By Edward O. Bragwell, Sr.
“Just say, ‘No,”‘ is the anti-drug message being urged upon our nation’s young people. Christian parents need to adapt this message to themselves as they rear their children in an overly permissive society. Godly parents are constantly bombarded by their friends, relatives, and even brethren, to lighten up and be more permissive with their children. Then there are the professional experts (?) with their books, talk shows, etc., giving advice right and left. It makes us wonder if the immature claim that “everyone is doing it” may not be correct. One may discover that “everyone” includes the children of preachers and elders. All of this often causes conscientious parents to wonder if they have sense enough to decide what is best for their children. Thus, they find themselves constantly second-guessing any restrictions they have placed upon their children’s behavior.
Living in an overly permissive society, without being adversely affected by it, is not easy for Christians. Nor is it easy for their children to be the only kids on the block not allowed to do what their peers freely do with the blessing of their parents.
We Can Raise Godly Children
First, young parents need to realize that the challenge to “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4) can be met today. If it were impossible, then the Lord would not have required it. Nor is it necessary to think that today’s challenge is very much more difficult than that of other generations. Every generation of Christians, beginning with the very first, have had to rear their children “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15).
Do you think that the Ephesian fathers had an environment ideally suited for rearing godly children? Do you think that their children were never pressured by their neighbor’s kids?
Ephesus was a pagan city. The temple of the goddess Diana was there (Acts 19:35). Do you think the Ephesian children were totally unaffected by this environment? Do you suppose they were never pressured by peers to attend idolatrous feasts at the temple? Do you reckon that the sexual promiscuity, so common among pagans of that day, never appealed to the children of Christians? Do you think that those early Christians, living in that pagan society, did not wrestle with the problem of how to teach their children to live in the world without being of the world? Do you suppose their children never argued that “everyone is doing it”? Don’t you think that their children might have argued that they could attend those functions at the temple, where idol worship and lewdness were integral parts, and still maintain their purity? Do you think that their neighbors were so different from ours that they did not “think it strange” that anyone would not allow their children to attend places of “lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties and abominable idolatries” (cf. 1 Pet. 4:1)? Are we to suppose no one ever defended such as just innocent fun? Unless human beings have changed drastically since then, those early Christians’ task of child-rearing was likely more difficult than ours. We live in a society, as perverse as it is, whose standards have been influenced somewhat by 2000 years of Christianity. That early pagan society that surrounded those Ephesian brethren had not been so tempered.
Parents Are Responsible
Christian parents need to realize that they are responsible for what they allow their children to do – not friends, nor relatives, nor brethren (elders, preachers or otherwise), nor the experts, but they, themselves. Yes, they may solicit and profit from the counsel and example of others, but, in the final analysis, they must base their house rules on the word of God, remembering that “happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth” (Rom. 14:22).
It is much more pleasant to say “O.K. ” than “no,” especially knowing that a “no” is going to upset some people. The young person who asked is not over-joyed. Nor will you likely make his friends’ top ten popularity list. Many others who take a lot of interest, but have no responsibility, in your child’s happiness may be ready to wring your neck for being so hard on the poor fellow.
A parent must remember that it is he, not his critics, who is given the responsibility of deciding what he will allow his children to do. It is he who will answer to God for “that thing which he alloweth. ” If his children rebel and do “that thing which he alloweth” not, they will have to answer for not obeying their “parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph. 4:6).
I have known parents to justify their permissiveness with the excuse, “I am afraid that if I do not let them do it that they will slip around and do it anyway, and I would not want that.” Yes, it would be sad to learn that a child had slipped around and done it, but he needs to be held accountable for his rebellion by the parent. He will surely be held accountable before God for disobeying his parents. There is no way a parent, having given permission against his convictions, can be free in the matter. Brother or sister, if your child does what you do not approve, let it be in spite of your prohibition rather than because of your permission. That is the only way that you can stand uncondenined before God and maintain the highest possible integrity and credibility before your children.
Should They or Should They Not?
Parents of Junior High and High School age children have to help their children reach many momentous decisions some involving right and wrong, some just a matter of setting priorities.
What about attending the school prom and other similar parties?
What articles of clothing are proper to wear to classes, other school activities, or elsewhere?
What about missing worship service to engage in a school activity, like a sporting event or a trip of some kind?
During spring or summer break, what about swimming at the public pool or beach in contemporary swim wear?
Christian parents, with their children, need to look into these things to see if any biblical principles are involved in these questions. There is at least one principle that directly affects three of the above questions – the prom, articles of clothing, and contemporary swim wear. “Lasciviousness” (KJV) or “lewdness” (NKJV) is condemned in no uncertain terms. These are translations of a word that “denotes excess, licentiousness, absence of restraint, indecency, wantonness” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Thayer, mentions “indecent bodily movements” in connection with the word. One dictionary succinctly defines lascivious as: “To lust. To cause lust. To show lust.” Another defines it, “Tending to excite lustful desires” (Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language). Those who practice it cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven (Gal. 5:19-21).
