Sunday, February 10, 2019

Biblical Love - And Its Absence Towards Our Youth

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.


I’m sure we all know these verses well. They’re printed on pillows, slapped on mugs, hung on posters, and painted on living room walls all across America. They’re some of “those” verses – the ones that just about everyone knows and could probably quote from memory. And most people can even tell you that the word “charity” is the same Greek word used many times in the New Testament for “love” (you can see all of these instances, as well as the word’s original form, its meaning, etc, in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, here:

So considering the well-known nature of these verses, and how many reminders of them we can find strewn across Hobby-Lobby, it makes me ask a single question.

Why aren’t these verses applied to how we deal with our children?

I’m not going to write a lengthy blog post about this one. I’m not going to breakdown all the ways these verses are ignored in Christian households, especially towards children and young people.

Today, I’m just going to ask a question. And I hope maybe it’ll make us all think a little more before we act:

According to the Biblical definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13… are you acting with love towards your children, students, and the youth in your lives?

Are you long suffering and patient?

Are you kind?

Do you let pride have the reins? Or wounded pride dictate how you react to situations?

Are you self-seeking, rather than selfless, in your home life and towards your kids?

Are you easily provoked? Do tiny mistakes make you fly off the handle?

Do you yell easily? And how often? Is yelling or punishment your first reaction to any situation?

Are you acting with love and grace towards your children? Or is anger and pride taking the reins?

Are you quicker to turn to kindness and patience, or anger, when dealing with the youth in your life?


I’d urge us all to examine ourselves and consider how we act towards those under our care on a daily basis. Before you try to fix faults you see in your kids, are you examining yourself for faults first? Are you taking the time to think about whether or not you’re handling a situation in a godly, loving, and righteous manner? Are you putting yourself above reproach by acting in a Christ-like manner in how you deal with your children?
If you’re yelling at your children every single day, letting things like anger have the strongest presence in your household, are you really acting like Christ acted? Are you displaying God’s generous, patient, and kind Love and Grace? Are you being a good ambassador of Christ to your kids… or are you setting a bad example by being quick to turn to anger, quick to let pride take the lead, and quick to put you and your feelings first?

We apply these verses in many other areas of our lives… but I am often left to wonder, listening to the guilt, grief, and pain of our youth, whether we’re overlooking one of the most important areas to apply them.

Our actions may define their futures, so let’s all be sure those actions are grounded in Christ and the Biblical definition of Love before we act.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Reaching Out - Why Christian Youth Don't Seek Out Help

Lately I’ve been talking a lot about the epidemic of guilt in the Christian youth. In doing so, the question has risen, “Well, why don’t these struggling teens tell their parents or a pastor?” This is an excellent question. It’s one that I have posed, many times, to dozens of struggling teenagers who have reached out to me looking for help. Despite their drowning state, trapped in various stages of guilt, shame, and depression, the majority of them have never even brought up the topic with their elders. For many of them, I’m the first person they ever told about their struggles at all.

So the question is – why? Why are these teenagers more inclined to talk to a disabled twenty-something whom they (in some instances) barely know, over their own parents, pastors, or teachers? At first, I thought perhaps it was a similarity in age – I am, in general, only 5-7 years older than these kids, and while that might play a part in it, on further questioning, that does not seem to be the majority of the reason. So over the last year or so, I’ve started paying more attention to the reasonings of those who reach out to me. The answers they’ve provided when I asked them about why they’ve reached out to me, in particular, boils down to this:

“You told me I could.” It’s my general practice with younger Christians to tell them that if they ever need advice or assistance with anything or if they need to talk to someone, they can contact me anytime. I’ll always make time for them and to never worry about “bothering” me, because that’s why I’m here. God doesn’t put us in other Christians’ lives, particularly younger Christians, so we can just all “hang out” and cruise along, stuck in our own little bubbles and keeping our heads down to mind our own paths. The church isn’t meant to be individuals who are all just chilling in their separate little universes, never affecting the lives of those around us.

God says in Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12: Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

If God puts me in someone’s life, then it’s for a reason. I’m there to help that person, to mourn with them and celebrate with them, to help them when they’re struggling and lift them up when they fall. As Christians, it’s not enough to wander around with our eyes straight ahead, ignoring the struggles of those around us. We’re called to be servants unto others, to be the good Samaritan when we spot someone in trouble. If we’ve got our heads down, watching our own feet and nothing else, and happen to miss someone who is hurt and in need of help, then we miss valuable opportunities to fulfill the purpose God has left us on this earth.

So I tell them that. “If you ever need help, advice, or just to talk to someone about anything, message me. I’ll always make time for you and I’ll do my best to help you or get you in contact with someone who can. It’s not a bother and it’s what I’m here for. I’m glad to help.”

That’s it. I make it known that I’m willing to give help – pray with people when they need it, send Bible verses, or direct them to online sermons dealing with the things they’re struggling with. If someone contacts me with an issue, I don’t give it a half-hearted short reply – I research it, read my Bible to find passages that apply, google key phrases to find verses that fit with the issue and then read whole passages to locate what they need. If I’m not wise enough to deal with the issue or it’s something that needs more help than I’m able to provide, I then can encourage them to contact a pastor, tell their parents, and locate help in ways I’m not able to assist with.

And then I follow up. And follow up. And follow up. I make sure they’ve contacted their pastor. I make sure they’ve told their parents. I make sure they’re reading the passages I sent them. I encourage them to contact me again if anything else comes up or if they need additional things to read or listen to or just need to talk through it. If they need someone to talk to, to pray with, to just cry on – I’m here, and it’s not a bother or a difficulty.

It takes maybe an hour of my time. Follow-ups take maybe five minutes. It’s not a huge, time-consuming process. And I’m not doing anything special. I’m encouraging and uplifting fellow Christians – something the Bible says countless times that we’re meant to do. I’m not a ministry worker. I’m not a pastor or a counselor, and I don’t try to be. If something is above what I’m able to help, I’m not afraid to encourage them to seek help that I’m not able to provide. But just a few words like, “You can contact me if you need help or advice about anything,” can be the difference between someone hiding their struggles – until they either a) fall away from the church and Christ completely or b) resort to horrible things to get them through – OR them getting the help they need, being lifted back into the Hope of the Cross, and recovering.

