This summer I conducted a little social experiment by asking a room full of Junior-High Christian girls the following question: “Raise your hand if you’ve ever worried that you’ll meet Mr. Right only to lose that relationship because a parent says No.” Nearly every single young lady raised her hand.
I offer that little anecdote as a lead-in: when youthful passions collide with parental burdens ranging from unconditional love to vain regrets, reluctant parents are easy targets for accusations of over-protectiveness.
If you’re a Christian single struggling to harmonize with your parents’ desires, let’s examine some Biblical thoughts that might shape your opinion. But before we get to the Bible, please know that surveying parental boundaries, honoring your parents, and growing into your own pursuit of God is challenging under the best of circumstances. Navigating a godly course, therefore, demands that you turn a blind eye to cultural expectations and look to God’s revealed will.
A lot of unnecessary hand-wringing arises from a completely false fear—What if I miss God’s will? Your parents’ (over)protectiveness could not make you miss God’s will anymore than they could prevent the sun from rising tomorrow. God says, “I will accomplish all my purpose” (Is. 46:10); He will “fulfill His purpose for me” (Ps. 138:8). God will not only bring His good work in you “to completion” (Phil. 1:6), but promises not to withhold any good thing from you should you desire to seek Him (Ps. 34:10; 84:11).
Honoring your parents cannot—and, indeed, will not—keep you from God’s good provision. In fact, your parents’ guidance just might be the very thing leading you into God’s blessed will. The God who “does all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11) and holds in His hands the King’s heart (Prov. 21:1), can change your parents’ opinion. Blind folded. With a hand tied behind His back. And what if you really are the worst case scenario? What if your parents truly want to harm you in every conceivable way? Well, my friend, you can say with Joseph, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). You’re not going to miss God’s will. So, let’s take that emotional bomb right off the table.
Think back to the most recent clash you had with your parents. And let’s even assume that you were completely right and that your motives were utterly pure. How should you feel about it? You would do well to remember that God promises immense blessings when His people honor their parents. He pledges extended life (Ex. 20:12), prosperous affairs (Deut. 5:16), gracious crowns (Prov. 1:8), and immense wisdom (Prov. 4:12).
Jeremiah 35 gives an extended illustration of how and why we should honor our parents. The Rechabites obeyed their deceased forefather’s oath to remain a clan of tee totaling vagabonds. Seriously! Look it up. You can safely bet that many Rechabite children wondered why they were held to such seemingly unreasonable restrictions, yet God greatly honored their generational obedience with a perpetual blessing (Jer. 35:19). Now, if you’re tempted to diminish the importance of continual representation before the LORD, remember that the New Covenant promises you perpetual, double divine representation before the Father (Heb. 6:20; Rom. 8:26-27).
The Christian journey is one of faith; choosing to take God at His promised Word not only defines your life, but might be the key in experiencing God’s good and unparalleled blessing.
Before you go too far in disagreeing with Dear-Old-Dad, consider some of the obligations the Law placed on fathers with regard to their daughters: ensure sexual integrity (Deut. 22:20-21), safeguard her reputation in the face of false accusations (Deut. 22:13-20), protect her from rash vows (Num. 30:3-5), and shelter her in case of widowhood (Gen. 38:11ff).
Yes, Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant (Matt. 5:17). And, yes, Paul seems to grant the Corinthian singles a fair amount of liberty in their courtship choices (1 Cor. 7). Still, the Law remains an expression of God’s parental heart. So when fathers protect and shelter their children, especially their daughters, it’s safe to assume they’re acting more like God, not less. Please know that your parents feel these Biblical burdens far more acutely than you yourself are capable of comprehending until you’ve raised children into adulthood.
Bonus: Life is Long
Whatever the dispute, you’re probably going to outlive this decision. Whether it’s a job or a college or a living arrangement or a romantic interest, life will go on. And you’re going to need help. A stable, loving, and appreciative relationship is only going to help you moving forward. Not only should you always lean on your parents’ advice (Ex. 18:10; 1 Kings 2:1f), but you’ll probably need their baby-sitting services, their health care, and … be honest … you’re still on their cell phone plan, aren’t you?
The biblical reality is this: God extends your obligations far into the future. You, the child, are responsible for your parents’ and your grandparents’ not-so-golden years (1 Tim. 5:4). Imagine how much more difficult that will be if you’ve damaged the relationship irrevocably with foolish flairs of youthful fervor.
There’s lots of exceptions young people can produce to combat every word written above: my parents aren’t believers, aren’t walking with God, are hypocrites, are overprotective, etc. In short, your parents are sinful people. Yet, when God commanded us to honor them, He knew how sinful they’d be. And He knows how sinful we are.
Consider how kind God was to you when you were His enemy (Rom. 5:10). Perhaps you could shine some of that same loving forbearance toward your dear folks.