The season of life in which I find myself is one filled with children. Many of my closest friends are having babies and rearing little ones, and on any given day, my social media news feed will include more pictures of people under the age of five than over.
This isn’t a bad thing at all—in fact, I love it! It’s a new, exciting season, one which my husband and I are about to embark upon. With all of these conversations about children, I’ve come to start taking notes on how the parents around me are raising their children. The idea of discipline doesn’t take all that long to start incorporating itself in the raising of these little ones. The word “no” is more frequently heard in my circles than ever before, because these little ones need to learn right from wrong, boundaries, and obedience.
This has got me thinking about the current state of the world in which we live. It’s funny how as parents, we literally exhaust ourselves to teach our little ones self-control and restraint, knowing that not every single thing they want is good for them, yet somehow and somewhere along the line into adulthood, we seem to divorce those very same notions from the way we live and lead our own lives. When we want something, we want it now, and we get it now. If someone else wants something, who are we to tell them that it just might not be good for them? To each his own, right? At least, that is the way of this world.
It has become increasingly politically incorrect and even intolerant to place boundaries on how we should live our lives, because to do so has become unloving. I absolutely love how Rick Warren put it:
“The problem is that tolerant has changed its meaning. It used to mean ‘I may disagree with you completely, but I will treat you with respect. Today, tolerant means – ‘you must approve of everything I do.’ There’s a difference between tolerance and approval. Jesus accepted everyone no matter who they were. He doesn’t approve of everything I do, or you do, or anybody else does either. You can be accepting without being approving.” —Rick Warren
All of this conversation and thought has led me to wrestle with one question:
“What ever happened to self-control?”
Should we really be allowed to have everything that we want just because we want it? We teach our children restraint and refuse to give them everything they want, knowing that everything they want isn’t necessarily good for them. However, popular opinion today would suggest the opposite. Do what you want, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.
But is this the way of Christ?
Jesus loved the broken. Jesus dined with sinners. Jesus spent His time with the outcast and those whom the religious leaders deemed unworthy. However, He never stopped speaking truth into their lives. He never pushed pause on His divinely appointed purpose which God had sent Him here to accomplish. When the woman was caught in the act of adultery and thrown at Jesus’ feet, just moments away from being stoned because of her sin, Jesus pardoned her through His loving words and sent her accusers away. But the conversation didn’t end when the last of the angry mob dropped their stones. His final words to her were, “Go, and from now on, sin no more.” (John 8:11 ESV) Translation? I forgive you. Now stop doing what you were doing.
Jesus consistently, beautifully, and equally blended truth and grace, never divorcing one from the other for the sake of His audience, and we, as His followers, should do the same. The problem with the church today is we tend to err on one side of the 2-part equation. We either only speak grace, altogether avoiding truth because the truth might hurt, or we only speak truth, altogether avoiding grace, which is brutal and unloving.
Church, we need to figure out our way back to a Christ-like faith, one that isn’t dependent upon the shifting sands of the culture in which we live, constantly worried if we’ve lost our relevance in the midst of changing times, and start being both truth and grace tellers in equal measure. Start standing up for truth when the world all but throws it out with the trash. Start exercising a bit of good, old-fashioned self-control and restraint, recognizing that every craving of our flesh isn’t necessarily good for us, and in order to walk according to the Spirit, we need to start denying the gratification of our flesh. Start shining brightly in this world that is so dark. Live differently than what the world says is OK. The standard God has set for us is a vertical one, not a horizontal one, meaning we look to Him and not others for instruction on how to live.