I look into the eyes of these precious young people and think how unfair it is for them to be faced with such choices. Although I'm disheartened by it all, I believe there are ways to counteract the coarsening of our culture—and it's up to us to get involved.
Sharing the Responsibility
Recently, I heard about a small county just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, in which half the young female residents are suffering from HIV/AIDS. At first I was astonished, then heartbroken, then convicted. This wasn't a big city statistic or news from a foreign country. This was coming from my own backyard.
As my heart was stirred, I began to think about my own generation and its relationship to the next. I believe we're letting the young people down.
In many ways, we've missed the mark. The Bible tells us, "In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach" (Titus 2:7-8, NASB). Every mature believer should be a good example—a godly role model—for those who are younger.
As a parent, I've never understood the idea of trying to be your child's best friend. Alvin and Ashley have many friends but only one set of parents. My husband and I love them with all our hearts. We know it's important to show our love, not just by having fun with them, but also by nurturing, teaching and protecting them. Every adult believer can do this for the youth around him.
Nurturing involves showing young people their true worth. They must be taught to see themselves the way God sees them. He valued their lives so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to save and redeem them. Real self-esteem comes from knowing Him and believing the words of Jeremiah 29:11: "'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'"
Teaching involves introducing the next generation to the importance of God's Word. I've been thrilled to watch my children develop a real appetite for the ways of the Lord. They're beginning to experience a revelation of Matthew 5:6: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
But this desire didn't grow by accident. Consistent exposure to the power of the Scriptures came through attending church services, Sunday school, youth group and Christian summer camp. I believe seeds were planted in Alvin and Ashley even when they weren't aware of it.
Honest study of the Bible reveals that God's Word is alive and active in our lives. Psalm 119:105 says it this way: "Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path." When the next generation becomes full of the Word of God, they're also going to become the leaders God created them to be.
Protecting our teens in this day and age can be a real challenge. But we must make every effort to offer them clear guidelines. Establishing parameters can prevent many a broken heart and damaged spirit. I've told my children often, "Anything that God does not smile upon is not good for you to listen to or watch." It's a simple yet powerful reminder that we're to keep our senses sanctified.
The opportunity to nurture, teach and protect is not available only to parents. We all have a responsibility to encourage the next generation to be bold for the Lord.
I know from personal experience that it requires help to raise a godly child. I clearly remember how the saints of Mack Avenue Church of God in Christ made an impact on my life when I was young. They showed me love, gave me correction and prayed for me.
Church was a place where God-fearing people surrounded me: preachers, mothers, deacons, trustees, teachers, elders and friends. We loved one another as family, and we were taught to be accountable for one another's care.
The adults felt responsible for one another's children. And everything my parents taught me at home was reinforced at church. I grew to appreciate being surrounded by that kind of love and protection.
When believers take the time to sow truth and grace into a child's life, whether that child is theirs or not, they are blessed. These saints are investing in their own future by helping to shape the values of generations to come.
Turning the Tide
There are four practical steps Christian parents and the church community can take to help empower the next generation to live for the Lord.
Talk to them. Don't be afraid to approach them about every aspect of their day. If you sense something is wrong, ask questions—lots of them. My children know I plan to "stay in their business." I make sure they understand that it's my love for them that compels me to be involved.