I love the song, “19-something” by Mark Willis. It brings back a flood of memories from my youth. Times that were carefree and innocent, long before college, marriage, kids, a mortgage and more. When we were young and lived in the moment. We accepted change, just as smoothly as the clothing styles change from season to season and year to year. Yes, we “progressed.”
I look at the world my kids live in now. In some communities, like the one we live in, it is generally safe for them to walk to school. But that’s not always the case. We worry about the increasing prevalence of drug use, and how such behavior will touch our kids. We have to lock our vehicle doors. People steal stuff off front porches. There is a pressing need for families to have two bread winners, which means kids are often left alone or in the care of others for much of their waking hours. There’s a lot of anger, a lot of broken families.
We were discussing “The Simpsons” the other day, and my son asked why we thought it was inappropriate. As we discussed, back in the ’80s, it was a big deal when Bart Simpson came on the scene. He was rude, disobedient, and a rebel. His dad certainly didn’t provide a great role model for other dads. His sister was sassy. And the preacher was just insane. Yes, parents balked at letting their children watch that filth. Fast forward 24 years, and “The Simpsons” are tame. Now, we have shows where endless violence and foul language are the norm. We’ve “progressed” from a society afraid to see a woman’s shoulders and thighs to one where clothing is optional. We laud shows that feature openly promiscuous lifestyles and promote family units as two moms and their kids. What was shockingly immoral when I was a child has become the accepted norm. Does that mean we should now accept things that were not acceptable back then?
It’s natural for each generation to bemoan the following generations. Things change. But what should our perspective be as Christians?
First, what are we to think? It’s such a simple concept, but so very hard to put into action: don’t judge. STOP! Read that again, then pause and think about it. Yes, it is terribly hard to do! Those of us who adhere to Biblical truth balk at this. It’s pretty clear in the Bible that our society is on a path that’s completely opposite of God’s desire. It makes us feel better to vocalize how people have strayed from that truth. We make ourselves out to be better than others because we aren’t obviously doing such things. Go back and click on that link you just skipped over, and read what Jesus said very directly as part of his sermon on the mount. Why aren’t we to judge? Because in the way we judge others, we ourselves will be judged by God. That doesn’t just mean the things we vocalize — it also means those thoughts that form in our heads. Thoughts can be just as dangerous as actions. They can embitter the soul. Check out this verse and see how we will be judged. Oh, God save us from ourselves!
So how then are we to live? Are we to accept — or even embrace — the changing societal norms? You decide, using this blueprint. Did you read it? Open it — take a peek! Do realize how many times in the Bible we are told to be holy because God is holy. We are to be his imitators. What does holy living look like? It’s spelled out very carefully for us in Ephesians 4:17-32:
“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Furthermore, we are called to be holy as a witness to others. Let your light so shine!
I know it’s hard to not judge while trying to be holy. God isn’t asking you to encourage other peoples’ non-holy behavior, but rather to love them and let him shine through you so that they are drawn to what is good and holy. Think about Jesus at the well with a Samaritan woman, who’d had seven husbands. Think of him at the site where they wanted to stone an adulterous woman. Think of him addressing the scandalous tax collector. He didn’t judge. He wasn’t rude. He wasn’t using the Torah to bash them. He loved on them. He forgave them. He drew them to him in such a way that all they wanted was more love and more healing.
It makes me think back to my kids. Many times over the years, they have been deserving of punishment. And many times, instead of dishing out what they deserve, I just hold onto them and hug them and love them. I think that grace and mercy go a lot further than dishing out punishment. Isn’t that what God did for us? We are so undeserving, yet before we had done anything good, he loved on us enough to die and take away our sins. It’s the ultimate message of love. And my friends, that’s what we’re to convey to others. Not what they deserve (and why they so desperately deserve it), but how loved they are.
Yes, the sands of time are shifting. We will encounter many things that are contrary to the life God has called us to live. But remember to build your foundation on the rock and you won’t be lost in those shifting sands.