. Write it down right now. Do not let the day go by—maybe you need to write a letter or make a long-distance telephone call.
If we want to reform our speech, one of the first steps is to confess what we have spoken that has injured or damaged someone else or is untrue or is unkind. That is a first step in procuring the kind of speech we desire in our homes.
Maybe you need to confess something to your children. Your child will never turn away from the Christian religion because you decided to confess your sins, because you decided to say to him or her, “I am sorry I said or did this to you and I want you to forgive me.” Your child will not turn away from the Christian religion when you do that.
Unless we confess our sins, the Holy Spirit cannot come into our lives and give us the power that we need to change. “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes [them] will have mercy.” Proverbs 28:13. That is talking about eternal prosperity, not just temporal prosperity.
Friends, I stand myself in very great need of mercy, do you? I know that if I am going to receive the mercy of God in my life, I must confess, and then I must forsake. Do you want that experience? Decide right now you are not going to let the day go by before making whatever confession to whomever you need to make it. It may take you more than one day.
When I first became convicted on this subject, it was as a result of a sermon I listened to by a retired Adventist minister who said that when he became a Christian, he had to write 726 letters of confession. I hope that you do not have to write that many, but I would write however many letters I need to write or call however many people I need to call, to have a clear conscience.
[Bible texts quoted are literal translation.]
Pastor Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.