Questions on Parenting

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A few fellow WELS members in our church choose not to immunize their children. I have some concerns because we have a Christian day school and my children also attend there. Some of the members who choose not to immunize have made their beliefs public and one even went as far as using a website that says God does not want us to immunize. This website states that immunizations contain fetal parts from aborted fetuses. I am wondering if there is any direction from the WELS about immunizations? Thanks.

What I can do is refer you to the web site of Christian Life Resources.  Searching “vaccination” and “immunization” will yield numerous results of reading material.

Additionally, I can pass along the response to a previous question on this topic before I began service as the responder to questions.  The question submitted was:  “Is there anything stated in the Bible on vaccines? Some say that things that are added to some of these vaccines could be harmful. Is there anything in the Bible that helps us decide whether it is right or wrong to vaccinate our children?”

The response was:  “Vaccinations did not occur until the end of the 18th century so it is not spoken of directly in Scripture.  Scripture does provide principles that guide our view of vaccinations.

“Four objections to vaccinations are commonly raised:

“Objection # 1: Vaccinations represent a failure to trust the providence of God as the Great Physician and Protector.
Yes, we are to trust God (John 14:1), but we are also to be responsible stewards of God’s blessings (Matthew 25:31ff; Romans 2:6; 14:12).  Vaccinations are one way we protect our lives.  In the same way we protect our lives by looking both ways before crossing the street.  We make decisions and take precautions to keep our lives and the lives of others safe.  Does looking both ways represent no trust in God?  Of course not!

“We make reasonable efforts to protect God’s blessing of life.   If deemed safe and effective, vaccinations would be such a reasonable effort.  Furthermore, as the Christian reflects his greater concern for others (Philippians 2:3-4) he or she will want to weigh the potential danger to others of contracting a disease or illness because we chose not to be vaccinated.

“Objection # 2: Immunizations were unethically developed.
It seems fairly certain that some immunization were unethically developed and/or tested.  For example, evidence suggests that the vaccines for Hepatitis A, chicken pox and MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) were cultured in cells taken from children aborted in the 1960s.  The concern is that by availing oneself of such an unethically developed vaccine we condone or lend credibility to the unethical way it was developed.

“Scripture teaches us that we are all sinful.  Our righteous acts are comparable to filthy rags.  For that reason, sin is a component in the development of anything in our world.  A house may have been built 50 years ago by a builder who cheated a subcontractor out of some money.  Do we see living in that house 50 years later as condoning the dishonesty?  Our automobile may have been designed by stealing secrets from another manufacturer years ago.  Can we now not drive that vehicle?

“Sin taints everything in this world.  The solution is not to cut ourselves off from all things but rather to work to right the wrongs.  If vaccines were developed unethically, Christians will want to get into positions of influence to stop such unethical research.  Speak against the sin not the results.  If you cut yourself off from anything touched by sin what then do we have that has never been touched by sin?

“Objection # 3: Immunizations can be dangerous.
In most developed countries there are regulations requiring strict testing to assure the safety of vaccinations.  Yet, there always seems to be exceptions.  Thousands of people may have no negative effects from a vaccine and then someone gets seriously ill or dies from the same vaccine.  Ever since statistical analysis caught foothold back in the early 1800s people “play the odds” on the safety of things.  How safe is driving, flying, sailing and walking?  Everything has an element of danger.  Christian freedom affords latitude for making such judgments on the relative safety of a vaccine.  In this country statistics usually demonstrate a vaccine to be very safe before it goes to market.  If you have an acquaintance, however, who had trouble with a particular vaccine your judgment will be skewed.  In an imperfect world there is always the possibility of an error.  Use your best judgment.

“Objection # 4: Immunizations can encourage irresponsible lifestyles.
In 2007 the Texas governor ordered all girls entering the sixth grade to have the HPV vaccine.  The vaccine prevents the HPV virus which is a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cervical cancer.  The concern some people had was whether giving the vaccine to a young girl would encourage promiscuity.  Will immunization enable ‘safe sinning?’

