Mishandled is meant to be a series addressing the issues with Christian practices that have been taught only partially or given imbalanced persuasion. It might have been more appropriate if I had addressed this topic with an introduction before I started the discussion with Dating and Homosexuality, but the time seems appropriate now to address what I mean when I suggest that we have mishandled the teachings in these areas.
The problem is not a result of intentional misleading. I would certainly concede that the issues which I am referring to were taught, at some point, with well meaning sincerity. Somewhere along the line, however, what was meant to protect from harm or preserve a position has been misconstrued, misunderstood, or mishandled.
One of the reasons why several of these issues have been mistreated is because they are only dealing with half of the truth. It’s why someone could create a compelling argument that God hates democrats, or how others could be persuaded that God loves politicians (These were meant to illustrate a point and not make a particular statement about democrats or politicians). The point is, they are only dealing with one variable within the larger spectrum and they are presenting the half truth as the whole truth.
This presents a serious risk for the next generation in the Church as we have severely misrepresented the Scriptures to only say half of what it actually says. Warren Wiersbe points out, “The Church is always one generation short of extinction; and if we don’t pass on to our children and grandchildren what God has done for us and our fathers, the church will die of apathy and ignorance.” The Scriptures call us to “Commit these to faithful men who are able to teach others also,” and it implores children to, “Listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” (2 Timothy 2:2, Psalm 34:11)
The problem, then, is generational and the question remains on how to pass on to the next generation the appropriate life lessons and positions without them being embedded within a culture or society. You’ve more than likely heard an explanation of generational development, but for all intents and purposes, I’d like to share a variation of what I believe to be the problem with generational exchange.
First Generation > Second Generation > Third Generation
Motivation + Action > Actions + Responsibility > Confusion + Rebellion
In this example, the first generation has the appropriately motivated actions. Their positions and convictions are based on a sincere understanding of society and the Scriptures. Their practices are then properly motivated. Motivation, however, is a very hard thing to teach, and in training up the next generation they simply presented the actions which they had learned were appropriate for their time and culture.
The second generation is able to see genuine motivation, but is unable to understand it without it being explained. As a result, they follow the example of the first generation and maintain the same actions and practices. Being left with only an empty structure, the second generation has to manufacture a motivation. This motivation is often laden with guilt and responsibility as opposed to devotion and love. The only thing this generation is left with to pass down to the third generation is an empty system of rules and regulations.
The third generation, seeing how their predecessors lack genuine and authentic motivation, refuse to accept the practices and actions altogether. This results in an attitude of rebellion and an abandoning of the faith altogether. They demand answers to why they have to hold to rules and regulations that are rigid and archaic. When they see how the arguments are weak and biased, they throw them out all together and are left without counsel as they navigate their worldview.
You may have heard that it takes three generations for people to abandon their faith, but I would submit that the main problem is not a result of what took place with the third generation, or even the second generation. Though they were wrong, their responses were just natural propensities to the information they were given. The problem lies in the first generation’s neglect to pass down and teach proper motivation.
I call this problem the ‘Action over Motivation’ principle. It’s a lot easier to say to your child, “Because I said so!” than to teach them how to have the right attitude when they obey. Whenever action is emphasized over motivation, the priorities are in the wrong place. As soon as someone demands physical attributes of spirituality, they have completely missed the essential of motivation. The youth of today are earnestly searching for authenticity and organic spirituality. What they are seeing and what they are being taught, however, is a form of spirituality or a structure for religion. In this way, we have mistreated the Word of God, misrepresented our spirituality, and mishandled the next generation.
Hopefully, through this series, we will be able to get back to a proper motivation and find a way to pass that on to the next generation. This is going to be difficult because it requires relearning a lot of things and being willing to re-examine our convictions. However, if we are up for the task, we may just be able to prepare the next generation to find their proper motivation, exercise their faith, and come up with their own convictions.
Please feel free to add to the discussion and even suggest things that you believe have been Mishandled. I can already see that I will have to give more attention to this as an introduction before I am ready to move on with some of the areas we may have mishandled. Here are a few topics I hope to cover in a second and third introduction…
Generational Differences: How society has shifted from Routine to Pandemonium and why previous generations cannot relate to the issues of today.
The Action over Motivation Principle: When is a child mature enough to understand the ‘Action over Motivation’ principle?
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God.” Psalm 42:1