Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sheltering Children - Part 1 -God's Mandate to Holiness

Sheltering Children--
Part 1: God's Mandate to Holiness
By Jonathan Lindvall
One of the most threatening accusations Christian home school parents face is the charge of being over-protective. Somehow the society is suspicious of those who do not want their children exposed to all the seemingly harmless experiences the world considers necessary for proper & healthy childhood maturation. As the insinuations become increasingly strident the terminology becomes more shrill. Ultimately, if we are not responsive to the more subtle slurs hinting that we should release our children from our own oversight,
we are indicted for the worst crime parents can commit: SHELTERING them!
Before we deal with the issue of sheltering directly let's deal with our tendency to be driven by "the fear of man" (Prov. 29:25). Virtually every home school parent will easily identify the most frequently asked question about their home schooling as, "What about socialization?" When people ask this question, what are they wondering about? Are they worried that our children will not be capable of displaying lifelong servant hood for the glory of God? Generally not. They are shocked that we are not intimidated at the thought of our children being different from everyone else.
Actually, what these examiners want to know is whether or not our children are learning to fit in with their peers. At first glance this seems a healthy consideration. But what does the Bible call it when God's people "fit in" with their environment. Paul addressed this directly when he said (Rom. 12:1-2), "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Our efforts to "fit in" are nothing less than a fearful surrender to the very conformity Scripture challenges us to avoid. Such conformity mitigates against being the "living sacrifices" Paul emphasized as being "holy." Too often modern Christians seem intimidated by the world. We don't want to be noticed as out of sync with the culture--we want desperately to "fit in." We try to be camouflaged Christians. Our conformity is not motivated from servants' hearts but from cowardice. Paul wrote (Rom. 1:16), "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes." But we are so timid of seeming different that we shrink from the accusations of not being socialized. Well, who wants to be socialists anyway?
Socialism is the attempt to equalize everyone--make everyone alike. But God didn't make us alike. He made each of us, including our children, to be unique. And we are not to minimize, but maximize our distinctives for the glory of God. We are not to try to mask our uniqueness beneath a facade of timid conformity. We are to SHINE! Jesus said (Mat 5:16), "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
What did Paul mean when he described our non-conformity as "holy?" The word holy literally means set apart, separated, consecrated. God desires for His people to be different from all other people. Like Paul, Peter contrasted God's mandate to holiness with conformity (1 Pet. 1:14-16). We cannot be holy and conformed at the same time. God is calling us to be holy non-conformists. Peter went further, describing us (1 Pet 2:9) as "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a peculiar people; that you may show forth the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."
Are we willing to be "peculiar?" Some more recent Bible translations soften the starkness of this passage by calling Christians God's "special people." Now that does sound a bit kinder and gentler than "peculiar." But what does "special" mean? It is impossible to be regular and special at the same time. "Special" means different, unique, distinct, and even peculiar.
One of the most remarkable examples of those identified as holy were those who took the vow of a Nazirite. In Numbers 6:8 God summarizes the intent of the specific Nazirite regulations by saying, "All the days of his separation he shall be holy to the LORD." During the period of a Nazirite's vow he was to be different from everyone else. He was supposed to look different--he could not cut his hair. He was even supposed to have a different diet--he could consume nothing from a grapevine. His whole lifestyle was supposed to be out of sync with the rest of society. The Lord actually intended for these Nazirites to be holy eccentrics living among the rest of the people. He called this being holy! And now He calls us all to be peculiar people.
This applies not only to us, but also to our children. In 1 Corinthians 7:14 Paul makes it clear God wants our children to be "holy." The world wants them to "fit in" and become socialized. God wants them to stick out--to "shine" before men. Many sincere Christians who oppose home schooling argue that our children must be "salt" and "light" in the world. They are right! But they are wrong in that they believe the way to be "salt" and "light" is to mingle with the world. In fact, the opposite is true. Salt loses its savor through leaching, through dissipation. Light is dimmed by proximity to shadow-producing obstacles.
One of the best examples of this holy peculiarity was the Nazirite, John the Baptist. He dressed peculiarly, ate peculiarly, talked peculiarly--his whole lifestyle was eccentric. Was John the Baptist well socialized? Absolutely not! He was apparently raised in isolation as an only child. He lived out in the wilderness, away from civilization. But was he "salt?" Yes! He polarized the nation with his stingingly salty message! Was he a "light?" John the apostle wrote (John 1:8), "He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light." Jesus said (Matt. 11:11) "among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist."