“Sinful people have an uncanny ability to twist what were meant as blessings into something reckless or sinful.  We take more risks when we have a safety net or harness.  We place our lives at greater risk if we feel we have a better car, better boat or better safety gear.

“As God provides ways to preserves our lives and well-being, those methods are genuine blessings.  Hearts devoted to God receive those blessings with thankfulness and purity.  Our sinful nature, however, will continue to find ways to corrupt God’s blessings for selfish pursuits.  We appreciate God’s blessings and we use His Word to hold the line on our wayward tendencies.”

Can you give my some guidance on what the Bible says about a parent who favors one child over the other? My husband has an obvious favorite in our three children and it really bothers me. I feel like he is greatly discouraging our other two children.

I grieve over your concern and can imagine how unsettled you must be as a Christian parent who seeks only the best for your husband and children.

Based on your question, I will have to assume that (1) your husband really is showing favoritism with your children and this is not just your imagination, (2) your husband is aware that you observe and disapprove of this (rather than his being clueless or utterly ignorant about what’s happening or how it’s happening), and (3) he is your Christian brother as well as your husband, that is, Bible guidance will be meaningful to him.

You could give Bible examples of favoritism (like Jacob favoring Rachel over Leah or Joseph and Benjamin over their siblings) and show how this never results in healthy family relationships. It asks for trouble and is pretty sure to get trouble. But this approach doesn’t bring the power to change hearts, since it is basically a law approach rather than a gospel one.

I recommend that you point your husband repeatedly to the attitude and actions of his dear heavenly Father and Lord Jesus. Such love! Such a gracious Giver of every good gift. And your husband is on the receiving end of all that. No more and no less than anyone else, “for God so loved the world . . .” And your husband’s high calling in Christ is to imitate God (Ephesians 5:1-2), to be more and more like Jesus (Romans 8:29). And God shows no favoritism (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, etc.). The hope is that your husband will grow in his understanding and appreciation of all that God has done to redeem him graciously and pardon him freely. And that he will be led to be more and more like God, in rejecting partiality and favoritism as inconsistent with Christian lifestyle as well as wise parenting.

Also, keep pointing your children to the same grand truths. This applies to them too. As they grow and mature they will increasingly find that their highest security and emotional balance will rest on the unmovable promises of a faithful God who delights in them even when earthly representatives may fail them.

As parents of an adult homosexual child, how much of a relationship should we maintain with our child and friend? We do not want him to think we condone this homosexual relationship, but we still love him and feel he needs our Christian influence. We also do not want our young grandchildren to think this is okay.

You have my sympathy as you strive to maintain relationships with your homosexual child and friend. I am thankful that you DO desire to maintain a relationship since that will allow you opportunity to give suitable witness to your convictions and to demonstrate parental kindness despite the spiritual plight of your loved one. I recognize that your doing this will necessarily involve awkwardness, often leave you in situations where you will be unsure of how best to conduct yourself in Christian love, and periodically arouse anger and resentment in your child and partner because of their impenitent lifestyle. And you will grieve over the inaccurate and flawed example that will be set before your grandchildren on a daily basis. You have a daily petition in your prayer life until repentance is shown.

You ask “how much of a relationship” should be maintained. There are no strict formulas to follow. Christian love is keenly alert to specific relationships, opportunities, threats, and people—and expresses itself with flexibility as long as divine truth is not compromised. You have already identified key issues and voiced proper concerns, so I suspect you will do just fine despite awkwardness and emotional pain. Perhaps all I can counsel is that you maintain clarity in your testimony as you speak the truth in love. Clarify what you cannot and will not accept and why you at the same time desire to maintain a relationship with your child. Take every opportunity your child gives you while being content when your child gives you precious little opportunity. And maintain the cheerfulness that comes with the confidence that God does not desire to be done with your child and that he does not have the limitations imposed on you. In your intercessions ask God to work miracles, to use other witnesses for the truth to interact with your child, and commend your child confidently to divine providence that can crush the rebellious spirit and make sinners open to the truth. The pressure is ultimately on God, not you, just as the power is his, not yours or mine.

