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How do we protect our children?
It’s an age-old question for parents: how do we protect our children from evil? What threatens their spiritual development, and how do we shield them from it? There are as many answers as there are parents.
How do we protect our children from bad influences? Where are the greatest dangers?
Some Christian parents have decided that the greatest evil influence is secular music. Others have set their sights on movies. Still others think it’s the public school system, video games, the Disney Channel, or SpongeBob. It could be that awful child down the street, gluten, sugar, or immodest clothing. On and on the list goes.
But if we turn to Scripture, we see that Jesus has a very different answer:
And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him… For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:14–15, 21–23)
Jesus is saying that the problem isn’t some outside force working to make our children bad. The problem is that our children are already born sinful (Ps. 51:5). Cain didn’t kill Abel because he had been spending too much time playing Call of Duty; Cain killed Abel because his heart was jealous and filled with rage (Gen. 4:1–16).
Can you control the evil influences?
I can hear you screaming at your screen, “So, should I just let my kids watch whatever, listen to whatever, and hang out with whomever? You’re crazy!” And yes, if I was saying that, I would agree with you. As wise parents, we should seek to love our children by setting guidelines for them. We should protect what their eyes see and what their ears hear. Please understand this though: your protection can’t stop them from being sinful, and it can’t save them.
The problem isn’t some outside force working to make our children bad. The problem is that our children are already born sinful
If the sin problem just came from external sources, than all we would have to do is control those external forces and we would be okay. But the problem is internal. The problem is each of our hearts. There is only one remedy for our dead hearts (Eph. 2:1–2), and that remedy is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This is a scary place for a parent—at least that is how I feel. I love to imagine that if I can just get it right—the right food, the right music, the right TV shows, the right clothing, the right everything—then I will protect them from evil and the horrors of our sin-cursed world.
The problem is I won’t ever be able to get it all right, because I have the same problem my children do. My heart lies to me. My faith fails. My desires wander. My thinking is faulty. If the problem was just external, Jesus wouldn’t have had to come and save us. We could have saved ourselves.
There is only one remedy for our dead hearts, and that remedy is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Pharisees were great at externals, and Jesus called them “white-washed tombs” who looked pretty on the outside but inside were full of rotting corpses and brittle bones (Matt. 23:27).
We shouldn’t let our kids partake in whatever they would like, because their hearts are sinful, they are immature, and they will choose wrong. Likewise, we shouldn’t think that controlling everything they participate in will save them, because their sinful desires—although possibly controlled by you for the moment—will one day find their way out.
How can children’s hearts change?
Children need new desires. They need a new love, the love of a God who whispers in discouraged ears, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end” (Lam. 3:22–23). They need to know that even as they struggle with wrong desires, God’s mercy and love is for them continually.
That is what you need too. You need your heart changed by the love of a good Father who sees your internal mess and chases after you anyway. The more we as parents are enraptured by this love, the more we can stop putting confidence in the flesh, and transfer our trust to God. Salvation is from his hand alone.
Trust his hand. Rest in his hand. Pray for you children, help them make wise decisions, and create a gospel-centered environment, but always remember: it is God’s work to save them, not yours.