Mar 262013 19 Responses

How to Respond to Others When They Make Bad Choices

Parenting a rebellious teenager, coaching a self-centered point guard, managing an insubordinate employee, watching a friend commit adultery–we live in a world of bad choices. We make them. Others make them. Everybody makes them.

One of the most challenging times of life is dealing with others when they are making obviously bad choices.

In the final week of Jesus’ life, we read the story of one of his disciples rebelling against him. Judas sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Handpicked by Jesus, it is reassuring to know that even Jesus faced opposition from within his own team. Seeing how Jesus treated Judas is a good lesson on how we can handle the rebellion of those we love.

He honored the right of Judas to make his own decisions. Jesus allowed Judas to betray him. He didn’t stop him. He didn’t use his power to prevent Judas from doing it. He didn’t usurp his decision making ability. Judas was a grown man and had the right to make certain decisions. Jesus allowed him to make those decisions even if those decisions would be self-destructive. As parents this is an important lesson. When our kids are little we get to decide what decisions our kids get to make. As they get older, we have less choices. We can influence their decisions, but the decisions belong to them. Jesus allowed Judas to make a bad decision. Sometimes we have no choice but to allow others to do the same. (See: Parenting Adult Children Who Make Bad Choices)

Jesus didn’t inflict pain, but he allowed Judas to experience pain. When others make bad decisions, I’m tempted to help them experience the negative consequences. As a matter of fact, I sometimes try to create negative consequences. Jesus didn’t do that. He didn’t add to the sorrow, but he also didn’t remove all the negative consequences. In the same way that Jesus honored the decision making ability of Judas, he also honored the ability of Judas to experience the negative consequences of those decisions. Far too often, parents rescue their children from the consequences of bad decisions. This teaches the children there are no negative consequences for decisions. If they are old enough to make bad decisions, they are old enough to experience the consequences of bad decisions.

The identity of Jesus wasn’t defined by the rebellion of Judas. Parents have a major responsibility. Our bad decisions can negatively influence our children. However, our children also have a responsibility. Ultimately they are in charge of their own lives. Knowing the difference between our responsibility and theirs is a vital aspect to parenting. Judas rebelled, but that wasn’t the fault of Jesus. Judas rebelled, but that didn’t define the identity of Jesus. Separating our identity from the behavior of our children is important for them and us. No child deserves the pressure of their actions defining their parents.

Jesus spoke compassionate truth. The words of Jesus to Judas were hard, but they were true. Jesus explained the consequences of Judas’ decision making. He didn’t seem to take joy in communicating the truth, but he did tell Judas what would happen. It is tempting to downplay difficult things when speaking to people we love. Jesus rejected this temptation. So should we.

Jesus never changed. What if Judas had repented? The Bible tells us he regretted his decision, but regret is not repentance. What if Judas had fallen on his face before Jesus and asked for forgiveness? Everything in the Bible leads us to believe that Jesus would have forgiven him. The relationship between Jesus and Judas was broken not because of the actions of Judas, but because of the continual lack of repentance of Judas. Had he returned, Jesus would’ve forgiven. While parents should never enable their children’s bad behavior, we can promise to love them no matter what decisions they make. (See: Remember This When You Make a Mistake)

Few things are as challenging as respecting a person’s right to make decisions which we do not respect. In the final days of his life, Jesus navigated that balance with a great skill which I admire.

19 Responses to How to Respond to Others When They Make Bad Choices
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