I don’t know about you, but anxiety is not often far from my heart these days. I’m sure some of it is rite of passage as an adult, but can we all admit that this world is scary? And I’m not even thinking about the fact that places I’ve lived have been targeted by suicide bombers or that there was a fist-fight in the local IHOP where I took my kids last night. Trusting God with the physical safety of my kids is one hurdle.
But what I’ve been mulling over recently is the psychological safety of my kids, their moral safety. I look at these little people sometimes and wonder what I’ve done, submitting them to the harsh reality of a fallen world.
I turn on the radio in the morning, and hear more details about how it is no longer acceptable to refer to a group as “boys and girls,” that schools less than half an hour from my house do not have to disclose the physical gender of a child sleeping in the same quarters as my kid on sleep-away field trips. I hear praise of known liars, and criticism of known truth-tellers. It’s a world that is upside down, and has been since Adam and Eve left the garden.
So, may that be our first encouragement: raising kids in a fallen world is not a new task. It is the parenting that God has always spoken to and has always cared for.
But, the other day, I found my mind questioning: how do I prepare Justus for this? How do I prepare his little mind to not get himself expelled for calling a boy a boy? How am I going to explain it to him when he comes home and tells me about his friends mommies?
I will admit that momentarily I started wondering how I would explain these things, and what rhetoric I would give him that would keep him alive in this crazy upside down world. I wondered what storylines I would have to feed him and what vocabulary to use to make him a good American. And that’s when it hit me . . .
For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:14)
I don’t really care if he’s a good American. Don’t get me wrong, I love my country and am incredibly grateful for how God has blessed me through it, but if Justus and Haven are disowned as Americans because they are reflecting a citizenship of the city that is to come, the kingdom that cannot be shaken, I will applaud them.
Because, even if it costs them their life, I cannot give my kids a watered down Gospel. I care far too much about their eternal citizenship to prioritize their earthly.
I am not going to tell them that sin is okay, or that God did not beautifully create boys to be boys and girls to be girls, I am not going to shush them when they have questions about God’s design for our bodies and why they are different. I am not going to let them go on thinking that lying is acceptable and that telling the truth should only advance your own agenda.
Is that going to be easy? I’m pretty fairly certain that the answer to that is no. And will there likely be repercussions? Yeah, probably. Do I think I’ll do this perfectly and without fear? No, not at all. Do I recognize that there is an incredible amount of wisdom needed to do this well and in a God-honoring way? Yes, completely.
We are going to parent in fear, that is a given. But fear of who, or what? Will we let fear of loneliness or expulsion, of a mark on our reputation or social embarrassment, or even the ending of a career drive us? Or will we let fear of eternity drive us, fear of what the ramifications of a watered-down Gospel (which is no good news at all) would mean for our children?
A healthy fear of eternity dictates that the Gospel rule our lives and shape our convictions. The Gospel, in all it’s ugliness (because let’s face it, the good news is not all beautiful) – the Gospel in it’s declaration of aberrations from the law as sin and punishable by death, the Gospel in it’s harsh tones of inadequacy from anyone who has ever messed up. The Gospel which maintains that regardless of what leading researchers and psychologists and even preachers say, there is right and wrong, there is absolute truth, and it is determined by what God has declared, and in fact, we are all wrong.
If our kids don’t get this, if our kids don’t understand the truth of sin and the eternal damnation that sin awards us, then they never will understand the incredibly beautiful part of the Good News – that there is hope. There’s an answer. There’s a sacrifice. Jesus has paid for that sin!
If we can’t call it sin, then His death has no meaning. If His death has no meaning, then it is useless to live for that other city. If that is useless, then this is a sad existence indeed.
But it’s not. It’s not a sad existence, because we live for an unshakable kingdom.
So, mom and dad, are you committed to raising eternal city kids? Are you willing to let the eternal shadow the now rather than the now eclipse the eternal? Will you resolve to raise kids who know the truth because of you and are entrusted into the care of the Father because of you? In the spirit of Jonathan Edwards, will you adopt this resolution,
I resolve to constantly and consistently seek the wisdom of God in parenting my children with the full depth and breadth of the Gospel, not allowing any of it to be compromised because of fear or restriction of culture, but to guide my children in the fear of the Lord to lay claim on their citizenship of the city that will come. I resolve to seek their success and acceptance in that kingdom before this one and endeavor to model for them a life centered on eternal perspectives, and not dictated by the whims of the world.
Great, you say. Thanks so much. What does that actually look like? Well, friend, I think God withheld scripts for these conversations on purpose. We, as parents concerned with shepherding kids to the eternal kingdom need an incredible amount of grace, trust, wisdom, and love. Here are a few thoughts for you as you seek to parent for the kingdom:
- Turn it off. Sometimes, we just need to stop listening to the world. This will not be all of the time, because we also need to be aware, but if you find yourself overly anxious on how to train up your children in this world, chances are you could use a good dose of renewal, and you’re unlikely to find kingdom thinking in the news or in pop culture.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
- Ask for wisdom. Isn’t it amazing that God offers this so freely? Are you asking for it?
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)
- Trust. Trust that God will do the work that He has promised, in giving wisdom, in protecting His own, in guiding . . . trust Him to do it.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (II Peter 1:3-4)
- Rejoice. What? Yes. Rejoice, dear friend. Jesus has prepared us for this. He told us plainly that culture would be antagonistic and upside down. But He holds out hope. And He prays for us! Don’t you love that He has already prayed over you and the struggle you will inevitably face in broken cultures?
When they deliver you over,do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:19-22)
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. (John 17:14-19)
- Love. What I am insinuating in this post is going to offend some people deeply. That’s what truth does. So please, as you train your children, as you speak truth to them about the sin that abounds in our world, do so in love. Do so, reminding them that it is only by God’s grace that they have not experienced such pain or confusion or chaos. Train them so that every sinner they meet feels most loved by your child in spite of their sin. Train their eyes to look with respect on every human made in the image of God, regardless of how they have marred that image. Train them to be bold with truth, quick with love, and saturated with grace – seeing at once both their own need of it, and the need for them to leak it out into a broken world.
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot . . . Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. (I Peter 1:17-19, 22-23)
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (I John 3:18)
Well, mom and dad, it’s a worthy calling, this calling of shepherding little souls, but it is not easy. Let’s not grow weary or lazy in the fight for truth and Gospel in this world. Take heart that we are not on defense! There is hope, but only if we hold fast to the Gospel, the true Gospel, and all of its implications. Pray these verses over yourself, your commitment to truth, and your little ones. Pray for God to give wisdom, understanding, grace, and love.
Then send your little ones out to chase eternity. Be strong.