“How can I bring a child into a world like this? How can a person grow up with all this around them?”
This is a line from the film Se7en, which if you’re as old as me you’ll remember all too well (and never quite get over).
Sometimes it can seem a strange decision to bring children into a world that’s so dangerous and full of suffering. It’s something a lot of parents worry about. The world’s in a mess – why would we want to inflict it on our loved ones? And if we do want to, should we? Is it selfish?
Older people are always harking back to the good old days when you could leave your pram outside a shop and your kids could play out after dark without any fear (I don’t buy any of this, incidentally but I won’t get into that).
But what really concerns me and gives me a knot in my stomach is the thought that my children are growing up in an increasingly secular, anti-Christian country. Our laws are changing, and they’re moving away from the Christian foundations that many of them were formed upon in the past.
And in the name of “tolerance” our freedom to speak about and express our beliefs is slowly being stolen from us, and we seem mostly powerless to stop it. Will my children lose their jobs or even go to prison for being Christians when they’re older? I don’t know, but that thought scares me.
So what should I do about it? Maybe tone down the Jesus stuff in the hope that they will keep their heads down and not really mention him to anyone? Or maybe we should move to another country where they would be free to live out their faith in safety. That’s a bit drastic, maybe we should just surround them with other Christians at all times, so they don’t suffer any conflict. All of these things – and other ways of either running or hiding – can seem appealing at times.
Last Sunday we looked at Psalm 11, in which one of King David’s allies was advising him to run and hide because their nation had, too, turned from God’s word:
“Flee like a bird to your mountain
For look, the wicked bend their bows;
They set their arrows against the strings
To shoot from the shadows
At the upright in heart.
When the foundations are being destroyed,
What can the righteous do?”
In other words, there’s nothing left to do but leg it. There’s no hope for us, when the world around us has turned it’s back on God’s word.
But David’s response is quite simple: he trusts in the Lord. He knows that the Lord sees what ‘the wicked’ are doing (whether they’re in the shadows or not), and that the Lord is in charge – he’s ‘on his heavenly throne.’ Nothing gets passed him. So when the world seems out of control, actually it isn’t. The Lord still reigns.
In Britain today, children are extremely safe. The rules on child protection and health and safety are stricter than they’ve ever been. We are extraordinarily well cared for medically. Whatever you’ve heard about the NHS (if you’re not British), it’s amazing. Ask anyone who has a chronic illness or has had a brain tumour removed. Our government is stable, and our police are relatively uncorrupt (is that even a word?). All of these things are huge blessings to us, but the trouble is that we start to trust in those things instead of in the Lord.
The British justice system is not my refuge – the Lord is. So when the former turns against me, I will not fall to pieces. The Lord sustains us, so if we lose access to medical care we will continue to trust him. We’ve become so comfortable with life that we can forget who really provides for us, and that we’re really living for another home.
Of course it’s upsetting when we see injustice and we see the world turning further and further from God’s way. That should upset us – it’s a God-given emotion:
‘For the LORD is righteous,
he loves justice;
upright men will see his face.’
This is SUCH an encouragement to me. Yahweh loves justice. So if my children – or the people I see on the news – suffer injustice, then the Lord will sort that out one day. He really does care what’s happening to people, much more than we do. And if my children keep trusting him, they will see his face. And it will all have been worth it.
So when I’m worried about how Christians might be treated in twenty or forty year’s time, I can thank God that he is still in control, that he sees what people are doing, and that soon he’ll put everything right. This is what I can teach my children, because unlike our country’s laws, it’s a truth that will never change.
If you’re still not sure, look at Jesus. In Gethsemane, wicked men hid in the ‘shadows’ to arrest him, although he was innocent. He didn’t ‘flee’, but all of his friends did. And when has there ever been a clearer picture of ‘the foundations being destroyed’ than when God’s king hung dying on the cross? And yet: since that tomb was found empty, every believer can know for sure that one day they ‘will see his face.’
With special thanks to Robin Silson, who so clearly explained this psalm to us last week.