A Lesson from Eli

October 7th, 2015 § Leave a Comment

Most of my ideas about parenting come from the Bible. The latest one is from the life of Eli. Eli was one of the last of the Judges – an executive office of the nation of Israel, which was then a theocracy. Sort of a Priest ruler. And sometimes even the military leader. All this is beside the point. Eli had two sons, who also served as priests. These sons were corrupt. From their position of authority, they stole from and took advantage of the people they were assigned to serve.

It seems for many years, Eli did nothing about his sons. The section of the story which speaks of Eli addressing the issue with his sons begins, “Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing …”¬†Very old? Why didn’t Eli say or do anything before he was very old?

Years later, after Israel had become a monarchy, David sat on the throne of Israel as its second king. One of David’s sons, Amnon, rapes his half-sister, Tamar, and casts her aside. She publicly mourns this hideous crime committed against her, and enters the house of her brother, Absalom. “So, Tamar lived, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom’s house.”

What was King David’s response? “When King David heard about all these things, he was very angry.” That’s it. That all it says. If one reads on, the text reveals¬†that Amnon was left to live his life freely in the kingdom … well, until his brother, Absalom, kills him. Would Absalom have killed Amnon if David had done something? Would David have always had Absalom’s heart if Absalom had seen his father act? Instead, Absalom murders his brother and eventually carries out a coup against his father.

As I father teenage kids, there is great temptation to be scared of my own kids. As they begin to separate, I fear rejection. What if something I say leads to their rebellion? They seem so annoyed – maybe I shouldn’t bother them. What if I lose them.

Of course, we must be careful. We need to be patient, long suffering. One of the most important skills to master is parenting teenagers is biting your tongue. Yes, all this and more. But I must try to never be scared of my kids.

The lesson of Eli is this: Do not fail to act upon something you know to be right because you fear the loss of your child. There are more than one way to lose a child.

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