Don’t raise independent kids!

This may surprise you – particularly coming from someone who with her husband has raised six children all of whom have left home and live capably without us. We love them, and they love us, but we didn’t raise them to be independent. Let me explain.

Our secular society values independence with the particular twist to leave faith out of the picture. They criticize religion as a system that controls people, alleging it is a collection of myths which are irrelevant to the modern age. Yet other external powerbases vie to control our minds and hearts, like governments, schools, people, media, and phones. Inner drives also control us, things like love and hate; greed for money, power, status, pleasure, and sex, not to mention fear. Both external and internal forces with a dark side influence and control us. Jesus pinpointed the heart of our universal problem:

For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23).

A godless society thinks of freedom as autonomy, but autonomy in our sinful condition leads to chaos. Freedom only functions within boundaries. Take for example, getting a driver’s licence. Someone may say, “Hooray, I’ve got my license now. I’m free.” But their freedom is conditional on following road rules. Within the law, travellers experience order, safety and confidence. Similarly, God has timeless moral laws which he upholds for human flourishing.

Living in a culture which largely ignores the God who made us and holds us accountable, creates a vacuum. In that empty space, people become ‘gods’ determining their own truth and morality. Seeking freedom and happiness, they brush off conscience and rules that restrain. “Be your real self, it’s your body, your life. Do what you want.” Few have the wisdom to realise they subject themselves to their sinful nature, which enslaves and ultimately destroys them. The Bible talks about our need to obey God and exercise self-control.

The matter of belief in God is more critical than most people realise. A. W. Tozer gives this insight: ‘What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.’ Everything hangs on how we view God: our identity, attitudes, relationships, decisions, up to how we pass through death. Someone who doesn’t believe in God will struggle to answer the basic questions of life: Who am I? How should I behave? What is the purpose of my life? What is my destiny? I read a comment on how deeply unfulfilling life without God is: “Atheism is a journey without a destination, a body without a soul, a religion without reason, life without meaning, a faith without hope, and a universe without God.”

Followers of Christ want to help rescue our youngsters from joining the crowd living empty lives in sin, so what should we aim for? We cannot force them to believe as we do. They need a robust faith of their own. Here are some ideas as starters. I use the word ‘we’ as these are for all of us. If we as leaders don’t believe them and live them, we will have little impact on our followers.

  1. Reinforce the Bible. We must know our Bible, reading it daily. We need apologetics – not being apologetic, but to be able to clearly articulate what we believe and why. This means doing homework, requiring time and effort. We need to confront faulty characterisations of the Bible and God, and be confident in this unique book of truth. Historically accurate, it stands up under severe scrutiny. Universally relevant, it provides a solid structure for life and guidance. Our faith, particularly in Jesus, the Son of God, is not blind but based on strong evidence combined with sound reasoning.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

  1. Introduce God for who he really is: He made everything we see, he owns us, and he holds us accountable. In love, Jesus stepped into our world and gave his life to rescue us. Because of his goodness, he condemns our wrongs, forgives us, and gives us the power to do right. God. We get the benefits, and the glory goes to him.

Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death (Proverbs 14:26,27).

  1. Develop thinking ability: We need to learn to ask questions, listen, and understand the bigger picture rather than simply accepting what we hear. Whatever we experience, e.g. a movie, we should put it through the filter of God’s revelation asking what God thinks about it and how we should respond. In considering changes, whether it is for the better or not, G. K. Chesterton passes on this wisdom: “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.” In view of many young people who “hear with their eyes and think with their feelings” we need to think rationally with the long term in view. Difficult issues should be delved into to discover answers that are true, coherent and correspond to reality.

We are raising another generation, not to have easy lives but godly ones, worthy of praise. As they grow in relationship with Christ, they will need to sift through conflicting ideologies. Denying themselves and following Jesus will make them stand out from others. When they turn from temptation and live by God’s laws, they will stir up others’ anger. When they speak up for justice, they will make enemies. But they will find the blessing of God, and live with meaning, purpose, and enduring hope to pass on to their confused and perishing generation, who are literally killing themselves in their sin.

Raise independent kids? God has given us a much better plan. Children who love and are dependent on Jesus have heaven’s resources to face whatever life brings their way. The capable and righteous God alone can set them free to become what  they are uniquely made to be in his eternal kingdom.

For I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you  will carry

it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

  • Dorcas Denness