Remember how free Christ was, how free He was with His disciples. When some followers departed from Him, He asked His disciples: “Would you like to depart from Me, too? Maybe you want to go far away from Me along with them?” Apostle Peter answered: “Lord, whom shall we go to? You have the words of eternal life.” I want to tell you that Christ kept them near Him with His love, without coercion. He told them to leave, but they seemed to stick to Him. “If you want, you are free…” However, they answered: “We are free to choose to hug You and not leave! We want to be with You!”
Who can say today to his child: “If you want, my child, leave,” and hear in response: “How can I go far from you? You are my joy. You fill my life with meaning!”
Imagine that a parent said to his child: “If you want, don’t come back early tonight,” and in response he heard: “What are you talking about? How can I leave my cozy nest, my parents, and this wonderful family atmosphere?”
It is very important. The pressure we exert on children turns them away from us and from God. And if I distort the image of God in a child, I will cause great harm to his soul. I can do the same harm to any person when I speak of God using the wrong method.
Once, a child confessed to me: “Father, I have incredible memories from elementary school. I remember how the teacher kicked us out of the church for talking there. He got us out, gave a slap, and then pushed us in again. It was forbidden to give a slap inside the church, but outside it was permitted. And then he continued to pray.”
The following interconnected chain was remembered by the children: Divine Liturgy – church – prayer – slap – punishment – revenge. This experience retained unpleasant memories, although it was supposed to remind them of love and kindness. You can say: “Ok, but we want peace in the church.” “Of course, we do. But, I think, we should never give a slap to the one who is talking, especially to a pupil of a primary school.” Now this guy is already finishing high school and he still remembers everything. During the next meeting, he told me something else: “Once the teachers called me to the teachers’ office. They told me that I was a good pupil, and ordered me not to be friends with another boy, because it would not do me any good in the future.” Well, if I had a child, I would keep an eye on whom he kept company with. But not in the same way. Not that “that one is bad, avoid him.” Do not forget: bad children are better! The Lord loves bad children. The Lord loves bad people, does not put pressure on them, therefore, most likely, someday they will change. This caress of God is the only opportunity for a bad person to change for the better, because God does not oppress him. You are God’s mouth, the person who speaks of God. When you scold someone, he resists, and your voice torments him. How will you bring him closer to God in this case? You will achieve just the opposite!
From Fr. Andrew (Konanos)’s book “Love forever”
Translated by Alyona Malafeeva