As Christians, we are called to live in the tension of paradoxes. Instinct may pull us to act one way, while the call to obey my pull in another.
Recently, I became aware of another such paradox. I am a parent. And parents work / hope / pray for their children to make good life decisions. They want them to live better lives than they did -- better jobs, better standard of living, better marriages, better children and better better. Because of the value they place in following Jesus, they want their children to follow Jesus better. To follow Jesus well, they want them to follow disciplines that tend to promote a healthy relationship with Jesus -- Bible reading / meditation, prayer, attending church, getting into a small group and developing relationships with other kids from other families who follow Jesus. And the Bible does testify that our relationships, our friends, influence our choices, our lifestyles. Bad friends influence toward bad choices; good friends influence toward good choices.
And the Bible says that God's family should be influences toward good in the world. God's family should impact the world and nudge it in a positive direction. Because Christians are in the world, the world should be a better place.
God's people generate this influence for good by living out their relationship with Gods, by loving people, by serving people and by proclaiming Jesus' good news. The better our relationship with God, the more we love, the more we serve and the more we proclaim, there will be a corresponding greater impact in the world.
And we want our kids to have this impact. This "fruit" will testify about their relationship with God, their choices, their lifestyles, etc.
The thing about impacting the world is the the people of God's family have to engage the people of the world.
There is an assumption among a lot of Christians that if we just get people to church, they will absorb truth by osmosis. I do not doubt that the Holy Spirit, present in a meeting of God's family, will influence the hearts of those who do not know him. But if that was all that was needed, Jesus and the Apostles only needed to walk down the street and there would be universal revival. Walk down the street and everyone gets saved. (They did walk down the street and people got healed by the Spirit as they passed by.)
But Jesus did not just walk down the street. He engaged people. He engaged tax collectors. He engaged prostitutes. He had relationships with people to influence them to pursue God. And to impact people, we need to engage people and our kids need to engage people.
Did you ever -- or were you ever with someone who -- see a person in public somewhere, and judging by their dress, demeanor, language, behavior and hair color say / think "Man! That person needs Jesus!" Well, that person probably does need Jesus. Which means he needs someone, maybe you, maybe you child, to engage them in Jesus' name. Maybe proclamation; maybe service; maybe love.
We want our kids to live righteously, in holiness and wisdom. We want them to impact the world. But we don't want them to be impacted by the world. Increased impact means increased engagement. To increase giving impact, we must increase engagement. To minimize being impacted, we must decrease engagement. Therein lies the paradox.
We want to protect our kids from foul language.
Did Jesus hear foul language?
We want to protect our kids from sinful examples.
Did Jesus avoid sinful people?
We want to protect our kids from promiscuous activity.
We want our kids to emulate the life of Jesus.
How did Jesus engage the world, yet remain faithful to God?
It wasn't entirely because he was God in the flesh.