My wife told me the other day that she needs to stop watching the news and scrolling through social media. It’s too depressing and frustrating.
Frankly, I agree.
Whether on the streets, over social media, or even in the news—we are becoming more and more divided. Yet I keep watching. On the one hand, my heart is breaking from the hate that has begun (if not already) to boil over. But on the other hand, I’m looking for any indication of hope—any sliver of light piercing through the cracks of our broken world.
On the day of the Space X launch, we gathered as a family around the TV to watch. It was indeed a moment worth stopping for. Not just because one of my kids is obsessed with all things space, but because historically, these kinds of events have a way of pausing the nation and uniting us—even if for only a moment. Instead, I was awakened to a much harsher reality, and at the same time caught a glimpse of that hope I was looking for.
My oldest began reading the ticker across the bottom of the screen and asking questions about George Floyd and the protests. Of course, I was glad she was asking the right questions. Still, I suddenly realized that I now had to intentionally help my kids navigate this, process this, and perhaps in some cases, be able to respond to this inside their biblical framework.
I admit I was caught a little off guard. Aren’t we all when our kids suddenly show signs of growing up. It doesn’t matter how well prepared we think we are—we never are. So we have to learn to pivot by intently listening to our kids’ questions, respond appropriately, and lead the way in their walk with Jesus. Because their questions are critically important.
Why would people hate each other based on the way they look?
There are two things at play in this question. First is the innocence of a child. To many kids, the sheer idea of racism is ludicrous. It’s not that they don’t see color; instead, they embrace it. What’s a world without color?
What so many of our kids know without really knowing is that if humanity is the pinnacle of God’s creation, there is no conceivable way God would be so boring as to make everyone look alike. Our differences, according to my 9-year-old, are just an expression of God’s creativity. And just like a really colorful picture, we celebrate the beauty.
Second is the normalcy of diversity. While so many parents and grandparents were raised in mostly homogenous communities—with socio-economic, cultural, and racial similarities—our students simply don’t see the world the way we do. And thank God for that. Diversity is more than just normal, it’s expected.
This question, and others like it, are a chance to revisit the beauty and majesty of God’s creation. When we do, we are opening the doors for a much more in-depth and life-giving conversation.
“Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:19-20
Why can’t people just love each other?
It’s easy to forget, easy to push aside, and easy to redefine on our own terms—but sin is a real thing. And at this moment, it’s showing its ugly face.
Hate is easier than love. Hate takes almost no effort. It often feels justified and empowering. But it’s not. Hate tears us all down, strips us of our dignity and our hope. It’s simple, really. Hate does not help. In fact, it makes it worse.
What I think our kids are picking up on is the world’s disenchanted view of reality. When we turn on the news, what we can see under the surface is a good and strong desire to make the world a better place—to seek justice, protect the poor and marginalized, and allow the voice of the people to be heard. But this desire and the activism it creates falls far short because we fail to see reality through the eyes of the gospel. Instead we embrace the ideologies of materialism, hedonism, and utilitarianism. It’s a false sense of reality fueled by hate, rather than genuine love fueled by the Spirit of God.
No, I didn’t explain all of that to my kids. But here is what I did remind them. The Bible clearly teaches us as followers of Jesus to look out for the poor and oppressed, to see through our differences—whether racial, cultural, or financial—and get to the heart of a person. We are taught to love our neighbors unconditionally, pray for those who persecute us, and be such good people that it baffles others. But here’s the thing: All the good we do, is nothing short of failure without the gospel. The message of salvation through Jesus serves as the engine that drives any lasting social change.
So how do we help fix it? It Starts with Family Ministry
There are few things I love more inside of youth culture than their willingness to dive in and effect change. But how they do that is critical and involves exploring one of the most crucial questions of the modern era for every young Christian.
I love how Leslie Newbigin asks it.
“What would be involved in a missionary encounter between the gospel and this whole of perceiving, thinking, and living that we call the ‘modern western culture'”? – Leslie Newbigin
The discipleship of our students needs to involve training them to build a bridge between the world as it is and the world God’s desires for us to create. It is the work of transforming culture and even creating culture, to dive into the social structure of culture so the gospel could be both reasonable and desirable. This is precisely what Jesus meant by going into all the world to make disciples and to be witnesses to ends of the earth.
The answer to Newbigin’s question begins with teaching our students to become cultural apologists. As Paul Gould, author of Cultural Apologetics, says, it is the “work of establishing the Christian voice, conscience, and imagination within a culture so that Christianity is seen as true and satisfying.” This is the work that stands before our students.
I believe that the unrest, hate, and division we see in our world is cry for help. It’s a cry for hope. But there is no legislation, no erasure of history, or admittance of privilege that will satisfy our culture’s longing for goodness, truth, and beauty.
Only the gospel can do that.