Recently, I found out that my 17-year-old brother has been downloading pornographic pictures from the Internet. I am really horrified and afraid he'll turn into a porn addict. My parents know, but they turn a blind eye. (Sex is a taboo subject in our family.)
Besides that, he has a temper problem. If he's angry--he throws things--and is a control-freak. He enjoys provoking and irritating me and bullies his younger brother. He was a born-again Christian about a year ago, but now he seem to have fallen back to his sinful habits. I just don't know what to do with him. My parents seem to be ignoring the problem.
You cannot force your brother to stop his behavior. Constant criticism will only feed into his control and provocation issues and make your life miserable. However, you can be a voice of compassion and strength. Let your brother know that while you don't feel what he's doing is spiritually healthy, you do love him. Make sure he knows that if he ever needs your support he has it. The time may come when your brother approaches you with a desire to clean up his behavior and reconfirm his faith. It will help him to know that you will welcome him with open arms.
Follow the same approach with your parents by telling them what you are seeing--including the abuse of your younger brother. Let them know you're available to talk with them or be helpful in any way. You can't change them or force them to act on your advice either, but you can provide what sounds like a needed source of strength. Finally, pray for your family. It will allow you to be pro-active in offering them spiritual healing until they accept your offer to help..
Dear Pastor Paul,
My 21-year-old sister is marrying the 26-year-old man she's been living with. For a time, she was the strongest Christian and I turned to her for a lot. About a year ago, she completely left the church and no longer refers to God as a part of her life. The man she is marrying is a non-practicing Jew.
She has asked me to be her maid of honor. What should I do? I do not agree with this marriage or her lifestyle, but then again, I am her sister, and it would cause a huge upset in my family if I am not in her wedding. I am torn between my faith and my sister. Please help.
The choice you must make is not between your faith and your sister, but one about how you put your faith into action. What would be gained by refusing to take part in your sister's wedding? You would only cause pain-and perhaps sever your relationship with your sister for the rest of your life. A better way to testify to your Christian devotion would be to be a loving presence to your sister in her wedding. Accept her offer to be her maid of honor and, after the wedding is over, continue your conversation with her about her spiritual well being, including respectfully letting her know about your hope that she will return to the Christian faith.
What should I do when my friends turn against me to join the enemy team, and then talk against me? I love and respect God, so I walk away, but that makes me I feel I'm being a pushover. It makes me feel like I might be scared of what might happen if I retaliate.
You don't make it clear what precisely you are facing, or what you're thinking about doing about it. But whether you're thinking of responding with physical violence or just fighting fire with fire and talking them down, neither option will make you feel good or solve the problem. Consider instead the spiritual approach Jesus outlines in the Bible: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also. (Luke 6 27-29)
Ask yourself what will allow you to live with more love and respect--not only for God (although that is of ultimate importance)--but for yourself as well.
It takes a strong person to choose the non-violent approach. In walking away you are not being "a pushover," instead you are following a deep spiritual path set out by Jesus and followed by people such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. who also used the non-violent alternatives to achieving the goal of love and respect for God and for themselves.
If you show this spiritual strength, you will draw closer to God and also attract friends who are rooted in the same principles of love and respect as you are.