Our culture continues to hold fast to the same sins we read about in Genesis, reveling in perversion and condemning any who refuse to join in the celebration. So while we may (and should) shelter our family from sins of this nature, it is inescapable that we as parents will have to address these sins with our children at some level. And the place to begin, is in the beginning, where God created a perfect world and joined the first man and the first woman in the perfect union: marriage.
Show and Tell
But then the question arises: “Where do I go from here?” Outside the safety of the Garden, gross sin lurks on nearly every page. You may be wondering, does my four-year-old son even need to know about homosexuality? He does, but he doesn’t need to know every last detail just yet. Sometimes it’s as much about what’s not said as what is said.
Children don’t need to know everything about a particular sin to understand that it’s wrong. For young children, it’s enough to know that a general behavior disobeys God’s command and will, therefore, incur God’s punishment. For a young child, an acceptable definition of homosexuality might be: two men pretending to be married, disobedient to God’s instructions.
As children grow, it’s the job of parents, not the school or the community, to decide how and when to expand their children’s understanding regarding these issues. God has bestowed parents with the unique privilege and responsibility of leading their children through these harrowing topics (Ephesians 6:4). While the manner and pace may vary from family to family, one thing is certain: these conversations must happen and they must happen at multiple points throughout childhood. Timely debriefs are the order of the day. Don’t dump everything at once on your child. This is not a one-time conversation. Gauge what your children are hearing, seeing, and experiencing on a daily basis, and speak up! Sometimes the best conversations happen in the mini-van, over a couple of Girl Scout cookies, in the midst of decorating a cake, or during a presidential debate.
If we fail to guide our children through these issues, we can be certain that the world will not. Byron Yawn, in his book What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him, writes:
When most parents step back from their careers and schedules long enough to notice the changes [during adolescence], or dads get up the courage to broach the subject, their sons know far more than they imagine. If you choose to remain silent, the world steps in with an explicit crash course on the pleasures of instant gratification.1
The wise father prepares his son to judge the world rightly, and in so doing protects him from the enticements of sinners:
My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding… For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edge sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. (ESV, Proverbs 5:1, 3-6)
But for everything our children hear, we can be sure they see much more. For most children, the bulk of what they understand about marriage will come, for better or for worse, from their own parents. How can we expect our sons, when they are grown, to love their wives as Christ loves the church—redemptively (Ephesians 5:23), sacrificially (Ephesians 5:25), and uniquely (Ephesians 5:27)—when their own fathers do not? And what about our daughters? Will they see pictures of humble submission (Ephesians 5:22)? One thing is certain: we can be sure that our actions will continue to speak long after our lips have spoken.
For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit fin everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:23-27)
A Teacher’s Aide
We must not discount the impact of other godly men and women, too. God has given parents the primary responsibility of raising their children, but the local church can provide valuable encouragement and reinforcement.
At a special ministry event designed to encourage children’s ministry volunteers at Grace Community Church, Pastor John MacArthur described the profound impact children’s ministry has had upon his own life:
I have always been a strong believer in Children’s Ministry from the earliest ages because I was so profoundly influenced as a kid…. One of the things that a pastor’s kid looks for is the things he hears from his parents being lived out in the life of somebody else. That’s really important. Because you want to know that this isn’t just something the preacher is serious about. And as I look back in my early years as a kid, I have vivid memories, by name, of Sunday School teachers who impacted my life because they affirmed everything that I heard my dad preach and everything my parents told me from a completely different perspective.2
So while we may not be able to completely shelter our children from sexual sin, we must prepare them to face it. Armed with God’s truth, nourished by faithful examples and emboldened by the testimony of the local church, our children will be prepared to enter an increasingly godless generation, ready to declare God’s Word and defend God’s truth, no matter what the Supreme Court rules next.