A quick glimpse of the news or your social media feed shows why our culture is deemed a hate culture. From the small issues in a hometown all the way up to the political scene in Washington, D.C., most of America seems angry for one reason or another.
And to an even more complex degree, Christians are often characterized and stereotyped as the most hateful of all. The culture says Christians are close-minded, unaccepting, and judgmental toward anyone who doesn’t share our standard of biblical morality. Many in our society are comfortable pointing the finger at Christians. They label us as the most hateful people of all in a world fighting for love to win.
This is obviously problematic. This accusation requires Christians to navigate our culture with great sensitivity and shrewdness. We have to figure out a way to live in the world but not ascribe to its anti-biblical ways.
Showing love and care for others while standing up for biblical principles isn’t easy. Christians often fail by leaning too far in one direction or the other. Turning them into people of worldly acceptance or religious legalism. To be in the world but not of it can be difficult indeed.
Showing our kids how to stand in a hate culture
And as challenging as it is to live this way personally, parents also feel the weight of responsibility to instill this kind of character in their kids. Especially as they get older and enter the high school or college years.
A parent’s desire for their children to stand up for what they believe in can easily be overshadowed by mom and dad’s longing for them to belong. Or at the very least, for peers to not harass their children for what they believe.
So, how can we teach our kids to show non-Christians great love in a culture defined by hate? The main thing parents can do is live and speak the gospel in your home all of the time. I know that can seem very broad and consequently vague, so let me explain what I mean.
Living love out
The gospel is about reconciliation—people reuniting with God because of the love, service, and sacrifice of God’s Son on our behalf. Jesus gave His life in the greatest act of love in human history by going to the cross and laying down His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). In service, He came to us because it was impossible for us to get to Him in our own human effort.
For the sake of His children, God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become completely righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). This “great exchange” took all of our sin and put it on Christ, while taking all of Christ’s righteousness and placing it on us.
Parents must proclaim this truth to their kids in both word and deed.
Yes, we need to talk to our kids about the gospel. Let’s answer any questions they may have about what it means. But more importantly, we must live out the gospel so our children know we believe what we say.
If we only talk about Christ’s love, but do not treat our next-door neighbor in a loving way, our children will see that. They’ll know we don’t actually believe what we preach.
If we lecture about serving others in a godly way as Christ served His enemies, yet refuse to ever volunteer to do the dishes, clean up around the house, take the most uncomfortable chair, or chip in to help so that others may benefit, our kids will know we don’t practice what we communicate.
If we can verbally explain Christ’s humility, yet rarely apologize and ask for forgiveness from our spouse and children, it’s easy to tell that the life-changing power of the gospel isn’t truly our foundation.
Word and deed
All Christian parents must both speak and live the gospel in a way that saturates the environment of our homes. Then, and only then, will our kids understand its power and love. And in turn, take that power and love with them as they head off to the classroom.
A deep, personal understanding of Jesus Christ and His love, servant heart, humility, care, and kindness will mold our children into young men and women who reflect His selfless character to a hate culture. It is incredibly difficult to hate someone who is kind to you. So our prayer should be that our children are so ridiculously kind, caring, and loving that it will be impossible for people to accuse them of hate.
I’m not saying that if your children are nice they will be safe from affliction. Not at all.
Kids everywhere go through all kinds of ridicule every day for a variety of reasons. Yours might already, or likely will too.
What I am saying is that we can teach our young ones—through word and deed—that they can respond to hate with love. They can respond to slander with kindness. They can respond to accusations with gentleness. They can respond to sinfulness with the gospel.
They can learn these valuable character qualities from us, the parents. Then they can live those qualities out in full view of a world that devalues such admirable integrity.
Parents can do this
Parents influence their kids, regardless of how much or how little they choose to be involved with their offspring. We are influencers, for better or for worse.
Sure, at times we’re afraid for our children out in the world today. But how wonderful is it that we can have an influence on our children’s lives in a way that shines the light of the gospel in a dark, hateful culture?
Preach the gospel through your words and your actions. And rest comfortably in the truth that your kids are in God’s hands.
There is no safer or more loving place to be in the midst of such a volatile world.
Copyright © 2019 Shelby Abbott. All rights reserved.
Shelby Abbott is an author, campus minister, and conference speaker on staff with the ministry of Cru. His passion for university students has led him to speak at college campuses all over the United States and author the books Jacked, I Am A Tool (To Help With Your Dating Life), and Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress (New Growth Press). He and his wife Rachael have two daughters and reside in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Instagram/Twitter: @shelbyabbott, Web: shelbyabbott.com