Each year at Christmas time, a box of these lovely chocolate treats would appear in their home courtesy of his caring Grandfather. After the box was first received, carefully opened and passed around, it was set aside for future enjoyment. That is when the problems began, for often the next opening of the box would reveal villainy!
It was the clandestine work of my husband's one and only older sister, who had very definite opinions about which chocolates she would and would not eat. Without the written guide to aid her, she developed her own system of identification - she took a small bite out of the bottom of each and every chocolate! Those she liked, she ate. The rest were placed back in the box for some unsuspecting party to discover with dismay.
Not too many younger brothers care to eat treats already sampled by their older sisters, even if they were just nibbles! I suppose their Mother eventually had to do her duty and finish off the box, since it would never do to let it go to waste!
In the course of my Bible Study, and through some comments on my blog and others, I have begun to think more about the 'samples' we are choosing for our family. There have been times when we have been strongly encouraged to allow our children more 'freedom' in order to teach them about 'the world' we live in and help them to think 'critically'. In other words, we have been asked to expose our children to things that we consider to be inappropriate simply to give them an opportunity to learn about the various attractive ways that lies can be packaged, and so avoid them.
This kind of thinking has often puzzled me. While I do agree that I, as a Christian, am to be a thinking, informed individual, I do not find it logical to assume that 'sampling' the world's offerings will accomplish this goal. I certainly don't feel it will accomplish it in our children's lives. In fact, we intentionally shield them from many things that they are just not ready to know about this world we live in. Our children possess an ignorance that we are bound to protect. They will grow up soon enough, prayerfully to become mature thinking adults in due time.
At this point in their up bringing we certainly encourage them to be lively thinkers, asking thoughtful questions and digging deeply for answers. Dinner table discussions are often great times of teaching and learning. Our goal at this time is to teach them diligently from God's Word, so that their days are saturated with the Truth that we are living for. We take the admonishment in Deuteronomy 6:1-2 seriously and strive to teach God's statutes and commandments daily. We weave Scriptural principles into our everyday conversation as naturally as breathing. Prayer is becoming something real to them, and their devotion to God's Word is growing. It thrills my heart to see our Dreamer laying on her bed reading her Bible completely of her own accord, or to hear our Storyteller recount a Biblical event in far more detail then I myself can.
We want them to know the Truth so well that they will be able to spot falsehood or erroneous thinking without hesitation. We see this skill already beginning to form in our 10 year old girl, and it is very rewarding to know that she is taking what she knows to be the truth of Scripture and using it to measure what she is hearing, seeing, learning and listening to her friends talk about.
We are very careful to make sure that when something is truly a Scriptural principle we share the passage that we take the principle from and often have them work to learn a verse that supports our position. These types of principles are foundational truths that can be universally applied to all Christians in all circumstances, and not just to our family. At other times, we make choices based upon, but not specified in, Scripture, and these we also make clear. "This is something we have decided for our family, based in this principle from God's Word, however, not every Christian family is going to do things the same way, but this is our family's position at this time."
Teaching our children to live purely in an impure world requires deliberate diligence. First, we have to model it. Not so easy. We are the adults, edging towards maturity, and yet we still make poor choices at times. We want to be thinking and informed, aware of the culture we live in, and be relevant to it, so that we are able to the understand and speak to needs of those around us. At the same time, we are to be separate, seeking to live holy lives, to walk in integrity. For this reason we guard our hearts and minds, we put on the full armour of God, and we avoid many of the pleasures of this world.
A couple of nights ago, our Bible Study leader asked us what the world sees that is different about Christians. The 12 women in the room had a really hard time coming up with a list. The two things they came up with seemed pretty insignificant - not swearing and not drinking. Even that isn't accurate, if the truth is known! It was pointed out that even 50 years ago there would have been a much longer list of 'distinctives' that would be obvious to the world around us. I understand that many of the things that used to be distinctive were things that Christians did not do, many of which were 'legalistic' rules. Some of these rules birthed rebellion, since the principles behind the standards were not taught. So the rules were 'bent', then 'relaxed' and finally dropped. In seeking to be relevant to the world around important distinctives have been lost.
Yet, we are still called to live in the world but not be like the world. Jesus prayed for Believers, knowing that we would always face the struggle of living in a world where we don't belong. He asked His Father to strengthen us so that we might maintain our testimony, thus glorifying the Father.
I like the way The Message puts it John 17:13-21 where Jesus is talking to His Father:
'Now I'm returning to you. I'm saying these things in the world's hearing so my people can experience my joy completed in them. I gave them your word; The godless world hated them because of it, because they didn't join the world's ways, just as I didn't join the world's ways. I'm not asking that you take them out of the world but that you guard them from the Evil One. They are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world. Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth; Your word is consecrating truth.'
I find in my own life that I don't need to 'sample' what the world has to offer in order to know that it isn't for me. I am fairly aware of what is good for me and what isn't. I find enough sinful habits in my own flesh without developing a taste for the habits of the world! I daily struggle with wrong thinking, self-centered living, careless words and a lack of passion for the things of God. And that's the short list. I don't need to know what the world is into to know that it isn't going to help me become the woman of God I desire to be. I do know where I need to be 'sampling' - in fact feasting - daily, and that is in God's Word.
Matthew 10:16 says, "Behold I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves."
I will not bury my head in the sand. I will not be afraid of the world, but I will not knowingly be pursuing it's fading pleasures or finding my entertainment in things that I know will suck me in to wrong thinking. I will try to learn to be relevant and informed, but I will strive also to live a life that is distinctively different - and that includes passing up what the world has to offer, and developing my taste for the wonderful goodness of God. I will keep on seeking internal devotion in a world of continual commotion! I want to be the kind of Christian who is known for what I stand for and not just for what I stand against. I long to have the reputation of a woman who fears the Lord and who exhibits love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. I've got much yet to learn!
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!