How Do We View Children?

I’m preparing a class on counseling children for the fall semester, so I’ve had some time to think about how our world views kids. Actually this is probably mostly a Western mindset about children. It’s clear the world doesn’t tend to think about children with a theological understanding.

Children Are Innocent
This is a common belief about children, isn’t it? The world believes that our environment corrupts children by the time they are adults, but when born, a child is innocent. And they do look innocent. They are cute and cuddly and they clean up well.

But have you ever thought about what keeps an infant from committing murder when he’s angry? Is it innocence or something else? [There’s a famous Christian quote about this I cannot recall.] It’s just that a baby doesn’t have the strength to murder you when he’s angry. A baby is a sinner… from birth. And if he could strike you when you weren’t bringing his bottle soon enough, he would.

While we can make allowances for a child’s immaturity in foreseeing consequences, we cannot treat children as if their sin doesn’t matter. Or as if children are not responsible for their sin. Their lack of considering obvious consequences is probably a mitigating circumstance, but they are still guilty. All of us are guilty from birth. Children are not innocent. Children are sinners by nature and by choice, just like adults.

Romans 3:10–13 (ESV) as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”

Their sin affects their entire being.

Ephesians 4:17–19 (ESV) Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

I believe that’s true of children. Do you?

Children Are Wise
We even have a popular saying about this, “Out of the mouths of babes.” Some use it when a child says something unexpectedly wise. But if children say something wise, it’s normally an accident. Or it’s something they don’t really understand. Or it’s something they heard from an adult. They are not naturally wise.

Our world, however, believes they are. This is shown when a child says or does something that supposedly teaches the world. Greta Thunberg became a world-wide sensation as a Swedish teenager because she schooled adults on how to care for the environment. Adults will use children to make adult arguments because of the supposed wisdom coming from a child.

But children are not wise. They are naturally foolish.

Proverbs 9:6 (ESV) Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” 
Proverbs 22:15 (ESV) Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

Children Are Autonomous
Some parents don’t think they should demand their children do things they don’t feel like doing. Parents are commended by the elites of Western culture for letting their children choose their gender or their sexual orientation. Why would you let a child choose? Because you believe they are wise—they can make a good decision, and you believe they are innocent—you believe their decision won’t be impacted by evil impulses or motivations, and you think they are independent or autonomous.

But that’s not what Scripture says.

Colossians 3:20 (ESV) Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Ephesians 6:1–3 (ESV) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Children have to submit to parents. Parents have God-given authority over children. The reason a child obeys is because it’s a reflection of his relationship with Christ. No believing child is ultimately obeying his parents; they are obeying Christ. Which is why it doesn’t really matter if a child’s parents are even believers or even nice and kind. That would make it easier, but children can obey even ungodly parents because they are obeying Christ.

Ephesians treats children as if they can grow in their relationship with Christ, as if they are able to see the Jesus they serve behind their parents. That treats children just like it treats wives, husbands, fathers, employers, and employees. Paul expects children to be motivated by their relationship with Christ. How significant.

And he puts them under authority just like he does wives, husbands, fathers, employers and employees. Children don’t get to live any old way they want to. They are not autonomous. They need the direction of a parent who understands Scripture to help them grow in their relationship with Christ.

Those are 3 characteristics the world believes children possess. What would you add?

When Should My Teenager Date?

I wrote this a few years ago when I came across a blog [1]Marshall Segal, “Wait to Date Until You Can Marry,” Desiring God Ministries, … Continue reading and it prompted me to let my church know how my wife and I tried to think through this issue. I’m going to talk as if you already have teenagers; that’s how I thought through this, so just bear with me.

Our goal was for our kids to please God in how they related to the opposite sex. One of the best outcomes in our opinion was if our children developed friendships that were pure and holy. We didn’t want them to have regrets. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your child could bring their spouse to meet an old high school romance and it wasn’t awkward—they didn’t have memories of sinning together? That was a scenario that we painted for our kids.

So I’m describing an ideal, and I am not embarrassed about holding out that ideal to my children. But the gospel teaches us that God takes messed up people, forgives their sins, and clothes them with Christ’s righteousness. Sinful failures in our relationships to the opposite sex don’t have to define us. Our identity in Christ is what defines us. God grants forgiveness to repentant sexual sinners. Praise God for that!

So what was our rule? Our kids weren’t allowed to have a dating relationship until they were able to get married. Our thought was that dating is for marriage. I’ve said that dozens of times to my children. So if you aren’t old enough to get married, then you aren’t old enough to date. Practically what that meant was they couldn’t have a dating relationship until they graduated from high school.

However, I’m not saying that the first person they date after high school should be whom they marry. No. Dating is for marriage, but that doesn’t mean that each dating experience should lead inevitably to marriage with that person. An adult might date several people less seriously and maybe a few more seriously before moving toward marriage with one particular person. Dating should be leading somewhere though. Even a bad date can help them on the road to marriage because they probably just learned some things that they don’t want in a future spouse. 😉

This is not the gospel. This is not biblically mandated. It’s an area of Christian liberty where we tried to help our kids make wise decisions. Of course we can’t prevent them from liking a particular person of the opposite sex nor would we even try to. But they couldn’t go on dates with that person. The only exceptions were a formal date like our school’s Junior-Senior Banquet because that is chaperoned and because it helps them learn how to properly relate to the opposite sex in a formal situation.

And even if our son/daughter had a girl/guy that they were really good friends with, we regularly ask them if they are looking at them as a good friend, which is okay, or a dating relationship, which isn’t. How would they know? Are they relating to the person in ways that they wouldn’t relate to a good friend of the opposite sex?

This doesn’t have to be everyone’s family rule. However, I do wonder why Christian parents are sometimes in such a rush to have their kids date. What’s the hurry?

Frankly I’ve seen enough social media posts to doubt that Christian teens are handling their dating relationships wisely while they’re in them, and the aftermath when they break up sometimes shows their misplaced values and immature search for identity. And you’re never going to convince me that a history of dating early and intensely and then breaking up has prepared a teen better for eventual Christian marriage than not dating would have. Seriously, can you name one spiritual benefit from dating in high school? Maybe you can. I’ve not thought of one. And I can think of several temptations dating could bring.

Our children are encouraged to have wholesome relationships with the opposite sex through school and church events or other group activities. They don’t need the pressure of finding a girlfriend or boyfriend in junior high or high school.

You are not helping your child find satisfaction in Jesus if even unintentionally you encourage them to find their identity in a boyfriend or girlfriend. Like I said, it’s not the gospel. It’s just something to think about.


References

References
1 Marshall Segal, “Wait to Date Until You Can Marry,” Desiring God Ministries, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/wait-to-date-until-you-can-marry?utm_medium=feed&utm_source=feedpress.me&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+dg-articles,
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