I’ve given a great deal of thought, over the years, to a couple of basic questions that influence me as a parent:
- why do kids walk away from the faith they were raised in?
- how do some kids seem to walk the walk, and talk the talk, but then run as fast as they can away?
It’s not houses that are too strict — I know strict families that have great adult children. I know strict families that have all of their adult children in rebellion. It’s not houses that aren’t strict enough. I know liberal families with loose standards and convictions who raised great kids that love God and I know families with the same looser standards that raised kids that walked away from God when they were older.
What made the difference in these kids?
I believe it is in
- understanding the convictions
- and owning those convictions for your own
As long as a child is in your house, they follow your rules. Most kids will go along with it one way or another, though some start to rebel even while still under their parent’s roof. But, if the convictions you have were just the house rules, and not something they knew, understood, and decided to adopt on their own, why would they keep them?
So how do we help our families to develop and adopt convictions that honor God?
1. Develop Convictions on Your Own, Not Just Someone Else’s
Counsel and teachings are great, but true convictions need to be our own. They can’t just be something we adopt to fit into a group. They can’t be something we adopt because “the preacher said so”. If your convictions came from something other than your relationship with the Lord, how on earth will you defend them, and convey them to your children?
A good example of this was when we were attending a holiness church. This church, obviously, believed you’d lose your salvation for any little infraction, and through some monumental twisting of Scripture, the ‘standard’ in the church for ladies was that no women were to ever wear jewelry, pants, short hair, or makeup. Most people just went along with it because it was what you did when you were part of the group. The grip was tightened by implying that anyone who didn’t have this standard wasn’t going to heaven. Fear became the motive. So we had a combination of fear and “group-think” making people do what the leaders had decided (aka Cult Behavior).
Update: I should add, sometimes we obey rules while we are somewhere, just because those are the rules. Employers have dress codes, and that’s their prerogative. For example, a campground that specifies girls should wear shorts to the knees, that are at least 4″ wide (aka coulottes)…that’s their rule. The line has to be drawn somewhere or else they’d risk having a bunch of teens in “daisy dukes”. It doesn’t mean we have to hold to it in our own house though unless we found some random verse in Habakkuk that told us to ;).
2. Don’t Just Know What You Believe but Why You Believe It
Going back to that holiness church we attended for a very brief time, one of the more frustrating things for me was trying to find out why they believed this. Why do you wear your hair long? Why do you dress like that? Why does every woman in this church have a Pentecostal Updo? Does their doctrinal statement give instructions for making your hair do that?
You’d think that if they all felt passionately enough about it, that some of these women hadn’t cut their hair in 27 years, they’d be able to explain why.
But no. Most of the time I was referred to the pastor or pastor’s wife who could “explain it better” or told that there is a verse in Deuteronomy and one in 1 Corinthians (not sure where, they’d say) that commands it. These were people raised in this church or who had been there for years.
No matter. The real issue, which was also reflected in how many young people didn’t just walk way but RAN away from this church once grown, was the fact that no one could explain to me their own convictions that they were enforcing on themselves, their (often angry) young people, and their friends/relatives/and all church newcomers.
3. Don’t Base Convictions on Stereotypes
It seems to me that many times when someone wants to drive home a point about how “bad” something is (and it may very well be “bad”)…they use some kind of a generality.
We do this in politics….we have liberals vs. conservatives or democrats vs. republicans. We do this in regards to pretty much any issue out there.
For example, in a seminar about what is wrong with CCM (contemporary christian music) the speaker was saying that these people were all living a rock and roll lifestyle and being immoral and ruining their testimony. He cited two or three well known examples, but that didn’t really cover “all of them”. How many preachers would like it if we cited the number of publicized sex abuse scandals as a reason not to listen to them? That can’t be the main argument for a conviction! (he did have more later on)
Why is this important? Because sooner or later your kids will figure out that “everyone” is not as bad as we were making them out to be, and most people don’t live up to the stereotypes we want to box them into. Convictions have to be based on more than just stereotypes. If your only reason to not allow rock music has something to do with the behavior of a few cranks…eventually they’ll question the conviction when they meet or come in contact with people who don’t live up to the stereotypes.
My parents didn’t like anyone who wasn’t American, and convinced the rest of the world was full of “commies” (hey, it was the 80’s). Oh, and all rock stars were “on drugs”. Then I met exchange students. I signed myself up to be an exchange student. I even met a few rockers that were all committed to sobriety while I was working on campus arranging entertainment. My respect-o-meter for mom and dad dropped like a rock when I found out that the stereotypes they harped on were not always true.
Keep “stereotypes” out of your convictions…go to the Bible instead.
4. Remember the Purpose of Convictions
Why do we even have convictions? Because we want to glorify God with our lives, and be a witness to the world around us, to lead them to Christ.
In keeping this in mind, we’ll keep from developing odd convictions that keep us completely out of contact with the world around us. A simple reading of the gospels, in fact, will do this for you. You see Christ truly being salt and light. You see Him as in the world, but not of the world. He’s our perfect example.
It’s easier to be a Christian, in many ways, when you don’t have to mingle with annoying people who challenge your convictions, isn’t it? (see point two — know what you believe and WHY). But Christ puts those people across our paths for them to hear about His saving grace, and to see the difference Christ makes in a life.
5. Two Passages to Always Keep In Mind
When talking about convictions, standards, etc. there are two important principles to keep in mind. I think I’ve talked before that my tendency is to jump on a band wagon and go off the deep end on certain things. This is not always a good thing, as I tend to lay aside love and kindness (and the whole counsel of scripture) when focusing on one little external thing. Pride is usually at work there too (“look how holy I am!”). Tis true.
I’ve made myself memorize the following verses to keep in mind in how I apply convictions, and how I respond to anyone who doesn’t share my convictions. This is so important. Convictions can’t be excuses to be a jerk to someone.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not [love], I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not [love], it profiteth me nothing…
…[love] suffereth long, and is kind; [love] envieth not; [love] vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. [love] never faileth… (1 Corinthians 13:1-8a)
A house with convictions and standards but no Christ-like love is not a Christian home.