Take Them Out Of The World?

“The tendency of Christian parents over the past 20 years has been to cocoon children from the big, bad world, to create Christian societies complete with clothing, music, and movies. Instead of integrating into what we perceived as evil culture, we’ve barred our children from that culture and sheltered them. ‘As long as you stay within our happy subculture, you’ll be safe.’ Too long we have mistaken protection for parenting” (Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture, DeMuth, pp. 27-28).

Understandably, the world is a scary place to most Christian parents. In our lifetimes we have seen the broad disintegration of many cultural institutions that gave us (a sense of) security and contentment. The identity of our society is being shaped by a massive shift in how we approach truth, morality, and the future – it is evident in politics, media, and higher education, in particular. Ideas and assumptions that were once relatively unquestioned have come under fire from all corners of society.

Sadly, we have lost our sense of place in a culture that no longer values concrete answers in the same way it once did. The Christian is a dinosaur of sorts, mocked by intellectuals, marginalized by pop culture icons, and (seemingly) ineffective in confronting today’s “complicated” problems (social issues, ethics of science, sexuality, etc.). In response, many have consolidated, gone into hiding, and have hoped desperately to shield children from a world “gone bad.”

Even in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, however, Christ instructed His followers to be different. It is, in fact, all of the ways that we stick out in a culture that make us most effective. Notice how often Jesus uses the phrase “Into the world” in John’s Gospel (at least sixteen times in the New American Standard Bible). In particular, consider John 17:18, which says, “As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” His disciples’ mission was to go into the world, not into hiding.

Jesus was not afraid of the challenges of introducing a new way of thinking to His audience. Remember that much of His message was mind-blowing and shocking to His listeners (John 6:41-66, John 8:48-59, Matthew 7:28-29). Paul also presented the Gospel to audiences who considered his world view strange (Acts 17:16-34). In the early years of Christianity, the Gospel was attractive to Pagan Romans, Greek philosophers, world travellers, Jews, slaves and masters, the rich and the poor.

Preparing our children to reach and engage a postmodern world requires much more than shielding them from it. Jesus prayed concerning His disciples, “I have given them Thy word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to protect them from the evil one” (John 17:14-15). Do we have the same attitude about our children? It is tempting to just take them out of the world and all of its evils, but that does not accomplish the true mission of raising children to become ambassadors for Christ. Paul echoes this in Philippians 2:14-15, as he writes, “Do all things without grumbling or complaining; 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.”