A lot of these kids start out just needing someone to encourage them and point them to the passages in Scripture that will restore their troubled and confused hearts. It’s simple, little, easy things to address and can often be addressed by any mature Christian. At the beginning, it can be as simple as explaining a concept or showing them why they don’t have to drown in guilt, according to Scripture. It’d take an hour of someone’s time, and maybe fifteen minutes now and then on a Sunday morning to check in with them and make sure they’re not falling back into that and reminding them of Grace.

But without any help, they spiral down into the despair and anguish that I’m so accustomed to seeing in the Christian youth of our day and age. Depression is a huge and growing epidemic in the church. Christian Camps across the nation are employing guilt-tripping tactics to convert youth to Christ, leaving them in a vulnerable place in their new faith, and then give them no help in growing to understand guilt and shame are not the future that Christ wants for us. Our youth programs and messages directed at young Christians employ shame and guilt tactics to gain repentance, and then offer no help in moving beyond that guilt and shame once repentance has been accomplished.

Our youth are not secure in their faith. They’re not aware of the solidity of their salvation, and they struggle with self-hate and depression in the wake of their rebirth. The hope of Christ is lost on them. Instead, they’re so focused on “what they have to do” to live a godly life, and inevitably falling short since none of us can live up to those standards, that they quickly fall into despair at ever pleasing God. In some cases, it goes so far that they can no longer stand to read their Bibles or even pray because the shame and guilt has grown so far, unchecked by those around them, and indeed, encouraged by them in many instances.

So again, this raises the question of – why aren’t they telling their parents or pastors?

The first reason I hear most often is, “It would stress my parents out. I can’t upset them like that. It’s not fair to them.” I hear this all the time. Christian teenagers are terrified of upsetting their parents by getting help either from them or their pastors. On many occasions, they’ll explain that they’ve tried to bring the topic up before and their parents got so distressed over it that they quickly closed off and said nothing else. Despite the severity of a lot of these kids’ struggles, they’re more willing to suffer through it alone and silent than to risk making their parents upset or sad. It’s as if they view their parents as weaker and more fragile than they are. A lot of these kids feel a strong burden to protect their parents from the realities of life. “They’re stressed about their job, they’ve got all these things going on, they have to help my siblings with XYZ, they’re too busy and I don’t want to take up more of their time” etc. I’ve heard it all. The distress that often rises when I bring up the topic of telling their parents – distress caused by their parents’ already full plate of daily stresses – is quite worrisome.

The second is the idea that if they’re struggling, something is wrong with them. If they’re sad, if they’re hurting, if they’re confused or guilty or struggling with shame, then that must mean that they’re crazy or ungodly or that something is severely wrong with them. The idea that struggles are normal, that tripping over our own feet as Christians isn’t unusual at all, that we all fall down and mess up and struggle with different things – it’s all foreign to them. The number of times I’ve heard “I must be crazy” from very-normal Christian kids who are just struggling with very-normal things is outrageous. The idea that struggling with sin, guilt, and spiritual confusion after salvation is totally normal is lost on them. In their minds, the mere hint of struggle means that something is severely wrong with them, and in turn, they call their entire salvation or their sanity into question.

“What if I’m not saved?” “I still struggle with sin, so that must mean I’m not doing it right.” “Something is wrong with me, because I’m still tempted by sin and struggling with guilt – so does that mean I was never actually saved?”

Or, “I’m so sad all the time and I don’t actually have anything real to be sad over, so does that make me crazy?” “I can’t seem to handle the things everyone else is handling just fine, so maybe something is mentally wrong with me. Maybe I’m insane, because this isn’t normal.”

So, in turn, getting help from a pastor, parent, or elder is a confirmation of something being wrong with them. Instead of the act of asking for guidance or counseling from someone wiser being a normal and good thing – something every Christian should do in the course of their faith – it’s instead seen as a sign of their failure. Needing counseling or help is, in their minds, the equivalent of being inadequate and weak. If they need help, then they must have failed. Something must be wrong with them. Maybe they’re not even saved at all, if they’re still struggling like this and need help.

Our youth aren’t encouraged to seek out biblical guidance outside of sermons and youth groups. There’s no one-on-one guidance available to them, without it becoming a huge deal for everyone who is involved, making it seem like it’s an unusual and gigantic problem. A teen who is just starting to have problems, when it is small and easily taken care of, isn’t going to tell their parents they need to see the pastor. Why? Because they’d have to have them arrange a day that it can be handled around both their parent’s and pastor’s hectic schedules. Then have them drive them to the church or their pastor’s house (after shuffling around babysitting for their who-knows-how-many baby siblings). And then have their parents wait an hour (out of their parents’ already super busy day) for them to talk the issue out with their pastor.

I can tell you right now that it’s not going to happen. The idea of asking for that kind of “special treatment” (a phrase used by many young people when I suggest it to them) to deal with a so-far small problem is horrifying to them. “How can I ask my parents to take that kind of time out of their day or go through all that trouble for me? I can’t ask for special treatment like that! Everyone else seems to be fine, so I need to just get over it on my own. I’ll be fine – I’ll just suck it up and deal with it.”

Except that they can’t deal with it. They’re babies in their salvation – essentially toddlers trying to teach themselves advanced mathematics, with no one-on-one teaching available. The Bible is a giant textbook and it all sounds equally condemning to a young person already struggling to understand the concepts of Grace and Hope. God’s fire, wrath, and high-standards grow ever more daunting, and their faith in their abilities to achieve the level of spirituality they believe is “normal for everyone else” plummets the more they look, oftentimes.

They need guidance, but blowing a young person’s problems up into something big, when they’re already likely very self-conscious and afraid of it as it is, is a fast way to shut them down from asking for help. If getting help is complicated, they aren’t going to ask for it. Even if their parents are 100% willing and on board and happy to take them, it’s going to be a struggle for the teen to go without feeling like it’s special treatment and feeling guilty about the time everyone is “sacrificing” for them. And if the parents are even 1% disgruntled, because that kid has this and the other kid has that and they need to make supper and get groceries and pay bills and blah-blah-blah (thereby making the teen feel like this is a huge inconvenience for everyone involved and, therefore, selfish of them), then the chances of it happening (or repeating if it even happens once) plummets into the negative zeros.

 The sad truth of the matter is that asking for help and actually getting it are often framed in such a way as to make it seem like it’s selfish of our youth to ask. Even if no one is actually viewing it that way, it’s easily portrayed in that manner to someone who is already struggling with self-doubt and security issues. And the bigger it gets blown up, the more they’re going to resist getting help.

