Video games were just in their infancy back when Dan and I were busy raising our young children. Birthday celebrations took place at the local pizza parlor where we watched the kids take turns gripping the wheel as they stared at the screen in intense concentration, fixated on the latest and greatest in kids’ entertainment.
As I sat back observing, ironically it occurred to me at the time that one of those primitive video games just might possibly have been the best representation of what I felt that our goal was in our child-rearing responsibilities. Imagine a video game where a plane enters from the left side of the screen and travels across to the right, while all the time dozens of missiles are perpetually trying to attack it from the top and bottom. The goal, of course, is to navigate the plane from the left side to the right without getting hit. The goal was survival.
At the time, that was pretty much the picture of what I considered to be our moral and spiritual responsibility in raising our family– to protect our children from getting hit by the missiles. “Spiritual survival.” If we could just get our children from the left side of the screen–their infancy– to the right side–their adulthood– by dodging constant attacks so that their faith remained intact by the time they arrived at adulthood, I would have felt like we’d succeeded.
Salvation, I believed, was our singular goal, the high point of our success, the point at which we would be able to breath easy in the assurance that regardless of how bad the world was, at least our children would eventually enjoy peace and joy forever in heaven.
But there was just one huge problem with that idea. It was “man-centered,” not “God-centered.” It may have sounded lofty, but in reality, I had failed to consider Who and What they were being saved for– only how they would benefit from their salvation. My ultimate goal, inadvertently, was our children’s eternal happiness. I wanted them to know the joy of forgiveness. A home in heaven. Answered prayers. Needs met. Healings. Deliverances. Successful marriages. Happy homes… lots of great ‘perks.’
Frankly, it just never really occurred to me that leading them to repentence and faith in Christ Jesus, as essential as it was, was not primarily for their benefit, but for God’s: to equip them and send them on mission in God’s great plan and purpose. In truth, salvation was the starting point at which they would spend the rest of their lives learning how to live out that faith in every area of life– with no exceptions– for the glory of God and His Kingdom. And therefore, in a sense, our greater responsibility as parents was just beginning at that point.
For me, this reality hit me in one very impacting moment. Our children were attending a Christian school at the time, and one evening Dan and I sat listening to a guest speaker at a parent-teacher meeting.
“What if Jesus doesn’t come back in your children’s generation?” the speaker started out challenging us. “What if things get worse than they are now? What if morality declines and the economy collapses? What if political systems fall apart? What if things get so bad that the world runs out of experiments and starts looking to Christians for real answers?…What are you preparing your children for? Are you preparing them to have Godly answers in a culture that’s falling apart?”
Though I’d been a Christian for a long time, my understanding was transformed at that single point. Being “saved,” I realized, means much, much more than merely a verbal profession of faith. It involves a life committed to obeying the comprehensive nature of God’s Word, expressed in the Bible, which has something to say about every aspect of life and living, including the culture, with no exceptions.
Ever since that parent/teacher meeting, there’s been a passion in me to learn how to apply God’s Truth to all aspects of life for the glory of God and His Kingdom on the earth. Some call it applying a “Christian Worldview” to all aspects of life. What does the Bible say about work? About running a business? About education? About socialism, Science, Art, Music, dance? About a woman’s character, behavior, and role? About taxes, politics and government, healthcare and charity? About relationships, money, family, institutions, marriage, divorce, health, our bodies…
Whenever I’m tempted to think I finally understand it, invariably I discover yet another area of life where I have been inadvertently failing to apply the Truths of God’s Word. This is the hope and these are the answers that a dying culture is crying out for!
That parent/teacher meeting took place about 25 years ago, and sure enough, things have gotten so much worse. If being saved ‘so that we can go to heaven when we die’ was really the answer for our culture, then why hasn’t it had a better affect on our culture than we’ve seen over the last 25 years? I believe it’s because in raising our children we’ve been too “self-focused” in understanding the role of evangelism. We’ve failed to properly train our Christian young people in what R.J. Rushdoony called their “dominion mandate,” or what his contemporary Francis Shaeffer referred to as their “cultural mandate”– that is, applying our faith to every area of life and living, thereby producing a true positive influence on the “culture” for the glory of God.
Rushdoony wrote, “The center of our faith is not ourselves, but Christ and His Kingdom. Our salvation therefore is not the end of Christ’s work, but its starting-point in our restoration into His household and calling. Calvin was right: our whole life must be our endeavor to fulfill His calling. Christ is the foundation, not we ourselves.”
Our parental responsibility is so much more than waiting for a verbal profession of faith. It involves training our children to apprehend the mission and call of God’s dominion/cultural mandate– that is, finding Biblical answers to the issues that affect our life and culture. It’s true that missiles are flying, because clearly, we’ve been saved in order to participate in a cosmic battle that the kingdom of darkness is waging against the Kingdom of Light. But don’t be fooled– our mission is not a video game. It’s very real.
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