Saturday, August 29, 2009

The “Salt and Light” Argument (Part 2 – When To Let Your Kids Go)

For some reason, this subject has been heavy on my heart lately. I have prayed daily for wisdom about whether or not to write about it – and for God to reveal His truth to me on the topic. I have many dear friends who may simply disagree with the amount of protection that I give to my own children. The answer to the question “When should I let my kids go out into the world?” is not the same for every child or family. There is no easy formula. But for those who have children and who want to see them glorify God in their lives when they leave the nest, let me just say this – this is one thing that you don’t want to get wrong.

I plan to cover this topic in three segments:

1) The Big Test
2) The “Salt and Light” Argument
3) The Danger of Not Letting Them Go

Whether you agree or not – I encourage comments. I especially encourage other viewpoints when they are accompanied by scripture. Believe me when I say that this was written under prayerful circumstances, and with no accusing finger pointed at anyone. Really.
When I consider whether or not to let my children participate in an event or situation (one where they have interaction with something other than pure Christian influences), the number-one viewpoint I get from others is that God calls us to be “salt and light”. Excerpts from Matthew 5:13-16 tell us:
“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.”
It is clear that God calls us to go into the world to season and shine. The danger of avoiding that altogether will be discussed in Part 3 of this series. I find no scriptures that say we should get all of the Christians together in one place and leave the world to its lost state – in fact, that would be unscriptural. We should not abandon the lost.

My point is that we need to be concerned about WHEN we send our children into the world on a regular basis.

Few would say their two-year-old is ready and equipped to be a light to a world dominated by Satan. Likewise, a thirty-five-year-old ought to have matured to fill that role. So, somewhere between two and thirty-five is the right time to release our children to be salt and light. Is that age six, twelve or twenty? The answer is not the same for every child or family. And please don’t misunderstand me – there are times when a six-year-old can have a profound influence through Christ on another individual. What I’m talking about is discerning the time to release our children to daily interaction and immersion in a corrupted culture. Should we free them to nearly any situation at a young age, no matter what, trusting that they will continue to shine, undamaged by the world? Is that what “salt and light” means?

The danger is revealed back in Matthew 5. In the latter part of verse 13, it says,
“But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”
The warning from Jesus that I perceive in this verse is that it is possible for salt to “lose its saltiness”, that is, for a Christian to lose the spark and guidance that he or she obtained from God at one time. From Part 1 of this series – either our children will change the world, or the world will change them. Other verses bear this out:
“If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” – 2 Peter 2:20

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” – Matthew 24:12

“Yet I hold this against you. You have forsaken your first love.”
– Revelation 2:4
Again, it’s clear that there is a danger of slipping backward in the wrong circumstances. And what are those circumstances? The Thompson Chain Reference Bible lists seven different reasons that a person could “backslide”, to use an old-school word (Chain Index topic #994, for those who would like to do further study), and they are these:
· Absence of spiritual leaders
· Evil associations
· Worldly success
· Shallowness
· Emptiness of life
· Lack of spiritual insight
· Love of the world
These considerations need to be taken into account when we choose our own activities, and certainly when we make parenting decisions about our children. Wise parenting means we should think on these things whenever we “send our kids out” – whether it is to activities with large time commitments like school or camp, or even to smaller situations like a youth function or a sleepover at a friend’s house.

The answer is not black and white, and again, it’s not the same for every child. Jesus was found in the temple “listening and asking questions” of the religious leaders when he was twelve years old (Luke 2:46) – a great start. It was not until he was baptized, had been tempted directly by Satan, and had turned thirty that he began his ministry (wouldn’t you love to know for certain what he did with his time before this?). Luke 4:14 says that he returned from the temptation in the desert “in the power of the Spirit”. Could he have started his ministry earlier than age thirty? I wouldn’t limit Jesus’ ability in any way. But it seems important to me that God (and his father and mother) chose this path of learning and progressive exposure before he immersed himself in a depraved culture in order to save it. He had unwavering strength to complete the task by the time he was thirty-three.

Yes, we are called to be salt and light. And there are times when our children will be thrust into that role. But we must take care when and how they are placed into that position. Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” I focus on the words “train” and “old” in that passage. It is a parent’s direct responsibility to be sure that their child is trained and ready. And a parent should pray for wisdom to know WHEN that time should be. Satan is doing everything he can to dilute our precious “salt” and have it be “trampled by men”. With God’s grace, and with vigilant parents, we will together see him fail and our children become victorious.

One final thought, again from Matthew 5. What does it mean to be a “city on a hill”? Why did Jesus use that image? I need to think on that one.

Next: The Danger of Not Letting Them Go

1 comment:

Tamara said...

Few thoughts:
1. Your concern is WHEN--Alan, when has already happened. If you think you have completely sheltered your children from this world, you will be sadly surprised. We live in this world all the time, we're exposed to all kinds of sin--even if we spend the majority of our time in our safe, Christian homes. The opportunity we have while our children are at home is to daily, minute-by-minute teach them HOW to interact in the world and WHY the HOW is important.
2. I can't think of a single interaction/event/activity that WOULD be "pure Christian." Or, maybe I'm misunderstanding what you mean by this. I guess since we as Christians are sinful--a "pure Christian" event/activity/interaction would also include sin.
3. My 21 month old shines her light brightly, thank you. ;) As she folds her hands in prayer, and shouts AMEN--I see people's souls soften through their eyes. When she sits contently during a sermon, or sings along during worship--she receives compliments on her behavior, and gives us opportunity to talk with others how God's plan for training children is a blessing. She's is purely the example Christ spoke of when he said to be like these little ones. Though, I know you're speaking more of older children--when they are out & away from you.

Food for thought: When I was under my parents' training, obedience was "because I said so." There was no explanation of why. You obeyed b/c God said to and your parents said so, and you didn't need to know more than that. On the contrary, I think the WHY is the important part. If you don't have the WHY--rebellion is easy. Additionally the WHO and the HOW are important. The WHO--God, mom and dad; The HOW--if you love God, than you obey--how do I love God? Are you showing your children HOW and WHY to love God? I recently realized I was basically telling Owen, "because I said so," rather than teaching him to love God (and that God loves him). We've switched gears (I'm learning that we do this often during training--when appropriate), and Owen is getting a foundation of WHY and HOW. Those will be the tools he taps into when he's "out in the world." That will be his salt shaker--LOVE. The same LOVE that Christ said was the most important commandment. Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. The second, Love your neighbor as your self. Neighbor--yep, that would be those people in the "world."
You mentioned worldly love. God loves this world and it's inhabitants--it is his creation. Show your children the godly way of loving this world. The WHO, the HOW, and the WHY. WHEN has already happened.