So even if there is help available, it will seem out of reach. Most teens can’t drive themselves, and even when they can, they usually don’t have a car. Finding a good time to take them to talk to the pastor is tricky at best, and even the most caring parents can get stressed and disgruntled when trying to find the time. So even if their parents don’t get upset about them wanting/needing to go speak with the pastor, inconvenience will often raise its ugly head.

“It’s not convenient for my parents to have to take me. It’s not fair to them. They’re busy and we don’t have time for this. Why can’t I just do it myself? Why am I struggling with this when no one else is? What’s wrong with me?”

So the answer to the question “why don’t kids tell their parents and pastors when they’re struggling?” boils down to these things:

1.       It seems selfish to ask for help when it takes so much to get help and inconveniences everyone else (“who are probably already stressed anyway”)

2.       Getting help when it’s something small and can be taken care of easily seems impossible with help so far out of reach, so they wait until it’s a gigantic problem that will take years to overcome and correct

3.       Often when they ask to speak to a pastor or someone who can help them, nothing ever comes of it, because of busy schedules and difficulties planning a good time (so it just gets swept under the rug and forgotten, discouraging them further)

4.       They think needing help means something is wrong with them because getting help is made out to be such a big deal (even if it’s not meant to be)

5.       There are basically zero easy ways for youth to reach out and find spiritual guidance one-on-one, and almost no one is offering it.

And, to top it all off, even if they could get up the courage to ask for help, a lot of times there is no one they’d trust or could even think of to ask. Especially if they’re from a home where their parents aren’t very good/have issues and no one has ever offered to let them contact them, they may not have anyone to contact or ask, even if they’re in a church.

There is no consistency. A single time talking to a pastor isn’t going to help someone in the long run. One good talk with an older, wiser person in the church won’t magically correct what they’re struggling with. They need consistent, daily support and people who are invested in their lives and striving to lift them up, help them along when they fall, and show them the grace and hope of the Lord in their lives. And they’re not getting it in an hour-long message at church on Sunday (where they talk about how bad XYZ is. Where the pastor gives a giant list of traits Christians need to constantly portray and prey on their already unsure minds, leaving them to doubt their salvation more and more and build up guilt and fear until it’s all-consuming). They’re not getting it in the half hour youth service on Wednesdays and the hour of games afterwards (where they talk about topics that they need to hear, yet are too shallowly gone into to do them any good). And they’re not getting it at home, where often the only spiritual guidance they’re given is a list of “do”s and “don’t”s that make them feel continually more ashamed and less confident in their own salvation.

The church was never mean to run with a single pastor carrying all of the weight and struggles of their congregation. As Christians, we’re meant to lift one another up, help each other, offer help and encouragement and spiritual guidance when it is needed. But more often than not, we’re too busy in our own lives, caught up in our own problems, and living in our own little universes. We say, “There’s pastors for that.” “There’s counselors for that.” “There’s people more qualified for that.” “It’s not my job.”

Well, I hate to break it to you, but it is your job. God didn’t call us to his church body for us to ignore all the other struggling Christians around us and do nothing. Oftentimes, we’re so busy focusing on how we’re interacting with the unbelievers, how we’re witnessing to them, how we’re helping the hungry etc etc (which are all good things, and I’m not saying otherwise), that we forget to pay attention to how we’re interacting with our church, our families and our friends, how we’re witnessing and uplifting each other, and how the younger and more vulnerable Christians around us are doing.

We need to stop converting people and then saying that’s good enough. We need to stop sitting in our own little bubbles, tending only to our own little lives, and ignoring our younger brothers and sisters while they drown around us. I don’t know how many times people have told me, “I’m not cut out for ministry because I don’t feel like I can walk up to strangers and witness to them.” But they’re ignoring that ministry doesn’t end there. You don’t have to be talking to strangers on the street to be doing the work of God – you can be uplifting the people you already know, checking in with them and finding out what they’re struggling with and offering to pray for them, with them, or just talk about it so they know they’re not alone.

We don’t stop needing help when we get saved. God told us to form the church for a reason. And it’s not so we can sit in a bench for an hour on Sunday and then never interact with any other Christians outside of that. Let’s stop saying, “It’s not my job – that’s something the pastor should do.” And let’s start finding ways to get people guidance and help in ways that won’t blow it so far out of proportions that they feel like something is the matter with them.

Let’s normalize spiritual guidance. Let’s normalize counseling. Let’s normalize talking to one another about what we’re struggling with, so our young people – or our people in general – stop feeling so alone and cut off. Because we need to stop making people feel like getting help, encouragement, assistance, or guidance for very normal, very common struggles means that something is more wrong with them than the rest of us. Because it’s not true, and it’s making people fall away from the church, fall away from God, and collapse into self-hate/self-doubt, and become lost.

People want to know why more and more young people who are growing up in Christian churches leave the church after they become adults. Well, I’d dare to say that the lack of real one-on-one guidance and help is one of the main reasons. It doesn’t take a pastor to ask someone, “Have you been doing alright lately? I know I’ve been struggling with XYZ and talking to other Christians really helps. If ever you need someone to talk to, please feel free to contact me. Maybe we can figure things out together.” It doesn’t take a counselor to look around a room and see someone who you feel like you’d get along well with (or someone you already DO get along well with) and seek that person out to let them know you’re there for them if they ever need to talk.

I’m not saying we all need to be in everyone’s lives and doing so much that we wear ourselves out trying to help five million people. But if we all had a few people that knew they could rely on us if they needed something, that we checked in with and made sure they knew we were there for them if they need to talk, then I don’t think the epidemic of guilt, shame, and confusion we’re facing in our young people – and, really, in Christians in general – would be so bad.

We need to stop being apathetic pew warmers and start being workers of Christ, and it starts with the people who He has already put into your life. You don’t need to go out on the streets and hunt down people – just look around church the next time you’re there, or around your family, or your bible study, or your office building, or your “meets in the park to play games” group. Look at your friend group, look at your family, look at the people who already are in your lives, and take time to make sure they know they can talk to you about things, that you’ll make time and that you want to help them if ever they need it, about anything, big or small. Let them know you’re here to chat if they need it, or pray with them, or search Scripture together with them.

