We may conclude from our previous articles that the subject of Christian liberty is of importance to young people for two reasons. The first is that it is so relevant to their lives. Because they are young, they stand at the forefront of change which gives rise to spiritual evaluation. Young people must constantly determine what is permissible under Christian liberty and what has to be rejected as sinful. The second reason is that such a decision is crucial for their whole life. If a young person fails to make proper discernment, but justifies sin under the pretense of Christian liberty, he sets the direction of his entire life wrongfully. If he makes a proper judgment, he sets his feet upon the pathway that leads unto life eternal. What can be of more importance to covenant young people?
The days of youth are awkward. One is too old to be a child and too young to be an adult. Acne soon gives way to the smooth texture so coveted by all and promised by every concoction imaginable. Lanky arms soon become proportioned. The cracking voice reaches the penetrating highs and booming lows. By the marvel of body chemistry the young man soon stands at the apex of human strength and the young woman adorned in her pristine beauty.
Changes are not only physical, however. Far more subtly, one changes inside. The dependent little Johnny soon gets up in the morning and discovers that he has his own ideas about things. The child that lets mother and father do all the thinking suddenly becomes the young person who realizes that he has to do his own thinking. The soul of youth becomes flooded with waves of questions. The simple trust that a child has in the judgment of adults is replaced with suspicion. A younger person begins to wonder why people act the way they do. They question the motives of parents and every one close to them. They begin to feel pinched by the “oppression” of others always telling them what to do, what to think, what to feel, what to say, and so on. Suspicion gives way to doubt, and a young person begins to wonder whether anyone really knows what is right. Their tender lives become shaken by the Pharisaism they see. They hear gossip and learn how people hurt one another. They begin to come face to face with the hard realities of life. Their first reaction is to reject it all. Sometimes they like to climb into a cocoon. Some rebel against anyone who would tell them anything. Others throw off all piety, claiming it is just a sham anyway. These are the restless years.
The soul has to grow up just as well as the body. During this process, young people are very vulnerable. If parents don’t seem to be patient enough, they simply turn them off. If preachers try to help, they are accused of meddling. If school counselors can’t come up with the instant solution, they just don’t have it. They realize that their life is at sea, but they can’t seem to find the haven of rest.
The devil likes to capitalize on this stage of human development. In case he hasn’t gotten a child under his control as a child, he pretty much waits until these difficult years. When a young person is confused by trying to measure the values he has been taught over against the values of the unbelieving world, the devil considers this fertile ground. If he can get a young person to isolate himself from those who are trying to guide him through the turmoil, he has him to himself. If he can get parents to give up and to consider the task of guidance too difficult and not worth all the trouble, then again, he has youth to himself to do his devilish business.
Parents and young people must recognize that they need each other.
All this has direct bearing upon our subject.
Something that is blatantly sinful is one thing. A young person can be shown from God’s Word that this is wrong, and they pretty much accept it and can come to grips with it as the Holy Spirit leads them to understand it. Things which are questionable, something which is common place in society and sometimes common place within the sphere of the church, but which is forbidden by parents or by the minister in his dealings with youth, present quite a different problem. Things which don’t seem so bad and hardly cause concern to a young person, but which are nevertheless rejected by parents and the practice of which is therefore forbidden, cause quite a stir in the home. Is it worth it all? Is it necessary? Won’t young people just learn to make the judgment as to what is sinful and what is permitted under Christian liberty on their own? They might make a few mistakes, but, after all, they have to “sow wild oats.” Why get all hung up on Christian liberty?
Scripture indicates that parents have no choice but to guide their children also in making judgments as it applies to Christian liberty. All the exhortations of the Bible emphasize that parents are to train up their children in the way that they should go. This is their calling!
And how can they do this?