Is it wrong to put a child up for adoption? What are circumstances, if any, when a Christian may give up a child for adoption?

It is not wrong to place a child for adoption. It is, however, often a painful decision. Within the Christian context there are two ways to look at it: biologically and beneficially. The biological perspective is that parents have a responsibility to raise their own children (Isaiah 49:15) or to entrust them to immediate family when they cannot (Exodus 2:1-9). The beneficial perspective focuses on benefiting the child’s needs.

The Bible presents a clear, general directive: love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-40); family members head the list of “others” whom we are to love (1 Timothy 5:8).

God consistently describes the immediate family as mother, father, and child(ren). This is the ideal setting for raising children (Ephesians 6:1,4). Where there is no mother or father because of death or divorce, other family members and friends often take an active role in helping to raise the child(ren). Sadly, when a child is born outside of marriage, the child’s mother often is left to raise the child alone.

When is it appropriate for a child to be placed for adoption? Because the biological mother often is the one facing this decision, let’s use her perspective.

She typically is alone, perhaps young, poor, or facing some malady that makes it difficult for her to raise her child. Her decision often is complicated by an emotional attachment or a sense of biological duty. But she needs to remember God’s command to be more mindful of others than of herself (Philippians 2:3-4), prayerfully consider whose welfare is being best served, and what is best for her child physically and spiritually.

It isn’t wrong to place a child for adoption with someone else if there is reasonable assurance that God’s directive on how to raise a child (Proverbs 22:6) will be met and that the child will learn about Jesus as Savior and Lord (2 Peter 3:18).

Birth mothers often describe making this difficult choice as “placing” their child for adoption. They view it not as a surrender but as an important parenting decision they are making for their baby.

What can parents do if an adult child strays away from the faith? Our daughter quit going to church when she was in college. She is now in her mid-twenties, still will not go to church, and does not want to talk to us about it.

Our sincere sympathy goes out to you parents. The grief that Christian parents of a backslidden child endure is great. This heartache is compounded when parental control is diminished or lost because the child has become an adult and is able to silence or willfully ignore and despise the testimony of the parents. In general you have three tools at your disposal:

  1. You can pray. Keep your daughter in your intercessions. Ask God to act providentially to get and keep her attention and interest (even if it be through severe trials). Ask him to supply Christian witnesses to law and gospel who may be given access to her when you have been shut out. Ask God for the ability to continue to love her and have confidence regarding her return to repentance and faith, rather than growing bitter or despondent because of your disappointment.
  2. You can offer clear though limited testimony to law and gospel when opportunities surface. Your daughter may not want to “talk about it” but if you promise not to engage in an ongoing dialogue every time you see her (which is perhaps what she fears most because of a guilty conscience), you can ask her for one sit-down conversation at which time she can explain to you what she feels and why and you can explain to her what you feel and why. And in that kind of setting, law as law and gospel as gospel will be your primary tools as you sow the seed of God’s Word.
  3. You can continue to testify to your daughter by attitude and lifestyle that she will observe. Here I am thinking of a cheerful, happy contentment and optimistic approach to daily life that gives Christ all praise and holds no grudges to those (including children) who disappoint or embrace ideologies contrary to your own. Continue to feed and fuel your own faith-life through the gospel, and as you grow spiritually you will also grow in your ability to cope with this disappointment, trust God’s capabilities despite your limitations, grow more fervent in prayer, and ultimately serve as a billboard of Christian contentment and joy for people (including your daughter) who have temporarily at least settled for much less. The goal is to attract them winsomely to the Lord who gives his people, in addition to pardon and eternal life in glory, such blessings despite hardships during our earthly pilrimage.

What are the benefits of bringing infants to worship?