God put these people in our lives for a reason. I just think maybe it’s time we start acting like it.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Grace - Limitless (Security) or Limited (Uncertainty)

Why are we, as the church, afraid to teach the deep principals of grace and forgiveness to our youth?

I’m not talking about the vague “we’re all sinners and need grace and the forgiveness of Christ” lessons that are everywhere. I’m not talking about the thirty minute sermons on the fallen state of mankind and how much we need grace. What I am talking about is the real thing in action – the act of grace and what it means for us as Christians, how it works and what it does in us when we accept it. The deep, soul-level change that occurs the second someone accepts the healing power of God. The fundamental, spiritual revival that takes a dead, disgusting, broken heart and changes it, breathes life into it, and makes it into something new, and then what that means for us as born again believers.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “But we do talk about that!” and we do, to an extent. But when it comes down to it, there seems to be some sort of disconnect between that powerful work and the changes it wrought in us, and the knowledge of it, of which the young Christians and the youth in our churches are unaware. Allow me to explain.

If you were to ask any Christian teenager what they are, in a biblical perspective, what would the majority of their answers be? “A sinner saved by grace”, generally. And while, on the surface, that’s a good answer, once you dig deeper, it becomes a little disconcerting. For example, most of them are more focused on the sinner part than the grace part. Ask a Christian youth if they’re holy and pure, and their answer will be, “No. I’m disgusting and sinful and stained. I’m a sinner.” They’ll use words like “flawed" and “dirty” and “broken”. (Words I have personally heard dozens and dozens of saved, born again Christian youth use to describe themselves.)

While all those words were once true of us all, they do not use these words in a past sense. There is no was or used to be in their sentences. And though we all still possess a sin nature, the disconcerting thing to me is that these saved, born again children of God still view themselves the same way we view those who have never been saved or known the presence of God in their lives. In fact, they seem unaware of the change having the Holy Ghost inside of them has made in them. In their minds, they’re still just sinners. They look at themselves as broken, lost, disgusting humans who have received the gift of Grace, yet are unaware of what that grace has done for them.

It's as if they see grace as a gift they can hold in their hands, or wear as a badge, but that hasn't actually changed them out of a sinner into something else. And likewise, because they are unaware of the soul-level change the gift of Christ has begun in them, they're left uncertain of their salvation and their own security in it.

How? For starters, this limited view of grace and its effects on them as a person undermines the very foundation of their view of forgiveness. Since they view grace as only a vague covering that “conceals” the dirty sinner underneath, instead of a soul-changing action, they do not view past sins or current mistakes as gone. Instead, they continue to believe themselves tainted by them, like a pile of sins that continues to grow at their feet and scars marked in their skin. They're ashamed and dirty feeling, long after salvation is theirs, to a point where they feel the need to seek salvation over and over, like it's a temporary shower to wash off their guilt until the next mistake.

Moreover, the times the change caused by salvation is spoken of to youth, it's phrased as much to inspire more doubt. “You should be changed by your salvation,” is a phrase I have heard dozens of times at Bible camps, youth gatherings, and Sunday school teachings. The subtle - or rather, not so subtle - use of “should” is a weapon easily creating doubt in the minds of Christian youth, as it raises questions such as: “Have I changed enough? Am I different enough? Have I become good enough, or am I still unsaved and destined for hellfire??”

Instead of the change being something God works in us over time and through His Spirit, it's made out to be a measuring stick that determines whether or not we’ve done something enough to feel secure in our salvation. “If you're saved, you won't lie.” “If you're saved, you won't be disrespectful.” “If you're really saved, you would be helpful without complaining, always be kind to others, etc. etc.” And since we can never do enough - or not do enough - for any such reassurance, it plants seeds of doubt and insecurity. The change brought to our lives by salvation is suddenly no longer a reassurance, but a fifty foot high measuring stick which no one can hope to reach.

So what is the right way to view these things? And what is the cause of all this confusion around the subject of grace and forgiveness and the resulting effect/change it has on those who receive it?

The foundation of it all is salvation, grace, and forgiveness, and what all that really means for those who have accepted Christ into their lives. It's not a limited covering concealing the filth underneath. Those who are given it aren't simply covered over with a new coat of paint so they “look” presentable. This viewpoint of limited grace is not only biblically inaccurate, it is impossible. If Christ’s blood could only buy us all a “fresh coat of paint” variety of grace - a thin shield for our underlying sins - then it wouldn't have been enough to save any of us. We cannot walk into God’s holy, righteous presence simply sporting a new paint job. To enter into the presence of God, we must be completely, entirely blameless - washed clean to the very core, with every ounce of filth and dirt cast aside so far that it no longer is even in existence. If this soul-deep cleansing, mind-changing, sin-erasing change did not occur in us - if, in short, the titles of “dirty”, “broken”, “disgusting”, “sinner”, etc., weren't fully eradicated from our very souls and beings - then we would still be damned (in the most biblical form of the word). Nothing short of complete and total change in title, soul, body, and mind would be enough to allow us the communion with God that comes instantly upon our salvation, in the form of the Holy Spirit who then lives inside us.

I think, then, that the next confusion - which helps result in the confusion of what Grace really is, the two playing off of each other - is in how we can be fully blameless and cleansed while still possessing a sin nature. This becomes a confusion because we, as the human race, are very linear. We view our salvation as an act in our past, wherein we gave past sins to God. But that is not how salvation works - when we are saved, we are not only washed clean of every past act, but also every single future sin, as well. In that moment of accepting salvation, God forgives every single discretion we have done and will do for the entirety of our lives - the very first and the very last and every last one in-between. They're already eradicated before we ever even commit them, because time has no effect on the status of our rebirth, salvation, and cleanliness. It's all erased at once, so no matter what mistakes we then commit in the future, it has no effect on our standing with Christ, because those things have already been forgiven.

Grace is not subject to time and it is not limited. Future acts are not capable of destroying that work in us, thus we are forever sealed and secure in His bride. There is nothing we can do to change that, nothing we can do to lose it. Once saved, we are no longer sinners, but Children of God, part of His Bride, justified, purified, and holy in His sight. To continue to call ourselves sinners, filthy, gross, and stained is an insult to the complete and final work of salvation done in us. God revoked those titles and labels as soon as we accepted the gift of salvation, threw them to the ends of the Earth, and made them no more in His sight. Jesus's words of “It is finished” did not mean “until the next time you sin”. And His holy sacrifice wasn't just “enough to cover our sins”, but enough to wash them away entirely. Once saved, we forever hold the titles His sacrifice bought for us, and none others.