One needs not to be too perceptive to see that most, if not all, the dancing done at proms falls in the category of lascivious conduct. The way that young men and young women handle each other’s bodies during the dance, the bodily movements in many of the dances, even when they are not touching each other, all of this is conducive to either lusting, causing lust or showing lust. Most people that I have talked with frankly admit that this is case – except those who are trying to defend the dance while also professing to be guided by biblical principles of morality. People of the world, who have no interest in biblical morality, freely admit that sensuality is an important factor in their attraction for the dance.
The same promotion of sensuality applies to the overly revealing (by its brevity and/or tightness) clothing worn by too thanyloday, It is teen everywhere at the beach, the pool, the mall, the park, the sports arena, school room and,, yes, even inchurch. Christians should have a deep sense of modesty and shaniefastness. This should be reflected in their dress and demeanor, at all times (see 1 Tim. 2:9,10). The things we have been discussing reflect neither modesty nor shamefastness.
Young people have so many places to go and things to do. Many are connected with extra-curricular school and community activities. There are sporting events. There are school trips. Often these are scheduled when the church has its regular scheduled meetings. What should you allow your youngster to do? Miss church services or miss the other activity? How are you going to teach him to “seek first the kingdom” if you let him put pleasant, even profitable, but non-essential school and community activities first?
Many conscientious young Christians, with their tender consciences, given the principles involved to study, would likely make the right decisions if it were not for the adverse influence of older Christians. A friend told me of an instance that happened during a gospel meeting in which he was preaching. A young lady came to him early in the week with a problem. The homecoming football game was to be that Friday night. She was to have a part in the activities. She wanted to know what she should do? Attend the meeting or the game? My friend, rather than telling her what he thought she should do, gave her some Bible passages to consider to help her make up her mind. He says that he wondered all week about what her decision would be. Then Friday night came. My friend, sitting up front before services, carefully scanned the audience looking for the young lady. He did not see her. Sitting next to him was the song leader for the night, who was also the father of the young lady. My friend remarked, “Well, I see that decided to go on to homecoming.” Her father said, “Yes, she had made up her mind to skip it and come to church, but I told her to go ahead. After all, she would only be young once.” My friend told me, “I could have cried.”
Once my wife and a group of ladies were preparing the church bulletin where I preached at the time for mailing. Several of the ladies were talking about how hard it is on young Christians to do right. They discussed several things they miss out on – like the school prom, mixed-swimming, and the like. One sister, who had a teen-age daughter, said, “We try not to let – know that she is missing anything.” That sister may have had the right idea. Maybe parents talk so much in the presence of their children about all those goodies (?) they are missing because they are Christians that they actually whet their appetites to give them a try. Maybe if we spent more time stimulating appreciation for spiritual values and impressing young people with the fact that the pleasure they are missing is but for a season, the battle against the influences of our permissive society upon our children would be more easily won.
Teenagers Need Strong Parents
I have lived and preached long enough to have observed a good many become teen-agers, thenyoung adults, then niarried,adult, then parents,” and even to see their children go through the same cycle. I have known many teenagers to strongly protest when their parents would not allow them to do some things they asked to do. I have talked with many of them in later years, who told me that in spite of their protests at the time, they had really wanted their parents to say, “no.” Why? It gave them an out. It took the pressure off them. They could tell their friends, “My parents won’t let me.” Deep down, they really did not think they should do what they were asking to do.. Yet, they were under heavy pressure from peers to ask – more pressure than they, in their immaturity, could handle at the time. It may very well be that more parents need to be willing to become scape goats for pressures placed upon their children during their immature formative years.
A mother once told me that, although she had some misgivings about things like the prom and certain types of dress (admitting that they could even be sinful), she still did not forbid her daughter’s involvement in such things. After all, she suggested, one has to understand how hard it is on young people not to be able to fit in with the activities of their friends. Then, as a kind of justification for her permissiveness, she said that it did not appear to have done her daughter any lasting harm. After all her daughter was now a fine young wife and good citizen in the community. She still attended church regularly and participated in church activities. “So you see,” she said, “No harm was really done.”
Was no harm really done? If her daughter sinned by the things she was permitted to do, then harm was done. If she has not repented, then lasting harm has been done. All that her daughter might be now will not offset her past sinful participation in forbidden pleasures. Only her repentance (change of heart regarding those things) will clear her of any sins associated with her mother’s permissiveness. Do you suppose this daughter might follow the example of her mother and be as permissive with her children? No lasting harm done? What do you think?
Young parent, your child is a gift from God (Psa. 127:3-5). He has been placed under your stewardship for a few years. What he is to become, to a great degree, depends on you. The values that you instill in him while in your house will go with him for life. Those values are going to be shaped greatly by the things he is able to do with your blessing. If you allow him to do things that are wrong or even questionable, it will be reflected by his sense of values. It behooves you to study the word of God to form your convictions and then stick by those convictions in the things that you allow your child to do. Even if he exercises his freedom of will and goes against what he is allowed to do by you, he will know your convictions and why you hold them. Who knows but that at some later date he will be pulled back to the values that he was taught by remembering that you had strong spiritual values and the courage to stand by them even in the face of his childish protestations?
Remember Eli? He and his house suffered greatly because he did not restrain his children (1 Sam. 3:13).
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 12, pp. 373-375
June 15, 1989