You ask for benefits, and I offer this as a partial list of perceived benefits derived from bringing infants and small children to public worship gatherings:

  • This allows the Holy Spirit to enrich the child as the Spirit wills, even though we may not know precisely how. (The words of 2 Timothy 3:15 as well as Matthew 18:6 tell us that the smallest among us may nevertheless believe and know the Bible in some way (aside from the blessings of Baptism). While we may not grasp the how, we eagerly anticipate the Spirit giving what he wants to give, however he chooses.)
  • This, in time, trains a child in the basics of church etiquette and decorum while in public assemblies when people are gathered around God’s Word and sacraments. This takes time and repetition, but it yields results we give thanks for by the time a child is a bit older.
  • This is a fine way of testifying to the world that our families are all God’s people and belong wherever God’s people gather for worship. This gives joy to fellow worshipers as they behold the next generation of believers beginning their participation in worship assemblies and gives encouragement to visitors and newcomers who have children and see that their entire families are welcome. This encourages our own members with small children and tells them that despite potential disruptions and distractions, their whole family is welcome, and we consider the training of the youngest a high enough priority that we are willing to endure some distraction ourselves.
  • This gives fellow worshipers opportunities to lend a hand periodically to assist busy and sometimes frustrated parents who are engaged in the important but challenging process of training their youngest. Problematic situations are often opportunities for practical love and kindness to spring into action.
  • This allows the congregations to ponder and develop ways of serving parents who often find it hard to concentrate on the Lord’s law and gospel during worship assemblies. The provision of tools and encouragements for home study or mid-week study may be a part of this.

While a longer list is possible, I’ll pause merely to say we are not blind to the challenges are potential problems involved here. It is little wonder that so many churches provide suitable nursery areas and so many deacons and ushers are trained to offer alternatives when infantile outbursts threaten the hearing of God’s Word for many in attendance. Let us strive to strike a suitable balance here. Life this side of heaven will always bring challenges to accompany blessings from our God.

We have a 25-year-old daughter who has a college degree, works 2 jobs, has a car payment and student loans. We suggested she live at home to save on bills, but would like to move out so she has her independence. My husband will not even discuss it with her or me. This is causing stress in both our relationships and I don't feel it should be an issue that divides us as a family. Thank you and God bless.

You are correct.  This does not need to be an issue that divides you as a family.  While I lack much information about your situation, your family could be struggling with how the fourth commandment finds application as all the family members age.

When your daughter was little, it was fairly clear how the lines of authority fell within the family.  As in the case of any family, you and your husband were to instruct, guide, model and discipline your daughter as best you could, and your daughter’s obligation was to respond with loving obedience and respect.  (Ephesians 6:1-4)

As your daughter grew older and lived more independently, the fourth commandment did not disappear from your lives.  However, the scope of its application did change.  This change manifests itself, no doubt, in that you and your husband supervise your daughter’s life less and are more of an influence on her.  At the same time, your daughter is to continue to show loving respect to you and your husband.  Tensions can arise, of course, when three adults—you, your husband and your daughter—express opinions about specific situations.

I would encourage you to speak to your pastor.  He is in a position to sit down with you and guide you all through a loving discussion of this issue.  God bless you and your family.

I have a struggle as a parent. I, like Paul, find myself doing what I do not want to do and not doing what I want to do. I find complete forgiveness and love in Christ. When I fail I run to the cross. In his forgiveness I strive to live each day better than the day before. Sometimes I do, but often I fail. The struggle I have is feeling guilt over the consequences of my sins on my family. I tend to get stressed out and lose it with my children. Often I lack the patience I should be displaying and my children need. We have a large family, so often there is conflict taking place within it. I know I am forgiven for the time I act out of anger or frustration, but I also realize that this behavior may leave lasting marks on my children's mental health. I find myself praying this prayer, "Lord, help these children turn out well, despite my parenting mistakes." I know my sin is forgiven, but how can I find comfort when dealing with the earthly consequences of sin?

To me, your prayer illustrates a good understanding of our human frailties and limitations on one hand and God’s unlimited power and love on another hand.

You understand well how confession and absolution fit in with your relationship with God. What I do not know is to what degree confession and absolution are part of your family’s interaction with one another.