Yet… These truths are often taught with stipulations and warnings tacked on the end, as if this truth is subject to “if”s and “as long as”s. Rarely do you hear a sermon preaching the utterly freeing knowledge that we are bought, cleansed, and redeemed, the end. That this salvation is one that can never be lost or tainted. That the new life Grace has given us and the change salvation wrought in us is complete and final, free and clear, no matter the mistakes we are bound to make. That we are, forever, holy in His sight, rather than lost sinners, soiled by our sins.

Why? Why is this incredible and freeing knowledge of the depth of grace and forgiveness so often suppressed and limited by stipulations and warnings and cautions, to the point that it loses its potency and ability to reassure? Why is grace and forgiveness turned into something so limited in the viewpoints of the Christian youth, so that doubt and confusion run rampant?

I’ve viewed these things in more Christians than not. It's unusual when I talk to young Christians that I find them confident in their faith and what it has done for them. It's even more rare that when asked about their state as a human, they don't answer with the same words we use for those without the presence of God in their lives. And, as mentioned in my previous post, even rarer still for these kids to understand what grace, forgiveness, and righteousness even means in relation to themselves and be able to let go of their guilt and pain.

So why is this the case?

I think it is best summed up by the words I have heard often from older Christians: “People use unlimited grace as an excuse to do whatever they please and keep sinning.”

While this is true, it's an invalid reason to limit our youths’ view of grace. And before anyone gets angry about that and spews all the statistics of how many “Christian” people are living in sin and flaunting that as their reason it's “okay”, allow me to explain why it's invalid.

The reason is simple: If they're blatantly living in sin, ungrieved by their actions and unrepentant for their lifestyle, then they aren't Christians. They aren't being swayed by the Holy Ghost, they aren't feeling the sting of a conscience made new and sharpened by God, so they aren't saved. Regardless of their claims and despite their “reasoning”, they have no fruit of faith, so they aren't Children of God. It's that simple.

So if that is the case, if these people aren't part of the bride of Christ, but imposters blatantly living a sin-filled life without a thought of remorse, then the argument is invalid. Why are we teaching our youth in a way based on what unsaved sinners are doing and how they're living? Why are we watering down the reality of Christ’s forgiveness and grace and our own redemption based on the actions of the unsaved? Why are we letting those without God in their lives scare us into threatening, cautioning, scolding, and seeding doubt in the minds of our saved youth and young Christians??

Since when do we allow the sins of the unsaved to mar the teachings of the Word of God to our own, simply because those sinners are masquerading as some of us? Why are we listening to and changing our manners of teaching based on the actions of wolves in sheep's clothing?

“But our kids might decide it's okay to go do whatever they want if they’re taught grace is limitless and complete. They’ll use it as an excuse to get away with things.” Even though this line of thought isn't usually spoken aloud - though I have heard it talked about - it screams between the lines every time a lesson on grace is finished with a warning of, “But this doesn't mean you can act just any way you want. Salvation should change you and you should be living a righteous life, where you don't *adds large list of do-nots* and do *adds even long list of do-s*, and you should be on fire for God more than *long list of things they think youth are attached to more than God*, and if you don't feel that passion for Him, you should examine your heart and make sure you're really living for Him and are really saved.”

The number of times I heard this end to an otherwise fabulous message on grace is astounding. And every single time as a young person, it destroyed all power that message on grace had over me. I went from thinking, “Wow. God is so incredible and forgiving, the power of his grace is indescribable… I can't believe I’m really, fully, completely cleansed,” to doubting my own salvation, seeking for signs of being “good” enough in myself, wondering if I was “really living for him” and “really had signs of faith” or if I was still just “going through the motions”. I could never find that elusive passion for Christ the youth ministers raved about. I could think of so many things I had done wrong, name a dozen things in their list I should have done and hadn't, and all reassurance evaporated as soon as it came.

Because they said grace was free, but then added stipulations.

Because they promised His love was unconditional, and then added a hundred conditions.

Because they told us it was all Him, all His love, free and as simple as accepting, and then complicated it by telling us all the ways we needed to see change in ourselves to know we were saved, including an illusive passion that my troubled, confused teenage heart couldn't understand, since I had no idea what real love even was.

And so, limitless grace became limited. Free forgiveness became complicated and pricy. Unconditional love became conditioned. God-wrought change became my responsibility. Security and confidence in salvation and my relationship with God became doubt and confusion. My status as saved vs. unsaved became questionable and unsure and seemingly up to me.

The words of their sermons on grace and forgiveness warred with their terms and conditions.

All because those older than I were afraid that teaching the concept of unlimited, timeless, final grace might give me an opportunity to use that as an excuse to sin.

As always, I was one of the lucky ones. I’d come home from confusing sermons and have my parents’ guidance, love, and unwavering, unconditional grace at every turn to reassure and remind me. My sisters and I would talk about how grace really is and I would find my reassurance once again. For me, the fear and doubt was outweighed by my family's actions and example.

Most kids don't have that type of support and love to fall back on. So most of these kids continue to live in fear and doubt and insecurity, viewing themselves still as lost sinners with a thin covering of grace and constantly reevaluating themselves for some kind of reassurance that they're really saved - or else getting resaved dozens of times because of unquenchable doubts.

So what is this mysterious change that let's us - and others - know that we are members of the Bride of Christ and saved eternally? And how does it differ from the cautionary teachings mentioned before?

It's not being perfect. It's not doing all the right things and avoiding all the bad with a perfect record. It's not some mysterious, crazy thing that suddenly, miraculously clears us of all our faults and flaws. Someone with a temper isn't going to get saved and suddenly find themselves the most placid person alive. Someone who struggles with lying isn't going to suddenly never lie again.

The change is simply this: That quiet place in your chest that aches when you mess up. The part of your mind that knows you’ve done wrong and hates that you have. The moment after sinning when your lips whisper, “I’m sorry, Father,” with heaviness. The change is wanting to do better. The change is being saddened by your sin and wanting to overcome those faults. The change is trying, simply because you want to please Him, not because you think it's a way to earn that forgiveness. It's not complicated. It's not a list of a million things. It's not a do or do-not list. It's not a mysterious passion that no one can actually define. It's that part of you that comes alive and sees sin as wrong and God as good and wishes to please Him, even when you make mistakes and mess up.

