Parenting is tough. One of our greatest challenges is to raise kids who are able to exist in this world while not being of this world. A reader recently asked for some thoughts on this, and here’s what I had to say.
I wonder if you’ve ever thought about what it would be like to raise children in a perfect world. Think about God creating Adam and Eve to live in a perfect world, free from sin. They were to be fruitful and multiply, bear children, bring them into this world, in this perfect world. You think about how much of what we do as parents is related to sin, we have to discipline our sinful children. We have to warn them about the dangers they’ll face in this sinful world. So much of what we do as parents is directed to raising our kids in a sinful, sin-stained world. I think what we’re doing as parents is, we’re often navigating the space between raising children who are hopelessly naive about the way the world works, or children who are very, very worldly. So as parents we want to protect our children, yet we also try to raise them so they can exist and thrive in this messed up world. That’s something I want to talk about for just a few moments today, but first I’ve got to run a little introduction.
Our children are born into a messy world. And it’s really undeniable, if you’ve got children, you’ve seen children, it’s undeniable that they’re born messy themselves, right. We don’t bring perfect children into a messy world. We bring messy children into this messy, sinful world. Our kids are not born in a state of neutrality, they’re born in a state of rebellion, they’re born as sinful. They desire, from their earliest days, they desire worldly things. And so one of the things we have to do as parents and one of the challenges of Christian parents is to help our children see worldliness for what it is. We want to help them desire what’s honoring to God instead of what’s dishonoring to God.
So, what we’re doing as parents is preparing our children to live in this world. Like I said, we’re trying to find that space between letting them be hopelessly nieve, so someday they come out from under our care and they know nothing about the way the world works. Or, raising them to be so worldly that they’re really attracted to the world. They already know the world because they’re already of the world. That is a real challenge and I got an email from a reader recently asking for just a little bit of counsel, a little bit of advice about this. And I think, he like me, has seen this go wrong in a couple of different directions. We’ve seen kids who have been completely nieve about the way the world works. And then that time comes where they do leave their parents care. Maybe they go off the college or they just grow older and move out on their own, and there’s this temptation then to go completely hog wild. Why? Because they haven’t seen the world. They haven’t seen that the allure of the world never matches what it actually delivers, right. The world’s sin always over promises and under delivers. They have seen this and so they dive right in like true prodigal children. But then on the other side, I think we’ve both seen children who have been so exposed to the world that they’re already really worldly people. By the time they come out from their parents care they’re not really interested in the things of Christ because the world has been so much a part of their upbringing that they already fully immersed in it. So as parents, that’s our challenge right. To navigate that space, to raise our children to be in, but not of the world. That’s a tough, tough calling. So, how do you raise your children to be aware of the allure of the world, but then also aware that the world doesn’t deliver what it promises? That true joy, true hope, and a truly meaningful life is found in Christ in being in, but not of.
A few things come to mind and the first is to raise our children around the Bible, right. To be teaching our children the Bible consistently from their earliest days because the Bible addresses sin in a frank way. We don’t need to expose our children to sin in blatant ways in order to introduce them to the concept of sin. We can just read the Bible, we can introduce them to God through his Word. And there they’ll see sin, they’ll see it described, but they’ll also see the consequences of sin. You think especially about the book of Proverbs written for especially young men, young Christians so they can see, here’s adultery, here’s what it looks like, its alluring, it calls, it beckons, it’s desirable, but look at the utterly devastating consequences. So, the Bible does that through teaching, it does that through story, through example as well. So, as we expose our children to God’s Word, they’ll come to see, we hope, that sin is ugly. It feels good, it looks good, it looks attractive and yet, in the end, it’s deadly.
The next thing I’d say, so raise your children around the Word, raise your children around Christians, so raise them in the church. And what’s the joy of being in the church? There’s so much, but they get to hear of people who have come to faith, they get to hear people who are coming into the membership of the church or being baptized into the church. Telling their stories of how they came to faith. Hopefully, they’re speaking to other believers, to your friends, to pastors who can also tell about, here was the allure of sin and yet, here’s what I learned. Hopefully, they’ve got people in their lives that they can turn to in times of crisis who can help them understand what sin is and why they must avoid it, and understand why worldliness is so attractive and yet, how it’s also so deadly. So raise your children around scripture, raise your children around Christians, especially in the local church.
And then, raise your children to be truly wise. I think, for Aileen and I, we really concentrated on allowing our children to see sin and the consequences of sin, even when they were young, but in age-appropriate ways. So, I think about some people I knew quite a while back now who had this messy situation going on in their family and there was a divorce coming in the family. So, what they determined they would do is cut off that side of the family so their children would not need to be exposed to the concept of divorce. And I thought, I think that’s an unwise thing to do, because I think there’s value in allowing your children to see divorce, to understand this category of adultery that led to divorce, that led to so much pain. In that way, you’re letting your children, in appropriate ways, see that sin has consequences. It allows you as parents to discuss why you would find yourself in that situation and the pain, the trauma that it brings. So, in age-appropriate ways, and this will increase as time goes on, allow your children to see sin, allow them to be in the world, allow them to have unbelieving friends, allow them to spend time with new believers, allow them to see that sin is never worth it. And hopefully, we trust that over time, as our children see this in scripture, in the church and in the world around them, they’ll lose some of that desire they have for worldliness. They’ll see that true joy really is found in Christ. That true joy, a truly meaningful, beautiful life is one that’s found in the world, but not of the world. One that’s found to be focusing on Christ, by loving Christ, by honoring Him, by desiring to do His will.
So, don’t shelter your kids too much, don’t just throw them out in the world where the world will overwhelm them, but also don’t hold them back entirely from the world. Allow them to see it, as time goes on, allow them to see it more, and then you, Mom, Dad, you be the one who interprets it for them. It helps them understand, sin never ever delivers what it promises. Hopefully, you found that a little bit helpful. I’ll see you again really soon.