Years ago I heard the singer Grace Slick, from the group Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship, refer to her well known statement from the 1960s: ‘We’re your parents’ worst nightmare!’ In the late 1980s, when the interview took place, she said that it was now, ‘We’re your parents!’
I had a good laugh at that, and she was mentioning it in the context of herself having children. There is a problem which I’ve encountered in a number of churches over a number of years that surfaces a number of times, though: sometimes adults within churches try to act in a parental fashion towards other adults, who are not their children.
This parental attitude is in direct contradiction to Christ’s statement in Matthew 23:9: “And do not call anyone on earth, ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.” What these people are seeking would put the objects of this obsession, to try to parent other adults, in the path of disobedience to this scripture. It would also definitely imply that this is not something that someone should ever seek, to be in the place of the Father in heaven, or anyone else’s self appointed parent as well, in anyone else’s life.
I’ve noticed that this kind of attempted surrogate parenting is characteristic of empty nesters – of parents whose children have moved away from home into their own adult lives. It seems as if they are having problems dealing with the loss of their children, and that it is not a loss of their company but of the loss of someone over whom to exert power and control and have a sense of superiority. It is also characteristic of those who love and seek power and control over other people, and they often seem to seek out others whom they suppose may be vulnerable to this kind of hijacking of the place of a parent in someone else’s life. But I’ve also been approached with this kind of dysfunctional schtick from others who only about one to ten years older.
My personal reaction to this kind of pretext for exercising an unscriptural authority and attempt to control has been to avoid them as much as possible. I’ve noticed that adults who are accustomed to or seeking to live their lives in personal responsibility run from these types as well. I’ve often felt that this kind of deceptive scam is part of many broken relationships within churches, especially when these occur between believers of different generations.
How unreasonable this is can simply be seen by looking at the scriptural pattern and God’s design for the world in his creation and providence: God only gives parental authority and position to those who have children by birth or adoption, and parental authority is only given to them over their own children and ceases when their children become adults. We need to recognize anything else as a self serving deception.
Jesus calls us away from all that attitude of self exaltation over another two sentences later: “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12). His call is away from any path to or self justification of power over others for the sake of my own pride and self satisfaction to the way of Christlike servanthood and humility. In this age of self serving pride, this is the way to show the reality of our salvation and our ongoing relationship to the Son of God who took on the form of a servant and humbled himself even to the death on the cross (Philippians 2:1-11).
All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.