Ever had that moment when your teen tells you they are going to hang out with Kyle, and immediately you cringe. It's not that you think Kyle is an evil person, trying to enlist your teen for ISIS or something crazy. Kyle just happens to be one of those teens that you hope yours doesn't pick up any of his bad habits. Sometimes you wish your teen would hang out with someone other than Kyle, but you have compassion for Kyle too. You let your child hang out with Kyle, thinking that perhaps your child will influence him. Maybe he will start coming to church and start making better decisions.
Many parents of teens face this tension. Kyle is a fictitious character I coined for an example, but many of you readers are thinking of actual people right now by whom you do not want your child to be influenced. This struggle comes from the balance of teaching your teen how to be "in the world but not of the world."
This Christian slogan comes from John 17, where Jesus taught that Christians are to be different from this world because we are like Jesus. However, we are also commissioned to the world as his witnesses. I think we all agree that we are certainly in the world, but the slogan has become more of a cry for Christian isolationism.
Teens are experiencing a great deal right now that will shape heir opinions on reality. It is important that they learn to be missionaries to others for the sake of the gospel. Nonetheless, Christian teens need to learn the truth that their model for life is not from Hollywood but is Christ.
I think Jesus modeled the solution to this well for us. Jesus was known for hanging out with two groups of people: his disciples and the sinners. Jesus didn't hang out with the religious snobs of his day, and I would encourage you not to either. Jesus had intimate and close relationships with disciples. A disciple is a learner of Jesus, who is passionate about what Jesus was passionate about. These type of people are good to develop personal and close relationships with. Jesus even spent time with a select few of his disciples at times. It is also good to select your BFF's from this group. These people naturally encourage your to chase after Jesus.
However, Jesus also spent a lot of time with sinners. When Jesus would spend time with sinners, he was always on mission, and he had his disciples with him. Accountability is good, and a team of missional Christians is better than a single person. This mission kept them focused on loving people and showing them the gospel. This is really apparent when Matthew a newly converted disciple held a house party and invited all his sinner friends so they could meet Jesus in Mark 2. The religious snobs judged Jesus, but the sinners loved Jesus.
Here are some lessons that I think may help us parents:
- Model this behavior. As a parent our first disciples are our children. If we are not selecting our friends wisely, they do not have a frame of reference to accomplish this. Also, if we are not being missional to sinners on a regular basis, then they also have no reference for properly showing the love of Christ to people who are desperate in need.
- Help your teen choose their friends. There is nothing wrong with telling your child who they can hang out with and who they can't. You can even consciously limit their time with a certain friend. By doing this you help them set a reference for good friend selecting.
- Talk to your teen. It's alright for them to know why you are making some of your decisions. You don't have to share all the details, but they need to know that you are taking away their friends and social life for nothing. You are making your decisions out of love.
- Don't be a friend to your teen. This one is harder, because it seems all parents want to be their child's best friend, but I would encourage you to aspire to the higher calling of being their parent. If you choose to be your teen's friend, then you may rob them of a dad or mom. We are responsible for the hard decisions that our children are not mature enough to handle. By making good decisions for them, you teach them how to make good decisions for themselves in the future.