Parents should realize first of all that they have to function as the conscience of their children, and this includes young people. A parent fails in his calling when he thinks for one moment that his teen-ager is able to make his own decisions and doesn’t need help. Some teen-agers like to think this, but every parent should know better. Youth need guidance in the restless years. Most young people recognize this also. They are scared of life, scared of making the wrong decisions, afraid that they aren’t getting things straight. They need strong parents, they want to test their own position by that of their parents should understand that when young people argue, show anger, sometimes defy authority, they are really crying out for help. If we knuckle down under this kind of pressure we only tell our young people that we don’t have the strength to stand up and that we are not trustworthy. If we do this our young people lose all respect for us, and not wonder. If we as parents are ready to discuss, eager to show concern, have a big shoulder to take criticism without getting angry, have a heart that is la forgive and sincere enough to encourage in the right way, our young people will consider the home a place of refuge and there will be a seeking out of one another.
With such a proper relationship in the home parents will be in a position to guide their children in Christian liberty. The role of the church is to spell out the teachings of the Word of preaching of the Word of God. By the preaching of the Word, by catechism study, by discussion in society, the church must come through loud and clear. God required of us in our Christ principles of the Word of God must loud and clear. The church doesn’t have to make a long list of pronouncements of do’s and don’ts spelling out what is sinful and what comes under Christian liberty. This would be would be wrong. Rather, by instruction, the truth of doctrine and life has to be spelled out andtaught. It is the duty of the home to implement these teachings. This is the role of the parent. Every parent must take seriously the preaching of the Word and apply this to home life. First, this means that everyindividual must take it seriously. Parents and children must know Christ by faith and have the sincere desire to glorify God by being faithful to Him in their daily life. Then the parents are ready to make these demands of their children and young people. Young people will also be ready to accept their guidance, for they will appreciate that maturity and experience makes them qualified.
Even then it makes a lot of difference how a parent does this. As parents we should recognize that when we deal with young children, we must command them. As they get older, however, they must learn to make their own decisions. Young people must be respected as young people. They want to be taught how to make their own decisions. It won’t work simply to tell them no,because I told you so. They must understand that they don’t want to do wrong for good reasons and we must give them reasons. It may be that a young person isn’t persuaded by those reasons, but then he must be told to trust the judgment of parents and be patient until such a time as he may come to appreciate it. Young people must do this too. Spiritual maturity doesn’t come over night; it comes through a long battle of testing the spirits whether they be of God.
DRAWING THE LINE
If we are guided by the principles of Scripture and take seriously our calling as parents and covenant youth, we will understand the need for drawing a line, establishing a boundary for Christian liberty.
Take dress for example. We know that the youth culture extols nudity for sinful sexual arousal, which is fornication. There are beaches in Europe and America on which one can appear stark naked. This may be the ultimate goal of sensuality. The Christian knows he must clothe his body. Out of Christian liberty we try to determine how much clothing is proper. The point is that parents and young people have to sit down and decide where to draw the line between a clothed body and a naked body. The trend of wickedness is toward scanter and scanter dress until it reaches outright nakedness. We all agree nakedness is wrong. If our attitude is to go along with the times, then every year our covenant young people will appear with a still briefer swimsuit. This then is no more Christian liberty. It is going along with the sinful drive for nudity and fornication. With this reasoning, we must make our judgment as to proper swimwear.
The same holds true for music, sports, hair, etc. We first have to extricate ourselves from the mad rush of the children of this world, examine what we must do as children of God, and make a decision in the service of God.
By doing this we must learn that as young people we will be different from the majority in many things. This difference will not only be from young people in the world, but also within the church. Young people that are always introducing into the sphere of the church the latest styles of clothing, hair, music, entertainment, etc. should be held in suspect. Who are we following, Christ or antichrist? Who are our idols, the wicked rock singers? Or are we imitators of Jesus Christ? Parents and young people who are always in the lead with questionable practices only indicate that they are more interested in being popular with the world than growing up in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Christian liberty is freedom, all right. That freedom doesn’t make one popular with the world. If it does we have to examine the depth of it. There is something wrong when the world wants us to be their friends. If we are faithful in walking in the liberty of Jesus Christ, we will show ourselves as the enemies of the world. That is not something to be abhorred, but it is the privilege of covenant young people. For to be an enemy of the world is to be a friend of God.
If young people learn these lessons in the days of their youth, they will be prepared to live this way all their life. Our lives will not be self-centered, but God-centered.
This is what makes covenant youth so beautiful.