Well, I mean I think that one of the things that some evangelicals want to do is to say let’s just keep our children completely sheltered from everything, and then they are not going to have to face these things until they are adults, and then they are spiritually formed, and they are ready to face it. I have seen this with some really rigid, legalistic parents in every era really. I remember I had some friends in the neighborhood whose parents didn’t believe in letting their children watch television because they were afraid of all of the, as they put it, the “pornographic influences” that were coming from Laverne and Shirley. I have not seen the pornographic influences in Laverne and Shirley, but apparently these parents did. And so they are saying let’s just keep the television totally away. And so as long as our kids don’t know that there is Laverne and Shirley out there, we are going to keep them protected from that.
What happened is that those children, when they went to anyone else’s home are immediately in front of the television, and they are just glued to this because it is this sense of the forbidden that their parents won’t even talk to them about, so they think it must be great. And you know, we are saying we want to play outside, and this is just the information channel giving you what’s on the other channels; this isn’t even anything to watch. But it was something they really were driven toward. I think the same thing can happen here.
I think we are living in the sort of world where keeping children from understanding what is going on in the outside isn’t going to be possible. What you have to do is to come in and educate in age-appropriate sorts of ways as to what’s going on, doing two things: You are communicating what your family believes about a Christian sexual ethic without turning your children into Pharisees. Those same kids in our neighborhood that really were driven toward that television also their parents didn’t do Santa Claus with them—they were the children who were coming around telling all the rest of us there is no Santa Claus. This is a pagan myth that you all are taking up, and your parents really don’t love Jesus as much as mine do. You do not want to create that in your children.
And so to create the sort of children who recognize what the scripture teaches, what we believe as a family, while also loving people in their neighborhood, not being harsh or condemnatory toward people in their neighborhood. I had to deal with this last night, not about the situation you mentioned, but one of my sons, my younger sons came to me and said I have a friend in the neighborhood, and his dad is an atheist. What’s an atheist? Well, I suppose I could have said we will talk about that when you get older. But I don’t want atheism to be an allure for him. I explained to him what an atheist is. He said does this mean that I shouldn’t be a friend anymore to Ronnie? And I said absolutely not! I said you should be completely a friend to Ronnie. I said Jesus has already told us how to live in this world, and he says we are to live with people and to love people who don’t know him; to seek to win them to Christ, but even if we don’t win them to Christ, we still love them. And yes, you should be friends with Ronnie.
I think we have to do the same thing, and every congregation is going to deal with this with cohabiting parents, with everything else. I remember the first time that one of my children came in and asked me what’s divorce—very, very young—because a friend in the neighborhood had parents who had divorced. And that was probably a more difficult issue for me than the one that you mention because I wanted to explain this to him without him having the fear that somehow this is going to happen to him. But at the same time, I didn’t want to communicate well, that will never happen to you because your parents are better than Johnny’s parents, which isn’t true.
So you have to spend a lot of time carefully walking the way of Christ in order to do that. And sometimes you are going to mess up, and sometimes you are going to fail, and that’s why we need counsel—a multitude of counselors is wisdom—it’s why we need the power of the Holy Spirit to do that.