Many of the men I mentor were raised by legalistic parents or in a legalistic church. While they believe legalism isn’t spiritually healthy, they’re often clueless as to how to teach their own children to live Christ-like lives, without rules.
The first thing I tell them is this; you can’t raise children or spiritually mature adults, without teaching them that there are rules for Christian living! Isn’t that legalism? I don’t think so. Legalism is a form of Christianity that adds extra-biblical, man-made rules, to God’s laws.
So, here are some ideas to teach your children or those you mentor, to organize their thinking about these issues. All Christian thoughts, and moral, or ethical teachings fall into one of these three general categories:
At age 65, I’m beginning to spend more time standing in line at funerals or pre-funeral visitations. Over the years, I’ve heard people say things that have made me cringe. And, I’ve probably said some of those same trite phrases myself years ago. Now, because we’ve heard other people say those things they’ve become part of our own “funeral language.”
It’s surprising to think that we’d take time out of our busy lives to pay our respects at a funeral, but give so little thought to what we will say to comfort those who are mourning, when we get there. We should be asking ourselves, “What would we like to hear if it was our loved one who was lying there?”
So, about a dozen years back, I took a little time to think about it and made some pre-decisions about what I ought to say, or ought not to say at funerals. I’ll share some of these ideas here, but I’d also like to hear your own ideas.
A man I mentored years ago, called me a few months back to tell me that his father had died. I knew that his father, although a public Christian, was privately emotionally abusive to his whole family. All his adult children were afraid of him. So, when he finished, I asked him this question, “You’re feeling very guilty right now because you’re really not sad about his death, aren’t you?”
“Oh my gosh, how did you know?”, was his response, said with palpable relief in his voice that the elephant in the room was finally out. He could talk about his guilt. I assured him that many other fine Christians, who’ve had an unkind or abusive parent beside him, have felt the same emotions.
Many aren’t sad because the person who made them so miserable is finally gone, but they do feel guilty. They’re relieved that they will no longer have to dread holidays with that parent, or hear from brothers and sisters who cannot or don’t want to forgive and forget, or think you’re nuts because the abuse didn’t happen to them. Like Holocaust survivors, the unstated motto of some abuse survivors has become “never forget.”
But now, they have to stand in line at the funeral home, put on a sad face and endure people saying all kinds of nice things about their parent. They’re sad that the kindness of their deceased parent was rarely shared with them. Another reaction is anger that these people would actually want to honor such a dishonorable person. It feels like abuse heaped on abuse. They either want this farce to be over, or for someone to tell them, they understand and that they knew their parent was unkind at them. They really want to hear, “it’s okay to be sad.”
Sound familiar? Here are some thoughts I shared with him.
I can’t tell you how many men have sat in my office, crying their eyes out, having been caught having an affair, and shocked to have been caught. Twenty-five? Maybe more. What delusion makes them think they’ll never be caught?
One of my favorite non-Christian authors is Garisson Keillor. While he and I are worlds apart theologically, he is one of the funniest writers I know. He’s also an astute observer of human nature. In this story I’m about to quote, he get’s right to the heart of the spiritual problem, every man I’ve met with, had.
Most of his stories take place in the fictional small town of Lake Wobegen, Minnesota, in the mid-50’s. Flo is the town’s self-righteous know-it-all. In this excerpt from Lake Wobegen, Summer 1956, she’s waxing eloquent to a bunch of women around the beauty parlor, after one of their husbands is found unfaithful.