“…but not of the world!”
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12: 2 (The Message)
Today’s circumstances can send us reeling, but God is still on the throne. As COVID-19 has become a way of life this year, there are concerns whether this was a planned and insidious attack by China, or a mere chance release of a virus that quickly impacted the entire world. Add to this the overwhelming political polarization of our country, and the result seems to be a lack of reasoned discussion and debate among citizens… just division and hatred and attacks on character.
Recently the chaos in the cities, claiming to be political protests and demands for seemingly legitimate changes, has morphed into riots, looting, destruction, senseless beatings, and even killing. In Portland a Bible and an American flag were burned during a protest. Some believe that these protests are being staged with paid agitators who are brought into the cities as a political strategy to create anarchy intended to influence the presidential election in November.
Where do we look for security and comfort?
• If it is in the US government, then we must depend on the goodness of those who have been elected by the majority and perhaps then be disappointed or frustrated by their decisions and direction.
• If it is in our bank accounts and private assets, then we are at the mercy of the current economy or perhaps the stock market with its tumultuous instability, and we may find ourselves callous regarding the welfare of others, caring only about our personal financial situation.
• If it is in the educational system and the resulting politically correct and sophisticated generation, then we might be surprised at their nontraditional philosophies and politics.
• If it is in “religion” and various spiritual endeavors, are we really willing to be directed by those who may have different lifestyles and practices, such as Sharia law, which are in conflict with our faith and our relationship with God?
• But if it is in Almighty God, then we have the assurance (blessed assurance!) that He loves us and that there is a design for our lives. We can depend on His plan, purpose, and promises. This confidence allows us to help others and look for meaning beyond what we see on the nightly news.
We are cautioned in God’s Word to “be in the world, but not of the world”. This is motivation to focus on a greater purpose in life rather than making money or gaining worldly success. Jesus stated, “in this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In 2 Corinthians 5:20, we are told to be Christ’s ambassadors and be reconciled to God. That moves our eyes away from the culture around us to a higher purpose.
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
It is imperative that our teens recognize that life should be more meaningful than hours of social media interactions. They need to be directed toward a relationship with God our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord. There they will find a greater purpose than merely virtue signaling, making money, and serving themselves.
Here are some discussion starters directed toward deeper understandings.
• Discuss the current COVID-19 situation and the possible causes, issues, and treatments.
• Ask, “Have you seen news stories that show the protests, riots, looting, and violence that are happening in some US cities? What are your thoughts about what’s happening?”
• Share: “Acts of rebellion and protests have happened before in history and even in the US. What is an acceptable form of protest and what is unacceptable?”
• Ask, “How much do you depend on the government to keep you safe and secure? What else do you rely on?”
• Ask, “What does it mean to be ‘in the world, but not of the world’”?
• Discuss whether contentment and personal peace are possible. If they are, how are they achieved? Read Philippians 4:6-12 together.
• Ask, “What is the role of Christians in a culture that is struggling?”
• Talk about God’s plan for us. Allow time to dig deeper into this concept and continue this discussion during future conversations.
We, as adults, need to take the reins to guide and direct our teens to consider purpose and meaning in life, and God’s “bigger picture” for each of us. Teens often struggle with a lack of direction and their place in the world. Now is the time to open up discussions that may someday shape their thinking as adults.
Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!
Her website is: www.MediaAlert.org
Sue can be reached at: Sue@MediaAlert.org
© Sue Summers 2020