The Bible tells us: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other…” (James 5:16) When we have wronged other people, we certainly want to confess our sins to God, but we also want to confess our sins to the people we have wronged. Here is where I could see the importance of confession and absolution in your family. Family members can be drawn closer together in the bond of love when they confess their sins to one another and forgive one another.

If you are concerned about “leaving lasting marks” on your children’s lives in a positive way, one of the best things you could do for them is modeling the Christian faith in the areas of confession and absolution. Your children will learn a great lesson when you have reason to say to them, “You know, kids, we are all the same in God’s eyes. We are sinners who have been forgiven by God. We all sin in different ways every day. Try as I might, I fail in my efforts in being the best parent I can be. Please forgive me for _______. With God’s forgiveness, I want to do better in being his representative in your lives.” Christian families can experience the “joy of salvation” (Psalm 51:12) again and again when parents and children engage in heartfelt conversations of sin and forgiveness.

As you go about your parenting responsibilities, take heart in the fact that God works through imperfect people. In spite of our mistakes and sins, God can carry out his good and gracious will in the lives of others—including our children. The truth of Romans 8:28 applies even to your parenting skills.

Finally, I don’t know if you are aware of a resource for parents through Forward in Christ. It’s “Heart to Heart Parent Conversations.” This link will take you to the site. God bless you and your family!

What is WELS' stance on surrogacy?

Christian Life Resources is an agency within WELS that provides expertise and sound biblical guidance in matters like the one you asked. With that in mind, I could probably help you the most by directing you to information on this subject that they make available on their web site.

This link will take you to the results page after searching for “surrogate.”

What resources does WELS provide or suggest for a parent of a child struggling with homosexual tendencies?

I can provide you with links to three different kinds of resources.

This first link is to a number of articles from Christian Life Resources, an agency within WELS. The articles range from news pieces to scriptural commentaries.

This second link is to an area of this web site where a couple of parents write of their experiences in explaining same-sex relationships to their children.

The third link is to pertinent books that are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

Finally, don’t overlook the resources of your pastor. In addition to materials he might have, he can listen to you and offer scriptural responses. God’s blessings to you and your family.

Is it biblical for parents to give more privileges and independence to boys than girls?

There is nothing in the Bible to suggest parental preferential treatment of boys. Distinctions between boys and girls in Old Testament Israel that resulted from Mosaic laws or customs (for example, inheritance laws) are no longer applicable for New Testament Christians. Parents today will seek to treat their children, both boys and girls, with equal love. Above all, that means bringing them to Jesus in baptism and then following up with training and education in the word of God (Ephesians 6:4).

My son moved in with his wife before they were married. After they were married, it came to light that his wife is Wiccan. He has stopped coming to church. Our pastor is threatening to excommunicate him. He refuses to talk to us or our pastor about this. Furthermore, we suspect that he has also started practicing Wicca. What can we do?

I am sorry to hear about your situation. It sounds like you have contact with your son and his wife, but your son is limiting the topics of conversation. With that understanding, I will proceed.

I am wondering if there is a way that you can maintain contact with your son and his wife without regularly bringing up the topic of his spiritual life. Please don’t misunderstand me. What is going on in his spiritual life is serious and dangerous. He already knows that from previous conversations with you and his pastor. What your son really needs in his life is a regular Christian influence.

Although the apostle Peter was addressing wives and husbands, his words (1 Peter 3:1) can be applicable in a father-son relationship like yours. Let your son see your Christian faith and example. Certainly, share with him truths of Scripture as you can, but let him see your faith in action.

Beyond your example, are there other Christian friends, congregational members or family members who could reach out to your son with their Christian love and Christian witness? Who are the Christian people your son respects and might allow to offer Christian influence and conversation?

I probably don’t have to remind you to pray, so I will encourage you to think about enlisting the help of fellow Christians to ask God to work in your son’s heart (and the heart of your daughter-in-law). Pray that God brings about right attitudes and beliefs toward the Bible and the only Savior from sin, Jesus Christ. Neither you nor your pastor can change anyone’s heart, but God certainly can. I will join you in prayer that God does just that. God bless you.

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