the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
In The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis we read: "Open not thy heart to every man, but deal with one who is wise and feareth God. Be seldom with the young."
We might think that a Kempis was a cranky old coot who didn't like children based upon his remark "be seldom with the young." Yet, a Kempis was only in his mid thirties when he wrote Imitation. The truth is, he understood and accepted the obvious teaching of the Bible concerning children.
In Proverbs 22:15 we read, foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child but the rod of reproof will drive it far from him. And, according to Psalm 14:1, the fool has said in his heart, 'there is no God.' Thus, to act like a fool is to act as if there is no God. Very young children normally have no difficulty believing in God and accepting that Jesus Christ died for their salvation. Nevertheless, there remains in the heart of each child a tendency toward foolishness - a tendency to act as if God does not exist. Please understand: this tendency toward foolishness is a problem for every man, woman and child regardless of age. All of us act as if God does not exist when we do what we want to do rather than live in harmony with His word.
Nonetheless, children are particularly prone to follow the foolish tendencies of the heart. This is especially true when children are allowed to spend too much time with their peers. The rod and rebuke give wisdom says Proverbs 29:15, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
One of the great failings of the modern Church is the wholesale embrace of "youth culture." Considered in the span of human history, the current emphasis on youth is a recent phenomenon. It has only been in the last one hundred years or so the strange and confusing category of "adolescence" has come into being. In previous centuries there were children and there were adults. The transition from one to the other was typically uneventful. This isn't to say growing up used to be a breeze; life has always been full of difficulty. But in times past, children were viewed as responsible beings, early entrusted with responsibility which increased as the child grew. Indeed, the level of responsibility shouldered by early American colonial children (for instance), was more than most adults abide today.
I do not have the space in this column to run through the variety if reasons why our culture has wholeheartedly embraced the glorification of Youth; suffice it to say that extending childhood into the young adult years serves the purposes of the Oligarchy not the individual nor the family. Don't get me wrong; it is an easy condition to maintain. Our fallen nature craves the irresponsibility and self centeredness of the modern construct called adolescence. It is unfortunate the Church does little or nothing to combat this evil. Instead, we feed it by fracturing the body of Christ according to age and attempt to sanctify the cult of Youth by bringing it into the Church and calling it a ministry. Hence, week in and week out, the irresponsibility and foolishness of childhood finds sanctuary in millions of church youth groups scattered across the land.
Yet, young person, "be seldom with the young." Your peers don't have the maturity and experience necessary to help you overcome foolishness. The Apostle Paul would enjoin you to "flee youthful lusts" (2 Tim. 2:22), and that is difficult to do - if not impossible - when you are constantly surrounded by others your own age. Your time is better spent with Christians who are older and wiser than yourself. They won't be perfect; they don't have to be in order to be "one who is wise and feareth God." Chosen carefully, they will know a thing or two about overcoming foolishness, however.