Isn’t that how we raise our children, on the sheltered side of life, and even on the sheltered side of the church? That is as it should be. Children shouldn’t need to worry about where their next meal is coming from. They shouldn’t be concerned with the office politics their parents must put up with. They certainly shouldn’t hear about church squabbles. Your job as a parent is to protect them from those things.
But you can’t do that forever. Sooner or later they need to learn about people, about their imperfections, maybe even the danger they pose to others. That’s why we teach them that no one should touch them in certain places, that they should never get in the car with a stranger, or accept candy, or look for lost puppies. It’s unfortunate, but we do it because we love our children.
I am afraid we are not that smart about teaching our children about problems among brethren. It isn’t just the false teaching wolves we need to teach them about, though more of that would be helpful. We seem to have raised a generation that thinks everyone out there is harmless and means well because they speak in syrupy tones and sentimental mush-mouth. No, the thing we must be most careful about is how they see us handling the disappointments with our brethren. What they see us do and say can make or break their spiritual survival.
When Keith was preaching full time, we saw people who claimed to be Christians acting in every way but that. We saw couples at each other’s throats. We saw family cliques. We received physical threats. We were tossed out on our ears more than once for his preaching the truth. It may be that the only thing that kept us both faithful was realizing how these things might affect our children if we didn’t handle them carefully.
When they were old enough to understand what was happening, we never blamed the church. We never blamed God. We told them that sometimes people were not perfect, even good people--sometimes they just made a mistake. I was NOT going to let what those people had done to us cost my children their souls. They were what mattered.
As they grew older, we talked often about being faithful to God, not to a place or a group. We reminded them about Judas. What would have happened if the other apostles had let Judas’s monumental failure run them off? What about Peter, their erstwhile leader? If everyone had given up because of his denial there would have been nothing for him to return to upon his repentance. The mission of the church depended upon those men staying faithful regardless. God was counting on them. We told them over and over, you never let what someone else does determine your faithfulness. God expects you to do the right thing no matter what those people do. I had to learn to control my depression and discouragement and not give my children cause to leave the Lord.
We planted our children on the sheltered side of the house, but then we moved them slowly one foot at a time to a place where the sun would beat down on them and the cold would leave frost on their leaves. Finally they were as inured as possible from the effects of other people’s failures, including our own. If they ever fall away, they know better than to blame someone else.
Be careful what your children hear you say about your brethren. Be careful what they see in your actions and attitudes. Sooner or later they will need to stand the heat of the noonday sun and the bitter cold of a spiritual winter. Don’t give them an easy excuse not to.
For there must be also factions among you, that they that are approved may be made manifest among you. 1 Corinthians 11:19