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Whose Example Will Your Children Follow?

Some time back I had an insightful conversation with a gentleman who, after we had talked for some time, remarked casually, “You are not from this area, are you?”  Rather surprised, since I had lived in Texas for the past several decades, I confessed, “No.  In fact I grew up in Maryland and Virginia through my college years.”  He nodded, “I can tell.”  Puzzled, I asked, “How?”  He announced, “By the way you talk.”  His observation was insightful.  The stark reality to me was that I would never talk like a native Texan.  The fact that I had spent my youthful years in the mid-Atlantic area had left an indelible (although unconscious) mark on me—I would always talk like an easterner!

I recount this story because it illustrates an important principle:  We become like the people we are around.  The people with whom we spend most of our time, particularly during our formative, youthful years, leave an indelible, although unconscious, imprint on us for the rest of our lives.  That influence can be positive, even inspiring, or negative, even devastating.  The Bible describes examples of both.

Lot’s bad associations cost him his family.

When Lot separated from Abram, he chose to live toward Sodom, even though “the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD” (Gen. 13:13).  They were so wicked, in fact, that later there could not be found in Sodom even ten righteous men (Genesis18).  The effects of these bad associations for Lot’s family were devastating.  Lot compromised his own morals, being willing to hand over his two virgin daughters to be abused sexually by a mob of homosexuals (19:8).  Men who had married his daughters ignored his warnings (v. 14).  Apparently they all perished in the destruction of Sodom.  Even his two virgin daughters who escaped Sodom later got their father drunk in order to have incestuous relations with him and thereby propagated the Moabites and the Ammonites (vv. 30-38)—both nations constant enemies of Israel.  Lot’s example is most sobering:  If you raise your family around wicked people, they will likely abandon the LORD.

Dinah’s bad friendships ruined her.

We see a further example of disastrous results from bad associations in Dinah, the daughter of Jacob.  When her family was camped near the Canaanite city of Shechem, Dinah, probably a teenager, “went out to visit the daughters of the land” (Gen. 34:1).  But while befriending the local Canaanite girls, she was abducted by Shechem, the local prince, who raped her, but then wanted to keep her for his wife.  She was trapped.  How could her family rescue her?  Here the story goes from bad to worse.  Dinah’s brothers tricked all the men of the city into being circumcised, but then, while they were disabled, snuck into the city, slaughtered every male, looted all they city’s goods, women and children and rescued their sister.  By the time the story is over, there remains only ruin and loss:  Dinah has been spoiled sexually; the city of Shechem has been destroyed and pillaged completely.  This tragic rape, slaughter and looting would not have happened if Dinah had stayed home, under her father’s protection, rather than befriending the local heathen girls.  The lesson to parents is clear:  If your children develop bad associations, the end result in marriage and beyond may well be disastrous and irreversible.

With whom do your children spend their time?

Around what people and influences will your children spend most of their time during their formative years?  Dr. Glen Schultz (in “Why Do Teenagers Think the Way They Do?” RenewANation Review spring 2019, vol. 11, no. 2, p. 26) describes an insightful analysis.  He reports that some time ago in a session he conducted at a youth leader training conference with various church youth leaders the consensus opinion was that youth in their churches received weekly a maximum of 3-6 hours of biblical instruction from family and church but 60-72 hours of secular influence from (public) schools and media.  The obvious question was:  Who had the greater influence on the youth’s values?

Paul cautioned, “Do not be deceived:  ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Cor. 15:33).  He exhorted, again, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (2 Cor. 6:14-16).  The fact is that Christian parents have a responsibility to ensure that in their education their children are exposed to role models that reflect Christian values.

Not insulation, but training

It has been argued that withdrawing our children from secular influences has the effect of insulating them from the world and thus leaving them unable to relate to secular society.  In response, the reason we protect our children from secular influences during their school years is not to insulate them from the world but to prepare them for the world.  Similarly, when a civilian is to be sent into combat, he first undergoes training, not for the purpose of insulating him from combat but for the purpose of preparing him for combat.  Our school age children are not prepared for spiritual combat in the secular world (in which they will all one day live) until they are fully trained to do so.  That training occurs mostly during their formative years.

Good models, good results

The good news for parents is that positive role models during a child formative years can have a profound positive impact on the child’s development.  Paul wrote to Timothy, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well” (2 Tim. 1:5).  Timothy mirrored the faith that he saw in both his mother and grandmother.  That hope is there for your children, as well, if they are exposed to worthy role models.

Children are copycats.  Their attitudes, values and behaviors are caught, not taught.  What they see modeled in their parents, church leaders and teachers while they are growing up they copy in adulthood.  That is why during the years that they are forming their values and beliefs it is essential that they be surrounded with Christian role models.  Logos Academy is committed to providing role models worthy of your children copying.  

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