Chances are, if you're worried about if you're doing good enough/if you’re pleasing Him/if you're really saved, you’re already forgiven, already made new by grace. And if you are drowning in guilt, broken by the knowledge of your sin, desperate for His forgiveness, then you already have it.

Those who have not been changed by the call of the Holy Ghost and do not have Him in their lives do not have knowledge of Him nor want to please Him. They do not regret things He has said are wrong nor wish to be better and do better in the future because the Bible says those things are sinful. If sins you’ve committed are bothering you and you have already asked Him into your life, then know this - His grace is sufficient, His love is unconditional, your sins of past, present, and future are forgotten, and your name is no longer Sinner. It is enough to rest in His arms. It is enough to know He has done it all. Nothing you do, nothing you will ever do, will take this assurance from you, no matter what people say.

Rejoice, your sins are forgiven, until the end of time.

Rejoice, Christ has done it all.

Rejoice, your shame is gone.

Rejoice, all your old titles are tossed away, as far as the East is from the West. You are no longer called sinner. You are no longer called filthy. You are no longer called disgusting. You are no longer called broken. And if anyone else continues to call you these things or to rub your past sins in your face, then remind them what Grace really is, not it's limited counterfeit version, but it's limitless, true version that has revoked every former title and erased every sin and flaw in you, to the end of time.

And for those of us in positions to guide those younger than us - whether in years or faith - let's stop limiting grace. Let's stop putting conditions on unconditional love because we’re afraid of those who use it as an excuse and that those younger than us will do the same. Those under Christ’s grace and forgiveness and the guidance of the Holy Ghost won’t be led astray by those thoughts, grounded by His presence in their lives - a presence that cannot be undone by mankind. So let's stop trying to control young Christians by warnings and threats and glossing over the true reaches of grace because we're afraid of what they might do with the knowledge. Fear and threats have never saved a soul - God’s work in their lives has. We cannot somehow undermine that work by teaching grace the way it is, with truth and power. And the outcome of their salvation is in God’s hands, where it should be, not in ours, by some sneaky method of teaching that, in the end, only confuses those who are already saved.

I'm not saying we stop teaching right and wrong, simply that we stop doing it in a way that creates doubt and uncertainty, as stipulations and conditions.

Let's go back to teaching grace as the magnificent, timeless, endless, limitless thing it is. Let's go back to giving our youth reasons to rejoice in God’s love, rather than forcing them to live in fear, insecurity, and doubt. Let's go back to shouting praises of God’s salvation and greatness, directing our youth’s eyes to the wonder and awe of who He is and what He has done for us, rather than pointing their gazes at themselves and their faults and mistakes, and “do and don't” lists they can never keep.

Let's stop controlling them with fear of failure and mistakes, and start teaching them respect, love, and awe for the God who saved them and made them whole.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Guilt - An Invisible Epidemic In Christian Youth

Guilt is a tricky thing, and one that is often unspoken of or dealt with. From as early as I can remember being aware of such things, I’ve seen it all around me, particularly in the teenagers of the Church. In fact, I’ve had so many friends, friends of friends, and acquaintances that have struggled with the crushing confines of guilt that I would dare to call it an epidemic. Out of all the young people I have ever known that are Christians (the majority of them born and raised in the church), either personally or through other family members, friends and acquaintances, I can name 2-3 young people laboring under the burden of guilt for every 1 I can name that feels confident and reassured by their relationship with God.

I am not speaking about being-guilty (a topic that is discussed often). I’m talking about Christian kids who are so crushed beneath the knowledge of their past sins and current sinful nature that they're utterly, devastatingly, miserably lost. 2 out of those 3 (in the 3-to-1 ratio before-mentioned) often suffers from crushing self-hate or self-loathing. They're so horrified by the knowledge of their sinful nature that they're incapable of seeing past it, to the point where they believe it sinful to think anything at all good about themselves (even to the point of thinking it wrong to feel secured in their relationship with God).

I can't tell you how many nights I have spent sitting up with dozens of anguished Christian teenagers as they're crushed beneath sins from years past - or actions so small and insignificant that it's unimaginable that it's causing them such agony. Some of the most incredible Christian kids that I have been acquainted with, who show more passion for Christ than most adults I’ve known, are the ones who are most guilt-wracked and uncertain of their salvation or its effects on them as a person.

These aren't the cries of the unsaved begging redemption. These are good kids, raised in Christian homes and churches, who I can see the work of the Holy Ghost in, yet are trapped in a state of anguish day after day. I can name at least 50 kids (or more) that I have known personally who struggle with these things, stuck in the guilt of some small indiscretion that should have been forgotten ages ago. Sometimes I’ve sat up with them and gone over the same sin from years past again and again and again, for years on end, because they’re incapable of letting it go and beginning a forward journey away from it. They’re incapable of accepting forgiveness for these actions as absolute and final, no matter how many times they’re told that the action is forgiven.

So where is this guilt coming from? Why are Christian teenagers seemingly plagued with a destructive perfectionist streak that they know they can't ever achieve? And why is it that older Christians seem oblivious to the epidemic and struggle of these Christian youth which I have seen more often than I’ve ever met Christian teens confident in their redemption? These are kids with a passion for Christ that leaves them crying at 2:00 a.m. because they want so bad to please Him, yet feel helpless to ever achieve it, and thus are thrown into a pit of despair. And I don’t use these words lightly - I say despair with every connotation and resulting mental anguish. These kids aren’t panged with the occasional spike of conscience - they’re consumed with a sense of guilt and disgust towards themselves that they’re incapable of casting it aside.

Why? Because they’ve grown up in churches and Christian households that demand perfection and promote guilt; while, at the same time, continuously feeding their saved and redeemed youth the idea that they are still sinners, forever tarnished. Again and again, I have witnessed the ideal seeded and watered and grown in these young Christians that the grace given to them is little more than a garment that loosely covers their sins, as if their sins have just be swept under a carpet, but they're still filthy sinners underneath. They’re never taught to shed their sins or let them go, because those in charge of their training seem terrified that if they aren't guilt-tripped into behaving, they’ll run rampant. In fact, on more occasions than I can count, I have told these kids it is okay to give those sins to God and release them, and their response has been something to the effect of: “But what if I stop feeling guilty and walking on eggshells and that makes me sin more?” They’ve been told for so long that guilt is the only way to salvation/to keeping their hands from sinful acts that they use it as a safety blanket that they don't know how to survive a Christian life without. “As long as I feel guilty, I won't do anything bad. As long as I am extra careful and hate myself for every sin/punish myself for it/beat myself with every mistake, then I’ll behave like I am supposed to.”

