At a recent Annual Parent Meeting, Trinitas father and board member, Pastor Jon Mark Olesky, reminded us of the timely importance of Christian parents educating their children to engage their world. This is the first of three posts containing his comments.
“I don’t want to bring kids into this evil culture” is something I have heard more than once. Well-meaning Christians have long questioned the wisdom of bringing children into a fallen world. And while this hesitation might seem prudent, God doesn’t hesitate to command husband and wife, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28; 9:1). The earth is, no longer a utopian Eden, but a post-Eden wilderness, what the New Testament calls “Babylon” (Rev 17:5, 1 Pet 5:13-14). This Babylonian context isn’t foreign to children raised in covenant homes. The historical nation of Babylon was where the Jewish exiles were sent. Of those exiles, the most notable were four Jewish “youths… Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah” (or their Babylonian names) “Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego” (Dan 1:1-7).
From these four “youths”, we find an unexpected parenting lesson: a lesson made, more significant, since these “youths” arrived in Babylon, not as boys, six, eight, maybe ten years old; but (by the majority opinion), in their late teens, or early twenties. This dispute about age has larger practical implications, if they were boys entering Babylon, there is biblical warrant for sending our children into worldly contexts much sooner, but if older, the opposite argument can be made. Whatever practical implications arise, the text explicitly says, they were “youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, and endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, & competent to stand in the king's palace” (Dan 1:4). This hardly sounds like a description of elementary-age children, much more likely high school or college-age young men. Remember, Paul called Timothy “youth” (1 Tim 4:12) when he was in his 30’s, possibly upper 30’s.
When these four Jewish youth entered Babylon, they entered equipped with a rigorous Hebrew education and Biblical worldview which enabled them to take their stand against the secular ideologies of Babylonian paganism (Dan 1:8-21; Dan 3:8-30; Dan 6). Babylon, then as now, is not neutral, it seeks to indoctrinate. These young exiles were ordered to “defile” themselves, but “resolved” to abstain (Daniel 1:8-21). When threatened with a fiery furnace for not bowing to idols, they refused to turn from Yahweh (Daniel 3:8-30). When commanded not to pray, or else die in the lions’ jaws, they opened the curtains and kept praying (Daniel 6). Our children may never face these state-enforced punishments, but we would be naïve to not expect modern versions to appear. Many concerned parents want to know what’s needed to prepare their children, and while it is tempting to want a few easy parenting tips that require little effort, moral resolve to stand in Babylon is not created that way. Scripture is clear, (for Israel’s young exiles and ours) preparing for Babylon requires a certain teaching in a certain context. (to be continued next week...)