I came across a quote recently that got me thinking about the community of the believer. It was talking about the importance, as parents, of helping establish the community of God for our children. Many times, children have better community from their secular activities than they do from their church. And it is important, especially for children, to surround themselves with positive influences. The peers that surround us have more to do with how we make decisions than the guidance we received from our parents.
That much I agree with.
However. However, the point continued to say that if that child is not surrounded by the right community in high school, then they are more likely to stray from the faith in college. It was stressing the importance of establishing the right community in high school, surrounding yourself with like-minded, Christian-valued people and you’ll be all set for life. What a false idea of comfort to parents!! Yes, for the limited amount of time that we have control over who our children’s friends are and who they’re spending their time with, we should be working to protect who they are influenced by. But that control is GONE when our children go off to college. And if we are sending our children off to college with only having built a good community of church-going friends in high school, then no wonder they are leaving the church in DROVES out of high school. If all they have to stand on is that mom and dad orchestrated them to only hang out at church lock-ins instead of after-game parties, then it is no wonder they so easily walk away from church. Building their basis of belief on the fun you have with other Christians is not going to last in the face of the fun that the world offers. And let’s be honest. Satan tempts us into sin because of how fun he makes it look, not because of how dark and not-God it looks. The fun presented by the frat party community will far outweigh the fun presented by the campus ministry community. The church cannot compete with the world in the industry of fun and entertainment.
Because the church is not called to compete in fun and entertainment. The church is called to present the truth of hope to a lost and dying world.
Thank God the community of believers is not what my faith rests upon. My faith does not hinge upon my peer group or my community. My faith stands on what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross. My faith stands on that being truth. If I don’t believe that to be truth, then why would I walk away from the “fun” presented by the world? Ravi Zacharias said, “Unless I understand the Cross, I cannot understand why my commitment to what is right must take precedence over what I prefer.” Unless we teach our children the TRUTH of Christianity against the falsehood of all other beliefs, then they’ll never understand why they should follow Biblical principles. We see the evidence of that. As they leave their neat little church community that mom and dad arranged for them, they face professors and classmates who declare that God is dead. If their only position is that they had fun at church pizza parties, then they will quickly and easily give into the lie that the world has offered – that there is no God.
Furthermore, we called to be faithful to God REGARDLESS of our community. Consider the life of Joseph. He was sold into slavery by his brothers at the age of 17 and had been living as a slave in Egypt for 13 years. What would his “community” have been? No one there believed in Yahweh. Everyone there was a pagan worshiping a myriad of Egyptian gods. Good thing his faith in God was built on something more than community. In fact, his community from his childhood was the same community that sold him as a slave. Yet Joseph maintained his faith and his close walk with God because he knew it was truth. We saw the evidence of his faithfulness when he refused the advances of Potiphar’s wife. He said that would be “sin in the sight of God.” If his faith were just based on his community, he would have said, “Who cares if I sleep with Potiphar’s wife?” We know he walked in faith with God because he immediately had confidence to interpret the baker, the cupbearer, and Pharaoh’s dreams. And he gave God the credit.
Look at the life of Daniel. He was taken into exile as a teenager, away from his family, his friends, his town, and his religious leaders. Yet his faith was strong enough to stand up to King Nebuchadnezzar – even when the rest of his exiled community was NOT! Of all the Israelites living in captivity, it was Shadrach, Meshach, and Abnego who refused to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar’s statue. The rest of their community was kneeling before the idol. Daniel continued to pray to Yahweh, in contrast to the community around him, even when threatened with being thrown in the lions’ den.
It makes me think of the persecuted church around the world today. Is the woman in Syria a Christian because she has a group of friends that all go to the same prayer meeting? Or is she a Christian in the face of intense persecution for both her and her family because Jesus Christ is real? Is the man in China a Christian because he found some other men to hang out with that don’t drink alcohol? Or is he a Christian in the face of threat of execution from the government because Jesus Christ changed his life? Many times in life we don’t have a choice about our community. Sometimes we may find a majority of our work colleagues, with whom we spend at least 40 hours a week, are atheists. Sometimes we may encounter any number of religious beliefs as part of study group for a college class. Sometimes we may find ourselves on a sports team, with whom we spend several hours a day in practice and many nights on the road for tournaments, with atheists and those ambivalent about their religion. Our faith should not be dependent on who we are surrounded by.
We are not Christians because we have like-minded friends who abstain from certain things and go to church on Sunday mornings. We are not Christians because church activities are more “fun” than the world’s activities. We are Christians because we believe that we are sinners, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died on the Cross for our sins, that He was raised from dead three days later, and that He is our Lord and Savior. If we don’t confirm to our children that those things are true, it doesn’t matter what community we surrounded them with in high school. The world will snatch them up and devour them. We must teach the truth of our doctrine and the truth of why we are Christians to our children. Ravi Zacharias said, “What young people are rejecting nowadays are merely caricatures of the gospel. The unadulterated gospel must be preached.” Because there are serious consequences if it is not preached. Children leave the church when they leave the house because they never established their own personal relationship with Jesus. But how can they if they don’t really know the truth of who Jesus is? It is our job to teach that truth to our children. It is our job to train them to know that is truth in the presence of the world’s lies.