It's an extremely destructive mindset. These kids are so busy hating themselves and feeling guilty over every supposed misstep (some of which are so mundane and tiny that it's painful to witness) that they have no strength or will left to even pursue God. In fact, they've spent so long holding sin at bay with guilt that they are incapable of stopping it any other way, and have no idea how else to go about it. Instead of loving God and pursuing Him and striving to be clean out of a love and respect for Him, they do it out of fear and guilt and horror.

These are often the kids that are praised in churches as being “so well behaved” and “such good examples”, yet often they’re slowly crumbling inside with the fear of making even a single misstep and disappointing those around them/getting in trouble/messing up. And then when they're at home, they are yelled at/torn down/scolded for every tiny mistake, backing up their belief that they're horrible, awful sinners that have to spend the rest of their lives living in guilt and walking on eggshells to have any hope of being even close to the perfect people their parents, the church, and even friends and acquaintances expect of them.

These kids have never been taught that once saved, they're transformed from a sinner into a Child of God. The concept is explained on the surface, but most of the time, they have absolutely no idea how that works/what that means for them. They’ve been taught the surface notions for as long as they can remember, but without the meat, without the strength of the deeper facts of what that means for them and how it changes them, they're left clueless and baffled.

“How can I not be ashamed if I am a sinner?”

“How can I be loveable if I’m disgusting?”

“How can I be okay with not feeling dirty if I make mistakes every day?”

“I know God saved me, but I’m still so dirty.”

They’ve been given the knowledge that they have a sin nature and then left without the weapons to know how to face it. The scriptures that would help them cope and overcome the faults in their characters and mistakes they make are skimmed over or untaught altogether. And then they're told, over and over, the list of things they have to do and not do - a list they’re incapable of always keeping - and how horrible each and every one of those sins are, and how disappointed/angry/sad everyone will be if they fail. Guilt inducing sermons are preached on every topic from lust to lying to right/wrong behavior towards others to all the good virtues they need to have, and then are told to repent. Yet they're never taught how to repent and, after they do, how to let go of those sins and move forward in their lives, rather than living with the guilt of it for the rest of time. They're told over and over how we all deserve death and how stained we all are and how every misstep, every mistake, every sin makes them worthy of Hellfire. And without the tools to know God’s love and not just his condemnation, and how to release the guilt and horror after repentance, and how to move forward and overcome that sin without using guilt as their tool, they’re helpless in the face of it.

Even as a young teenager attending Bible camps and church functions, I found myself thinking in every “repent and leave your sin behind” sermon, “How? How? Tell me how. Tell me what to do.” But aside from a vague “Pray and ask forgiveness”, there were never any such answers. And I never knew when I had “prayed enough”, been “repenting” (aka living in guilt) for long enough.

It was like I was trying to offer guilt as my payment for sin. Like if I did something bad, I needed to cry enough over it, feel bad enough for it, hate myself long enough for it to be repaid. “Repent”, they said, like that was the answer. Like it was the thing I needed to do to make it right. I was thirsting for answers on what to do after I sinned and “how to make it right”, and their answer was “be sorry and repent”. So I tried to pay my way with apologies and guilt, to somehow prove I was sorry enough for it to be forgiven. Even though I knew that salvation was something given, that forgiveness was something bestrowed by God, I felt like I had to beg for it. Like it was something I earned by being sorry and feeling bad enough. Like God only would give that forgiveness once I had cried for enough time.

And because of that, despite already being saved, I felt uneasy all the time. Worried and afraid all the time. Dirty and ashamed a lot, for several years, because I never knew if I had felt bad enough, if I had repented right, if I had really made things right with God.

It's a destructive way to think, even though, on the surface, there's nothing really unbiblical about it. The sermons weren't necessarily biblically wrong, the concepts weren't untrue; it's just that I wasn't given the tools to know how to handle/apply the knowledge to my own life. I didn't know how, as a saved individual, as a Child of God, I was different than a sinner. I didn't know that, as a redeemed person, my mistakes no longer defined me. I didn't know that repenting only took a single word, a single cry to God in my heart, and that was enough. And I definitely didn't know that there was a way to strive to be godly that didn't include wrapping a noose of guilt around my neck to hold me in check.

Luckily for me, I had a great church who nurtured and loved me even when I messed up. I had patient, wonderful parents who helped me understand better and who didn't condemn me/yell at me/rub my mistakes in my face. They taught me true forgiveness through their actions - the kind that is loving and gentle and calm in face of my biggest mess-ups. The kind that didn't tell me over and over that this sin branded me; that instead, as a Child of God, saved and redeemed fully and completely, it was already wiped off the moment I accepted Jesus’ gift years ago, even though I hadn't yet committed the sin. The kind of forgiveness that included them patiently forgiving me and hugging me when I probably deserved to be punished instead. The kind that said “you’re forgiven” the instant I whispered “sorry”. The kind that, even if there were still consequences for the sin, those consequences were handed out lovingly/gently/graciously instead of with fury and anger and words that ground the sin into my mind as an unforgivable act that I would have to “work” to erase.

My parents never tried to use guilt to get me to not sin. They didn't try to make me so afraid of the consequences that I would be too afraid to mess up. It wasn't fear they taught me as the weapon against sin, or guilt as the reins I held to keep my life on a straight road. And I am lucky. So lucky, because they taught me respect instead of fear. They taught me love instead of guilt. They taught me not as a condemned sinner, but rather as a Child of God, and they taught me with gentle firmness and calmness, treating me as a saved and redeemed person, a loved and cherished child, not as a disgusting sinner. Instead of screams of displeasure and disappointment, I received gentle guidance when my feet began to stray. My rebukes were loving, even when firm, and something I did was never kept hanging between us for hours or days or months or years, but resolved, corrected, and forgiven right away. I was taught forgiveness wasn't something I needed to beg for, but something freely given the moment I saw my error.

