Originally published at www.dayspringchristian.com
Picture a warrior. Strong, beefy, armor-clad. A sturdy, focused, elite man’s man, born to make quick work of his enemy with grit and skill. He is scarred and confident, trained to the core, prepared for battle. A true warrior who possesses courage and cunning and an intimate knowledge of his enemy. He is firm in his convictions, and will defend them to the death out of love for his cause.
Dramatic? Perhaps. But in the battleground of our children's hearts, we parents must be no less prepared than a rugged, hard-bitten warrior. Now more than ever.
In ancient times, and until recent history, children had to actually go somewhere to be negatively influenced. In Israel, a visitor can explore an excavation of the ancient city of Scythopolis, one of the ten cities known in the New Testament as the Decapolis (Matthew 4:25). In Jesus’ day, it is unlikely that an orthodox Jewish kid, including Jesus, would have ever stepped foot in this city. It was decadent and alluring, with its theater and high living. Good Jewish parents would have protected their children from the influence of such a place.
I grew up in the sixties and seventies. The same held true as in ancient times. If a parent wanted to protect their child from the world’s influence, they only had to keep them close, surrounding them with a controlled environment that included church, and, perhaps, Christian school. They could closely monitor how much of the world they wanted their child to be exposed to, so they could have influence over what was taught about it. Of course, this was no guarantee that their child would grow to be a Christ follower, but a parent had much more sway because life was slower and negative influences were not so easily accessible.
Even in the nineties and early 2000s, when I raised my own children, I could largely keep the world at bay, giving my children as much of it as I felt they could handle, which gave me time to infuse a biblical worldview into what they were exposed to.
In the last decade, all that has changed. Satan has stepped up his game in the battle over our children’s hearts, with advances in technology and frog-in-the-pot parental paradigm shifts that began in the sixties, and are reaping disastrous consequences in this generation. The battleground has become more dangerous and frenetic, and if we are not savvy and proactive, the battle could be lost.
Remember the warrior? Today’s parents must be no less prepared for battle. The contest for the hearts of our children is real, literal, and presently and perpetually raging. The enemy does not sleep. He operates with Machiavellian brilliance. We must be smart, cunning, brave, and ever vigilant. Of course, as Christ followers, we have the absolute advantage, in that our captain is Christ, who will vanquish the enemy in the end. In the meantime, the battle rages on.
Here in the 21st century, what are our weapons? I will propose nine of them in the form of an acrostic, using the word PROACTIVE.
P is for Prayer.
We will never have the strength, courage, or conviction to win our children’s hearts without the cover and aid of the Holy Spirit, through the practice of regular prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “Pray without ceasing.” Parenting is not for the faint of heart. We can’t afford to be without our greatest source of strength in the midst of this all-important battle.
R is for Ruthless Consistency.
Children need parameters that never waiver. They may rail against them, but they need them nonetheless. We must set boundaries and stick to them. It takes stamina and tenacity, so we must keep the end game in mind. Life is about what our children will become, not about what makes them happy in the moment.
O is for Oversight of Technology.
The influx of information, good and bad, is accessible and instant, 24 hours of every day. There is no test signal following the National Anthem that shuts off our screen at midnight. Taking charge of a child’s technology is imperative, and requires a tremendous amount of time and energy. We return to the warrior. Sturdy. Focused. Prepared for battle. Our eyes must be ever on what our children's eyes are seeing. One glance away, and they could be down a road we can’t even find. We must take the time, and do our diligence to stay ahead of the ever-changing labyrinth of technology.
A is for Authenticity.
It is important for us as parents to be transparent and real with our children. They are bombarded by the world and its influx of mixed messages that are a mere click away. Pornography exists. Child predatory behaviors exist. Drugs, sex, illicit music …they exist. Pretending they don’t because we are uncomfortable to talk about them creates an atmosphere of dishonesty and evasion. Our children trust us when we present the world as a beautiful, yet gritty place that can be overcome by the purity and power of Jesus Christ. We mustn't shy away from "keeping it real."
C is for Courage.
Good parenting, like good soldiering, requires a tremendous amount of courage. It takes bravery to say no to a child when every other parent in their life is saying yes. We must take Romans 12:2 to heart: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Setting limits for our children will not turn them from Christianity. They will not be corrupted by uncomfortable conversations. We must ask God for the courage to parent well, for the sake of our children's hearts.
T is for Truth (and Grace).
Christian parents can easily fall into legalism for the sake of not conforming to the world, or leniency for fear of making their child unhappy. We must always move forward in truth while maintaining a high level of grace. Whether it’s discipline, dating, modesty, piercings, tattoos-whatever parenting throws our way-it’s important to affirm our children’s viewpoint while sticking tight to ours (assuming ours is biblical). A firm hand with a soft touch seems paradoxical and hard to pull off, but with Christ’s help, we can strike the balance so that our children see that we care about them while we are setting limits.
I is for Intelligence.
A good warrior knows his enemy. Reading scripture, talking to other Christian parents, and staying abreast of what is influencing our kids are indispensable weapons in the battle for the hearts of our children. We must study the battlefield, and devise a plan for every possible scenario. We must live by Matthew 10:16, being “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Good intelligence will help us maintain purity while keeping a keen eye on the enemy.
V is for Vigilance.
The enemy is indefatigable in his vigilance. He wants our children’s hearts as much as we do, because conquering a child’s heart means having one less Kingdom citizen to contend with. We must never assume our children are above reproach when it comes to sin. They are as fallen as we are, and as susceptible to it. Unwavering attentiveness is necessary to maintain the occupation of our children’s hearts.
E is for Engagement.
Being involved with our children is second only in importance to prayer in the battle for their hearts. Involvement can take many forms, like spending quality time, volunteering at school, teaching Sunday School, or making our home the place where kids gather. We must be accessible and ready to listen in a way that leads our children to understand that they are valued and affirmed. Maintaining a positive, affirming, engaged, yet authoritative relationship with our children will help them feel safe and more prone to keep their heart in the right camp.
Easy, right? Not a chance. But, we truly can “do all things through him who strengthens” us. That is a promise, straight from the Creator of our children’s hearts. He loves our children more than we ever could, and his plan for them is good and perfect. He will uphold us in the battle.