It is the constant struggle of any thoughtful, Christian parent. What do I expose my kid to, and when do I expose them to it? Should my kids play with fake guns, read Harry Potter, watch a movie with a few curse words, go to a pool with girls in bikinis…and on and on and on. It is a perpetual dilemma.
But it is not a matter of simply shielding kids from some bad influences in the world. When you draw your lines, it inevitably puts you at odds with other Christians. Your child has dinner at a friend’s house and comes back to tell you about a long conversation they heard about evolution, and it is immediately obvious that this view does not match yours. What do you do? Unfriend them? Correct them? Ban your child from their home?
The problem is that no matter where we draw the line, others will draw it elsewhere, and do so with thoughtfulness and care. You may feel that parents who allow their teen daughters to wear bikinis are slackers, but another parent may look at your child’s swimwear, which you consider modest, to be courting vulgarity.
So, is there any way to think about this that would give us some much-needed perspective? Rather than laying out each situation, is there a way to think about them holistically? And how would the gospel inform any discussion of where to draw the line?
Here are a few simple thoughts.
1. When we fear what the world could do to our child more than we trust what God will do with our child we are in need of a shot of the gospel. I am not saying just let whatever happen, God will take care of it. Rather, when we worry more about our child hearing a curse word in a movie than we do about our child loving people of different races and backgrounds, we are probably not letting God’s perfect love drive out our fear.
2. When we find ourselves spending most of our time pushing the world away, instead of pulling those around us toward Jesus, we are probably doing it wrong. Again, I am not saying kids need to watch racy videos online to love their neighbor. Rather, we all could probably use a little more time actually viewing those around us as children of God and potential disciples instead of evil corrupters of our children.
3. When we avoid topics, places and people without any real knowledge, we doom ourselves. If I refuse to read a book because I heard it might run counter to my beliefs, how can I ever expect a non-Christian to read the Bible which definitely runs counter to their beliefs.
Let me shoot as straight as possible. I have witnessed good kids that wouldn’t dare watch a movie with cursing in it (much less curse) display zero ability to connect with anyone of another race or background. I have heard a child who is well-protected from the evils of this world declare that all democrats are from Satan. However, I have also seen children who are just as sheltered be compassionate to foreigners and loving toward the homeless. The difference is not the lines that are drawn, but the reason. Fear inevitably leads to distance, mistrust and potentially hate. Love will protect our children, but it will also love the world around us.
At some point we have to trust God enough, and love people enough, to enter the ups and downs and craziness of this world. When we do, our children will hear and see things we may not want them to. But they will also hear and see things like drug addicts praising God, homeless men sharing their food, and neighbors saying “hey thanks for coming to our swim party, now tell me about your church.”