Yes, John the Baptist was a light for God in the world. But how? By being so totally separate from the world that they were attracted to him like moths. I pray that my children will be socialized like John. While I certainly train them to exhibit social graces to enhance their current and future servant hood, I want them to fearlessly confront the world with a gospel they not only articulate, but LIVE BOLDLY!
"'Come out from among them and be separate,' says the Lord. 'Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.'" (2 Cor. 6:17) What does this mean? And how should it apply to the way we raise our children? Apparently God's design for our children and us to maintain the purity of holiness is for us and them to understand and apply the principle of separation from the world. But how separate should we be?
Another of the accusations leveled against Christian home schooling parents is that we are raising naive children. We are charged with not letting them see the real world. (By the way, the institutional school setting is NOT the real world. It is an artificial environment in which students only mingle with a narrow band o individuals their own age. In the real world there is a wide diversity of people.) But there is a deeper issue being raised here that must be addressed.
What does the world mean by the term "naive?" What is the alternative? What the world thinks is normal is for young people to develop into savvy, cool, disrespectful, street-wise rebels. This is a perversion of God's ideal. In fact, what the world labels "naive" the Bible calls "pure." Jesus said (Matt. 5:8), "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." In other words, if we have pure hearts our attention will always gravitate to what God is doing. Paul wrote (Titus 1:15), "To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled."
I suppose we have all had to deal, at one time or another, with someone whose mind was so defiled that they seemed intent on turning everything into dirty jokes. No matter how cautious we are around such warped thinkers they can our words and actions into conformity to their own defiled minds. On the contrary there are others who can be told dirty jokes and they honestly don't understand the twisted humor. Which kind would God have us and our children be? But which kind will be accused, by the world, of being "naive?"
God calls us to raise children who are "holy." They are to be different from the world, but their peculiarity is to be marked by "purity," not just being bizarre. Such holiness is not based on human efforts to follow man-made codes of moral conduct, although outward indications of holiness will certainly be evident. The real issue is in our children's hearts. Paul wrote (Gal. 5:17), "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh."
Paul was writing to Christians. We must recognize that it is not enough for our children to be born again. Holiness is the result of sanctification. One aspect of cooperating with the Holy Spirit's sanctifying work is that we must purpose to "make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts" (Rom 13:14). What does it mean to not make "provision for the flesh?" There is a war ongoing between the flesh and the Spirit within each of us and within each of our children. Which side of the conflict do we send "provisions" to?
Jesus taught us to pray to our Heavenly Father (Luke 11:2-4), "Our Father... do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil..." Why should we seek to be spared "temptation?" Some of us are confident of our ability to resist temptation, so we actually welcome the conflict. But Paul directed Timothy not to engage temptation in a fight, but to flee--"Flee also youthful lusts" (2 Tim 2:22). It is not enough to commit ourselves to abstain from sin; we must even avoid the temptation, making "no provision for the flesh." We can easily see the fault in a drunkard who has been delivered from alcohol still hanging out in front of a saloon. But do we fall into the same trap in less obvious ways? Or do we make provision for our children's flesh through such things as their playmates, toys, reading material, music, television, and so forth?
I have been convicted of failing to "sanctify" (consecrate, set apart) my children as the Lord intends. Through the provisions I make for my flesh, I am making my children vulnerable to temptation. While I ask my Heavenly Father to "lead me not into temptation," I am leading my children into temptation. Jesus said, "Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to the man by whom the offense comes!" He prefaced this by warning, "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
I have always applied these scriptural threats to those who perpetrate such abominations as molestation, kidnapping, ography, and so forth. But now I wonder if God is speaking more to parents who have the mandate to protect their children from ungodly influences. This becomes particularly clear when we continue through the next few verses and find Jesus commanding us to pluck out, cut off, and cast away whatever causes us to sin. This mandate is clearly given in the context of children (Matt. 18:6-10).
In the conclusion of this article I would like to share some specific influences the Lord has led Connie and me to "pluck out" of our children's experience, thus overtly sheltering them from temptations.

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