Whenever I have been unfortunately in the company of a poorly behaved child, it is extremely taxing not only to endure the tantrums and disrespect that ensue, but also to hold my tongue and not get onto the child – or the parents! If my son has also witnessed the behavior, when we are finally relieved of the situation, I usually try to delicately discuss the incident with him. I want to make sure – without degrading the other family – that he realizes the inappropriateness of the behavior.
I try to take the training aspect of my parental role very seriously and want to constantly reinforce our family’s values, since they are frequently challenged by outside influences. I want to make sure that my son will not try to emulate or copy the behavior that he has seen. It’s human nature, you know? Monkey see - monkey do. We almost can’t help ourselves. And so, I try to stay vigilant to protect against the influence of negative behaviors when they occur.
The first part of Romans 12:2 has recently captivated me as translated in the New Living Translation. It simply says:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world…
This is certainly easier said than done! With the constant flow of influence through the full spectrum of media, the world’s behaviors and customs are being thrown at us all day, every day. The speech and ideas of worldly culture are peppered throughout our interactions with our coworkers, some of our friends, neighbors, and even some of our family members.
Romans tells us that in order to be fully transformed by God, we have to reject worldly behavior and culture. Instead, we are to sacrifice our bodies and our wills to the Lord’s purpose. How do we begin to do this?
3 Simple Ways to Protect Against Worldly Influences
1. Actively undermine the ungodly messages of the world.
Since the flow of input is so constant, we need to be ready – everyday – to reject the ungodly messages we receive. This could be as simple as reading a news story online and making sure that what you’ve read isn’t slanted in an anti-Christian way. It could be removing or unfollowing friends on Facebook who perpetually share content that is counter to your morals.
When it comes to your children, it’s screening their friends and things they are taught in school. For example, when your child tells you about what was learned in a certain subject that challenges what the Bible teaches, take the opportunity to ask them: but what does the Bible say? It’s also teaching our kids – in a respectful way – that they cannot believe everything they are taught or that they hear. Teach them to filter the messages they receive through the sieve of God’s word.
2. Actively seek out holy influences.
Now, it might be impractical to remove everything, so we must be intentional about seeking out those influences that reinforce our values. This might mean subscribing to only channels that provide Christian content. It might be doing lots of research to find a totally engaging and well-written book series for yourself (or your young readers) that upholds what is good, true and beautiful. We must be active and alert in order to engage with content that is uplifting and pleasing to God.
This is where reaching out can really be beneficial. Talk to other parents who are in the same boat as you are, and see what recommendations they might have.
3. Take inventory regularly.
Lastly, we must regularly check to see if our thoughts, ideas, or pursuits are being more influenced by the world than they are by God. It’s the subtle ones that get you; the ideas and messages that seem so innocent often have deeper references and meanings when we dig deeper.
The Lord gives discernment. Even the most diligent among us can occasionally be caught unaware by something targeting a weakness. As we immerse ourselves in the Word of God, it gets easier to identify subtle lies and half-truths as they come across the screen of our minds.
Discerning Yet Gracious
If it seems like I’m advocating a “hole yourself up in your house with your family, never interact with outsiders, and just try to make it until the Lord comes” type of mentality, I’m certainly not! We are to lovingly engage with those around us and try – ultimately – to lead them to the Lord.
And yet. We are in the world but not of it. We must be discerning and vigilant when protecting our minds, yet loving and gracious to those who are still desperately seeking for answers in this world. God helps us to find the balance.
As this New Year begins, I challenge you to lovingly be a light in this present age, while fiercely protecting yourself and those you love against anything that would threaten to dim it.