I was, but most of these kids were not. They have no example of free grace and forgiveness, no reason to believe themselves loveable or cherishable, when they're condemned, railed at, and criticized endlessly for every fault and mistake. And these encounters are rarely (if ever) resolved or forgiven by their parents but rather swept under the rug and left in an endless pile of things for their children to hate themselves over or be guilty about, with no way of gaining closure or forgiveness.

Are their parents wrong to be upset over their sin? No. Sin is wrong and needs corrected. But without the reassurance and example of a parent's forgiveness and grace, and without resolution often times, it's too often that these incidents cascade from a normal childhood/teenage mistake into something severely scarring and damaging for kids who really are trying their best to please and live correctly.

And since their parents are, biblically, not incorrect in being displeased (though I would argue incorrect in their execution/method of the correction), these kids are often helpless in the face of it. The Bible backs up their parents’ stance on their behavior/action/etc. being wrong, so without any resolution, they simply take the anger and, since they see it as deserved, turn it into another instance of their inadequacy and another reason to become lost in guilt and grief.

I’ve had people ask me on this topic before, “Well why don't these kids just go seek out their parents and resolve it?” But the sad truth is, rarely when these kids try does it end well. Either it ends in another lecture/they get yelled at again by their parents because they're too angry or disappointed to sort it out rationally, or they're met with a reluctant brush-off that doesn't clear the air at all.

So the problem lies in that the parents are, technically, biblically correct. They’ve got the Bible behind them saying this behavior is wrong and the Bible telling them they need to correct and punish the actions. It's their God-given duty to raise up their kids to know right from wrong and act accordingly.

But I think in their haste to fulfill that duty, they forget that God had every right to leave us to eternal damnation in Hell, as well. That it was His right to punish us and rain fire upon us and raged at us at every sin. That we deserved all that comes as a result from sin… and yet, He forgave us. He steers us gently to the right path. He teaches us with love and saved us with Grace and redeemed us despite what we deserved. He’s patient with us. He’s forgiving with us. He’s full of mercy and bestows it on us with love.

And it makes me are kids expected to understand that when they're never shown? How are they ever meant to walk in forgiveness and grace when they have no idea what that walk looks like in practice? If parents don't bestow that same grace, forgiveness and gentle correction and guidance on their children without condemning them, then how are those kids supposed to understand what those terms even mean?

If their Christian parents don't ever erase those sins from hanging between them, how can they understood that God does?

If Christian parents are more concerned about guilt-tripping and fear-enforcing their kids into correct behavior than teaching them what grace is, then how can they ever feel the freedom and cleansing of Christ?

If their parents only ever view and treat them as disappointing, disgusting sinners, condemning them for every mistake, then how are they supposed to ever understand what it means to be a Child of God and how that makes them different from the unsaved?

If Christian parents expect to be begged for forgiveness, to only grant it reluctantly after their child has cried and wept and pleaded, if even then… then how can their kids understand that God’s grace is free, that it's all about Him and His sacrifice, and not some guilt-and-tear-offering by us that buys it?

Because these kids can be told it, and taught it, and hear it a thousand times, but if they have never felt it from the Christians around them, but only ever felt the harsh weight of perfectionistic expectations and condemnation, how are they supposed to understand it?

They’ll continue to see themselves as some pesky sinful annoyance God reluctantly agreed to save because He is kind, and not as a Child of God, whom He loves and cherishes and wanted for His own. Not as precious or called or wanted, but rather as “tolerated”.

I’m not saying parents should stop punishing sin or treat it all like it's nothing. I’m not saying you take away the gravity or the consequences of those actions. But maybe if parents corrected, guided and taught their children the right path to take like my parents did, rather than railing at them and branding them with the event for ages to come until they “earn” forgiveness, I wouldn't spend so many days replying to anguished, hopeless, terrified, lost Christian teenagers who have no idea what to do or where to turn, and who are drowning in their own guilt. I wouldn’t helplessly try to explain the concept of free, all-encompassing grace to dozens of teenagers who don’t understand it, only to have their parents or pastors or counselors erase anything I might have gotten across to them with a single fury-coated, anger-driven lecture that drives home their guilt all over again.

Was the Bible written to beat our kids over the heads with relentlessly? Was it created to be a sword that cuts away their confidence in their salvation and standing with God?

I’ve had more teenagers contact me begging for advice on how to please their parents, Christian acquaintances and friends than I know how to count. I’ve spent more nights awake until 2:00 a.m. with a young person as they beg for advice on what to do to be better so people will stop being angry with them. I’ve listened to countless cries of hopelessness and anguish from people who are already saved but have no idea how to shed the guilt of their life before - and the mistakes they make after - their salvation. “I’m so dirty and I don’t know what to do” is as common in my emails as “hello”. I’m in a unique position with these young people to hear the cries of their hearts, as I’m old enough for them to turn to me for help, but young enough that they’re comfortable reaching out to me. But it’s not enough for me to try to explain the concepts of grace, unconditional love and forgiveness when the things I tell them are constantly combated by the people in authority in their lives.

So I write this to ask us all to rethink how we treat those younger than us - whether younger in their faith or younger in years - and if how we are treating them reflects how God would treat them. Are you witnessing to them with your actions? Are you showing them grace, love and forgiveness in action? Are you a good example of godly love and forgiveness?

Ephesians 4:32 - And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

Matthew 6:14-15 - For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Luke 6:37 - Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

Colossians 3:13 - Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also [do] ye.

As parents, do you apply how Christ tells us to behave towards one another to your children? Do you as pastors, and counselors, and people in the church? And if, like in Matthew 6:14-15, God were to forgive you based on how often/the manner in which you forgive those under your care, whether your children or young people in your church, how would that look? Are you kind to your children? Are you forgiving to your children? Are you tenderhearted towards them? Do you treat them as Children of your Heavenly Father, as precious and loved in His sight?

If you are a parent, God has given you a ministry to your children, to raise them to be His. Are you being good examples of grace, forgiveness, and love, as well as correction? The most you will ever teach your children are the things you never tell them, but rather show them through your own actions and day to day lives. Are you a good godly example? Or are you quick to dish out fury and condemnation for their actions, rather than guidance and gentle correction and forgiveness? Are you teaching them guilt and fear to guide them, or respect and love to keep their steps sure on their spiritual journey?

I would urge the church to examine its behavior in these regards. The minds and hearts of those in our care - the young Christians among us - are precious, but often lost and confused.