The following article first appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of SALT Magazine.
By James McDermott
"Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." (1. Peter 5:8)
Lions and other animals of prey are most likely to devour the weak, the sick, and the young, and it is no different for Satan. He has always been after our children. Somehow, he has been able to convince millions of parents throughout human history to kill their own children for him, whether it be by child sacrifice or abortion (surgical or chemical). And there have always been heinous criminals who prey on the children of others. Satan also has more subtle means of getting to his victims. Naïve Christian parents send their children away to spiritually hostile environments, such as public schools, camps, college dorms, and the houses of friends, giving Satan the opportunity to tempt them into all kinds of sin. Satan is always trying to separate children from their parents so the children are left unprotected. If Satan can’t get to the children outside the home, he looks for a way to get at them in the home. The blessing of modern communication is also a curse. Radios, TVs, telephones, and computers are our windows to the outside world, but these windows have been used by Satan to get stuff into our homes we would never have there otherwise. And children don’t even have to be looking for it to find it. Accidentally pushing the wrong TV channel or innocently reaching a website by a Google search can put the world’s worst in view of the unsuspecting child. Anyone who has a working TV or internet access has access to pornography in their homes. And anyone your child visits who has a radio, a TV or a computer has easy access to the most immoral and ungodly influences. If your child has a laptop, every restaurant or public library with WIFI is a potential rendezvous place with evil. If your child has internet access on his cell phone he can dial up evil from almost anywhere.
WHAT IS THE MODERN CHRISTIAN PARENT TO DO?
1. Recognize the threat. Christian parents seem to forget sometimes that there is a war on. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12) Our enemies are exceedingly powerful, cunning, and cruel. They are not to be underestimated. Satan is called the Prince of this world because most of the world is under his influence and dominion. He is in a fight to the death against God and His people, and he opposes all that is right or good. Most of us, if we knew there were those in close proximity who were trying to kill our children, would either get our children away with a great sense of urgency, or we would protect them with our very lives. But we have our spiritual eyes closed so we cannot see this fallen world as it really is. We must no longer complacently leave our children unprotected as if our enemy didn’t exist or were far away. Satan is all around us: in the website, the radio station, the television. I wrote this article at McDonald’s yesterday and they had their newly installed TV on with no sound. I was facing the TV and very close, only because I needed an outlet to plug in my laptop so I could write. Eventually, I had to ask the manager to change the channel because there on the screen right in front of me were people making out and taking their clothes off. We live in Sodom and we are forced to witness the most vile sorts of sin. For the sake of our children’s souls we need to wake up from our spiritual slumber.
2. Protect them diligently. Our children need us to guard their souls. We need to watch over them as the Good Shepherd watches over the sheep. We should care enough about our children’s souls that we are always on spiritual watch. We ought to do more than simply react well to the spiritual injuries Satan inflicts on our children. To the extent we can, we should act proactively – seeing and defending our children against spiritual wolves before they ever reach our flock. This is difficult because when we have defended our children in one place he attacks from another. For example, we eliminated bad TV shows only to find out the commercials kept getting worse on the acceptable shows. We eliminated broadcast TV with its commercials and then the internet came along. Satan is cunning and has even turned Christian institutions – including churches – into places from which our children need to be protected. My parents convinced me to attend a Christian college instead of the state school, only to find out too late that the dorms at the Christian college in question had all the same problems the state college had. We brought our children to a church youth group get-together, which unknown to us meant watching R-rated movies (my son informed them he wasn’t able to watch those movies and the parents went back to the video store to find movies he could watch). We know of others who got drunk in a church youth group function. I imagine others get pregnant, do drugs, and who knows what else. Satan and his allies are working 24-hours/day,7 days/week to destroy our children. Our children need parents who will take their jobs as spiritual protectors very seriously.
3. Beware of doors and windows. Before we go to bed at night we lock all doors and windows. Our house in Maryland was broken into twice (on successive Sundays when we went to church). We realized that the thief was getting into our house through an unlocked second story window. After that, we bought an alarm system for our house. It is theoretically possible that a criminal could break through the wall or tunnel underground to get to our house, but it is far, far more likely that a thief would come through a door or a window. Thus, our alarm system lets us know when doors and windows are opened.
