By Larry Houchen
The apostle Paul admonished the Philippians to “do all things without grumbling or disputing; that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14-15). Christ had earlier said that His disciples were “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). In regard to associating with immoral people, Paul said, “I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world” (1 Cor. 5: 10). These passages teach that the first century A.D. was a crooked and perverse generation, that a Christian can not possibly remove himself from the world, and that Christians are lights in the world. With all the corruption in the government, the increase of crime far exceeding the proportion of population increase, more and more liberalized laws, and a nonchalant attitude toward authority, who would deny that the twentieth century is a crooked and perverse generation? Since the Christian is in the midst of such a generation, and since he can not get out of the world, he must then let his light so shine among men that they may see his good works, and glorify his Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16).
Sometimes godly parents will decide to move to another section of the country so that their children will not have to be raised in an evil environment. Although sin is everywhere and is not sectionalized, it is also true that sin is generally more prevalent in metropolitan areas and where certain environmental influences (such as the movie industry) play an important role in the morals of the inhabitants. In other words, since without people there would be no sin, does it not logically follow that sin is often in proportion to the number of people? Whether one agrees or not with the foregoing statement, the fact still remains that Christians often change location in the interest of their children. Such parents are to be admired for their sincere interest in the well-being of their children. But what about those who stay behind? What about those Christians who do not feel a parental responsibility to move? Can they remain faithful and raise their children to be God-fearing children?
The statement is made in Genesis 6, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually ” (Gen. 6:5). The world had become so wicked that God decided to destroy the earth’s inhabitants with a flood. The Hebrew writer states, “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb. 11:7). Evidently, Noah and his wife had taught by word and example, and although they were unable to convince the rest of the world to repent, they at least saved their household. How encouraging the story of Noah is to those of us who are living in the midst of a crooked an perverse generation!
About four hundred years after Noah, the herdsmen of Abram and the herdsmen of Lot were striving with one another. Abram devised an amicable solution – a separation of the two families. Lot chose the city of Sodom for a dwelling place (Gen. 13:5-11). God determined to destroy Sodom because of its wickedness (Gen. 18:20-21). The only ones who escaped God’s fire and brimstone were Lot, his wife, and their two daughters (Gen. 19:16). Once again, parents reared their children to be God-fearing in spite of the environment.
The incidents of Noah and Lot prove that one can raise his children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” even in an unfavorable environment. It may not be easy living in a particular environment, but the responsibility to raise our children in the way in which the Lord directed (Eph. 6:4) is a command to be fulfilled regardless of the environment.
The pendulum usually swings in two extreme positions. There are Christians who never associate with outsiders. They make certain that their friends or children’s friends are either Christians or have parents who are Christians. That is one extreme. The other extreme is the “Christians” who never associate with other Christians. These individuals are only seen at services but make no effort and seem to have no desire to associate with other Christians during the week.
The responsibility of the Christian falls somewhere between these two extremes. If Christians never associate with outsiders, how can we convert anyone with the gospel? It was the apostle Paul’s practice to enter the synagogue on the Sabbath to preach the gospel. On the other hand, if “Christians” never associate with Christians, the evil influence is going to “rub off.” Paul said, “Do not be deceived. Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33).
In conclusion, a Christian is to maintain certain moral standards (as based upon God’s Word) regardless of where he might be. The Lord has given us very definite instructions concerning how His people must live in a crooked and perverse generation – letting our light shine before men in such a way that they may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. “Be saved from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40)!
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 5, p. 145
March 1, 1984