When Should I Stop Loving My Son? (Thoughts on Perseverance of the Saints)

When should I stop loving my son?

I ask, because I know people who live with a constant anxiety that God will stop loving us. They seem to think that our relationship with God turns on and off like a light switch, with God’s love responding to our own fickle affections.

If God’s love as my Heavenly Father is similar to my love for my kid, then it is a fair question to ask: when I should stop loving my son?

To be honest, loving my son can be difficult. He’s put me through the ringer. It’s been months since he’s told me that he loves me. There was a stretch of two years when I didn’t see him at all. During that time, he said horrible things about me to civil authorities. Before that separation “he” was my daughter; when I regained custody, he asked to be referred to by male pronouns. 

Those bombshells shook me to my core and deserve more discussion than this post can allow. Add to them a few more minor, typical teenager, transgressions. For example, this past Christmas I gave him several thoughtful gifts which he admitted were things that interacted with his interests and needs. Meanwhile, he didn’t give me anything. I don’t think he even said, “thank you.” 

I could go on, but you get my point. Right now, we have a very one-sided relationship. I love him terribly and would do anything for him. He is actively rejecting me. He needs my help and doesn’t hesitate to ask for it … but if asked, he would say that he doesn’t want a relationship with me. 

When should I stop loving him?

Do I stop when he tells me that he doesn’t love me?

Do I stop when he tells me that I’m not his father? That I’m just the guy who supplied the seed and pays the bills?

Do I stop when he doesn’t respond to my gifts with thankfulness?

When exactly do I let his choice to reject me override my choice to love him?

If God’s love is our model for love, then some would suggest that I’m well past the time when I should stop loving my son. My son rejected me, I should reject him. He’s making decisions to distance himself from me; isn’t it time for me to turn love into wrath and transition from grace to judgment?

My premise, and my reason for writing this, is to show that God is more committed to you than you are to Him … and that’s great news!

The way I read it, the Bible teaches that God is sovereign. That means in control, powerful, ruling over everything. He speaks, and a universe is created. He judges, and nations fall. He loves, and it becomes an insuperable bond.

This idea isn’t based on my experience, it is clearly stated in the Bible…and isn’t that what really matters?

Right after Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) and “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) he said something important about how long-lasting his love is. 

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30

If God is really God, then He is in charge. He sets His love on people, adopts them as daughters and sons, and never lets the go. I can’t explain why he loves the people he loves, but I know that once He loves that he never stops.

In theological words, this doctrine is called “Perseverance of the Saints”. That phrase speaks to the idea that God’s love perseveres despite the ups and downs of our human turmoil.

Perseverance may be defined as that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart is continued and brought to competition. It is because God never forsakes His work that believers continue to stand to the very end. – Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (pg. 546)

Perseverance of the saints is the biblical doctrine that God infallibly preserves in faith all of those he has given to the Son (John 6:37, 39, 44, 63-65) so that they are never lost. It maintains that none who are truly redeemed by Christ can be condemned for their sins or finally fall away from the faith. For as the apostle Paul states in Philippians 1:6, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Monergism.com 

In theological debate, many people would disagree with these ideas. The concept of God choosing, electing and sovereignly loving seems very undemocratic. Isn’t our free will the most important thing about us?

If free will sovereign, then it is time for me to stop loving my kid. He’s made his choice. His will has decided not to be in a loving relationship with me.  Shouldn’t I honor that and step away?  It’s time for him to feed himself, provide for himself and figure live out on his own … right?

Of course not!  No matter what happens, he’s my kid. He’s accused me of unfair and horrible things; despite this I never could stop loving him. He rarely reciprocates my acts of compassion, I’ll do them anyways. He’s made choices that break my heart; those make me want to draw closer to him, not further away. He’s told me that I don’t love him; who cares, I still do.

If I, even though I’m a sinner, can love my kid like this … isn’t it possible that our perfect and loving Heavenly Father loves with even more patience and passion?

One of the greatest struggles of my spiritual life is the worry that I’m not acceptable to God. I am weak, sinful, shortsighted and foolish. I am far from worthy of God’s love and many of my daily choices would show that I love myself far more than I love Him.

Left alone, my heart would be in trouble. I chose self far more than I chose God. If God was only about judgement and free-will, then He’d freely let me drift away in a confused halfhearted stupor.

But if God is our Father, then no matter how often I push away He keeps on loving. Once His love is placed on me, nothing can separate me from Him. That thought gives me hope. I don’t have to worry about losing God. I don’t have to live with the fear that my sins will push God away. 

Grace. Unmerited favor. Love I don’t deserve. That is the foundation I cling to.

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  1. I have never understood this concept until I had children of my own. My love for them is unconditional yet imperfect. I believe God’s love for his children is perfect. I believe in my own fallibility as I see my kid’s mistakes. If I believe God loves me perfectly despite my flaws, then the New Testament is credible in my mind.

  2. Thank you Tim. It is amazing to read this and even more to hear it from you in person. I pray for a day of reconciliation between a father who never stops loving and his prodigal son when he turns back. In the meantime, what a comfort to know our true Father never wavers in the love He has for His people. Blessings

  3. This was an open and honest article and I appreciate the struggle that you are having. And I encourage you to continue the journey. I don’t know you but because you are part of the Gospel Alliance group, I will assume that you have generally been negative towards the LGBTQI community and individuals. (If I am wrong, please forgive me). However, when your son questions your love and support, perhaps he is remembering the comments and actions in the past that question his value as a baptized person and child of God in the present. I would suggest starting your next conversation with penance and a request for forgiveness. At that point, your son might believe what you feel towards him.

    1. Rev. Fritz, might I respectfully say, don’t assume that because a person is a part of the gospel alliance that they are negative towards The LGBTQI community or individuals! One can be radically loving, and have deep Theological convictions! I believe Tim has modeled this beautifully for us in his extraordinary article! Thank you for considering this.

  4. What a fantastic message for us to remember on Gods love and how unconditional it is. Thanks for the reassurance in my walk.

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