As parents, we need to take special precautions to secure our spiritual doors and windows. As I said before, the TV, DVD, and internet are our windows to the outside world. Your church, your relatives, and your friends are windows to the outside world. The head of every household must decide what must be done to keep the spiritually negative influences out. We eliminated cable TV at our house and we don’t watch broadcast TV. There is only one TV in the house. We normally watch DVDs as a family at the end of the day. We need multiple computers to do SALT and to accommodate our college students, so our computers are being used overtime. But our younger children are not allowed to be on the internet. Those a bit older are only allowed on websites they know of. They are not allowed to do Google searches. Our cell phones are only used by college students and drivers. Only one of our children has her own computer and she is 21. We would never recommend putting computers and TVs in every child’s bedroom where they can access forbidden TV or internet unseen. Cindy and I grew up watching TV, listening to the radio, and going to the popular movies of the day. We have come a long way since then. Still, I can see setting stricter standards but I can’t see loosening them up.
Our family hasn’t had the problem of ungodly influences from relatives, but others have written to us about close relatives who have tried to woo their children away from a moral lifestyle and even from the faith. These people need to be kept away from our children even if they are our parents. Our children’s eternal destiny has to be more important to us than our relationship with our parents, church friends, or relatives. We are also not real thrilled with the idea of sleepover parties for children. It’s hard enough to monitor our children when they’re in our home. How much more so when they are in the home of others who may have children from other families there as well. We have had some negative influences on our children from church relationships, which have been important learning experiences for us. I will be more careful in the future about letting our children play with ungodly, worldly children no matter who their parents are.
One more thought on this subject: One could be tempted to eliminate our spiritual doors and windows altogether - no TV, DVD, computer, cell phone, friends, church brethren, etc. But a house without doors and windows would be impossible to live in and a spiritual house with no access to the world outside would be equally impossible to live in. God left us in this sinful world, and we can’t escape it until we die or He returns for us. If we move to the country, evil influences will find us there. If we live in the “Bible Belt”, evil will find us there, too. But we are not supposed to be running away from the battle. Rather, we fight the battle and we train our children to fight the battle when they reach adulthood. We are supposed to be in the world waging spiritual warfare on behalf of His Kingdom. We are to attack spiritual strongholds. We are to take the spiritual battle to the enemies of God. And even if we reach the gates of hell, they will not prevail against us. Our goal, then, is to keep the evil out of our house, even as we bring the good to the house of darkness. In other words, we need to do the best we can to influence for good without being influenced for evil. Therefore, we need to be prudent and wise about what and whom we let into our house. We need to oversee what is being done so that the enemy doesn’t get in because we are ignorant or negligent. Beware of spiritual doors and windows!
4. Recognize the enemy within. If we were to allow ourselves or our children no access to the outside world at all, if we could somehow cut off all access to unbelievers, if they lived in an impenetrable, sterile bubble, we would still have sinful children. We are tempted by those on the outside, but sin is within each and every one of us. There is no magic formula, no discipline, and no rule that saves us or our children from ourselves so that we do not sin. We all shamefully indulge the sinful nature and so do our children. We can begin to crucify the flesh, but it will never be fully dead until we die and God gives us glorified bodies. Truly, we are all in a state of becoming but none of us has arrived. Therefore, no matter how diligent we are, Satan bites our heel and we suffer harm.
But the good news is that the Son of Man has crushed Satan’s head. Satan has a mortal wound and will certainly be thrown into the lake of fire prepared just for him and his allies. We can be saved from our sin if we believe in what Christ did for us on the cross, which was to suffer and die in our place for our sins. And by faith in Christ we receive the Holy Spirit, who helps us to overcome sin. This promise is for us and for our children and for those who are far off. If my child sins, he can be forgiven. If I have not sufficiently protected my child, I can be forgiven. But we need to repent.
For those parents who have been asleep on guard duty – not even thinking to protect the souls of your children – I pray that God will wake you so that you will watch alertly for the deadly spiritual wolves who are looking for an opportunity to devour your children. For those parents who see the wolves in sheep’s clothing and see no danger, I pray that God would give you better discernment so that your children will not be destroyed on account of your ignorance. For those parents who work conscientiously to protect their children, I pray that God would bless your efforts and that Satan’s designs would be thwarted. And I pray for those parents who have children who have been dragged away, having given in to the immorality and rebellion in their hearts. I pray that God would encourage you, for no one knows more about the pain of immoral, rebellious, sinful children than God. I pray that God would give you the strength, wisdom, and perseverance necessary to deal with children who are trapped in their sin. And I pray finally for our children – that God would save the strays and bring them home, and that God would watch over and protect those who haven’t left the flock.
Finally, I pray that God Himself would watch over our households and protect us and our children. It is a task too great for us no matter how conscientious or competent we may be. Psalm 127 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” We build and guard a spiritual house in faith, but ultimately its protection is in God’s hands. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
©2010 SALT Magazine, 2131 W. Republic Rd. #177, Springfield, MO 65807, www. saltmagazine.com