How to Follow Jesus (and Honor your Father and Mother)
When Parents Just Don’t Understand
A couple with four children feels called to live out the gospel overseas among a people group that has never heard of Jesus. They are thrilled to sense this tug from the Holy Spirit and begin to pray with friends for confirmation, seek approval from their church and apply to join a mission agency.
But a phone call to the wife’s parents gets a response of rejection, not validation, withdrawal, not support. They exchange angry words, the call is cut off and a wedge begins driving its way into the relationship.
What should the couple do? Walk away from the vital call they and others believe God has placed on their lives only to appease the parents? Or move forward in sorrow and family disunity?
As you might have guessed, this is my story. For us, the answer wasn’t an easy one. It never is for those who face parental disagreement with a call to missions.
Here, though, are a few steps you can take to honor your parents while not denying a true sense of calling.
1. Seek to understand their perspective.
Your parents will have a sacrifice to make, too. If you are single, your parents may feel the pinch of giving up time together and closeness with you. That issue is multiplied if a spouse and grandchildren are involved. In either scenario, allow them the chance to process and grieve the coming loss.
2. Affirm your love and respect for your parents.
Serving God overseas doesn’t mean ending the relationship! As you listen and acknowledge their responses respectfully, it’s possible to demonstrate care and understanding while hopefully building acceptance on their part.
Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16, Matthew 15:4, Mark 7:10, Luke 18:20 and Ephesians 6:2 all give a simple command: “Honor your father and mother.”
3. Explain what it is you will be doing.
Whether you will be living in a jungle hut or in a city, information can ease their normal fears and possibly generate enthusiasm. Even if your parents are not believers, the work might pique their interest. If they are believers, ask them to pray with you for God’s guidance, which displays appropriate humility on your part.
This issue can be a big challenge, but you can honor your disagreeing parents—even if you still go as we did—by displaying God’s grace and confirming His call through prayer, humility and respect. We at Pioneers would love to help you navigate this obstacle or others you may face as you follow God’s call to serve Him.
We have a dedicated team of mission mentors who want to hear your story, help you discern where God is leading you and pray for you as you take your next steps. We would love to hear from you.
- See the article When Family Objects, with ways to honor your parents while following what you believe to be God’s will (The Traveling Team).
- Read books like Following Jesus without Dishonoring Your Parents and Parents of Missionaries: How to Thrive and Stay Connected When Your Children and Grandchildren Serve Cross-Culturally.
- Check out the Q&A website AskaMissionary.com, which explores questions like What if my parents oppose me becoming a missionary?
Joe H., married father of four, is Director of Candidate Coaching on Pioneers-USA’s mobilization team. He and his family served for a decade in Southeast Asia.
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