Like many grocery stores and customers, perhaps you find plastic preferable. After all, it’s cheaper, more convenient, and easier to store. But is it really better? Can you personalize it later and use it as wrapping paper, drop cloths, packing assistance?
In case you’re wondering, we’re not actually talking about grocery sacks, here. We’re talking about the image or presentation you desire from your teenage son or daughter. When it comes to grocery sacks, feel free to do what’s easiest; but when it comes to your teen son or daughter, you’ll want to think twice before going for plastic.
Once upon a time, in a world not too different from our own, cultural rebellion became the norm. Understandably, many Christian parents realized that the standards of their day encouraged a take-it-or-leave it response to the commands of God’s Word. And they reacted.
Unfortunately, many chose — unwittingly, perhaps — to focus on externals rather than the heart. Appearances and behaviors — they could easily be covered with the plastic mask, helping their family stick out as a “Christian family” with well-behaved, respectable-looking children that grandma and grandpa didn’t find “disgraceful” — you know, like “most kids nowadays.”
While teaching our children to respect cultural mores can be a good thing, it can also be detrimental if overemphasized or taught outside the context of loving others (Philippians 2:3, Romans 12:10). Of course, apart from Christ, none of us is truly capable of truly loving others (1 John 4:7, 8).
When we force behaviors in our unregenerate children without the context of the gospel, they miss out on the greatest potential benefits that come from recognizing our own insufficiency and humbly relying on the Lord to enable our obedience and heart-felt selfless love (Matthew 5:3).
Instead, we teach them to “be good.” Since they, like we, can never truly attain that standard, what we’re really teaching them is to pretend they’re good (Matthew 19:17). I’ve never heard a parent say, “Put on the plastic and just look good; make me look good,” but in essence, that’s what we’re telling our kids when we want them to act a certain way.
Before our kids can truly desire to delight in and obey God (which needs to be in that order!), they need to humbly realize their need for His grace. If all we’re teaching them is a heartless duty, we’re not teaching them Christianity; delighting in fulfilling our duty is possible, through Christ.
Instead of plastic, let your teenager be paper — vulnerable, usable, real. That takes faith on your part, Mom and Dad. It takes recognizing that, as one blogger put it, “[Their] light comes from Jesus, not from [their] awesome behavior.”
That concept begs these questions, as the blogger continued: “Do you believe Christ himself has taken up residence within [the teen]? Do you trust [Christ] with her life – her decisions, her emotions, her relationships? Do you truly believe [Christ] goes with her wherever she goes? . . . If so, then . . . how about encouraging her to be herself?”