I do not listen to Christian radio. For the most part, I do not listen to radio at all. However, every now and again, when scanning, I land on a Christian radio station. Often I hear the claim of being “safe for the whole family.” As a dad of four young children, I appreciate that. Certain kinds of music or talk does not need to enter our kids’ ears before they have the capacity to process it. The proposition stands even when listening to a Christian talkshow host discuss things related to violence or sexuality from a Christian worldview. I do not think my four-year-old has the equipment to handle such things as of yet.
But when Paul states all Scripture results from God intentional act to reveal himself, and every part of it profits the Christian, what do we do? As discussed last week, the Bible contains things we would never want our children (or ourselves) to view in a movie or on television. The narrative of Genesis 38 and the words of Ezekiel 23 provide some graphic details. Judges contains some terribly violent events, one of them involving a gross amount of sexual violence (as if an iota of sexual violence did not constitute a gross amount).
Before discussing what we might do with these texts as the guardians of young eyes and the disciple-makers of those young in the faith, I feel compelled to state what we absolutely must not do.
We must not deny any part of the canon of Scripture either explicitly via proposition or implicitly through neglect.
The historic and orthodox position of Christ’s church maintains the entirety of Scripture as the revelation of God. Whether or not such a thought synchronizes with contemporary sophisticated sensibilities makes no difference. I seriously doubt Jesus plans to ask many of us about our level of sophistication on Judgment Day. We seek not sophistication but faithfulness to Christ and accuracy in our explanations of what the Holy Spirit reveals in Scripture.
In these types of texts considered, the Holy Spirit reveals, above all, two major things: the atrocity of sin, and God’s sight of it.
So what do we do with young eyes?
First of all, I think we do not let such stories become cute or entertaining. Every young boy loves to hear about Samson because he reminds us of the Hulk. God’s gift of strength to him stands as unique in the Bible, but Samson’s lack of self-control and discernment reaches mind-blowing heights. Should we teach the story as primarily being about a strong man to entertain young boys? Probably not. I do not think the Spirit included the Samson narrative to entertain us or make the man into a moral exemplar. Instead, perhaps he desired we see the scope of sin in a chosen leader and the graciousness of God despite the shipwreck of Samson’s life.
Second, we do live in a world in which sex and violence create daily headlines in the news. As a child, I spent many summer days at my grandmother’s house, and she watched the local news at every airing, morning, evening, and late night. I never lacked for intake of bad news regarding violent crime and the like. We live in a world in which coming to terms with these things stands as part of the process of maturation. However, with parts such as these included in the canon of Scripture, we have the ability to see how the Bible relates these sorts of things and gain a normative biblical perspective on them. Using Scripture in this way, we help prepare our children for the sorts of similar events they might encounter in real life. We show them Scripture does not prove a stranger to such matters. It helps us process the mire of humanity’s sinfulness before God toward itself. When a child reaches a level of maturity allowing him or her to handle such things, a parent might find profit in working through some of these texts.
For those adults young in the faith, these texts reveal nothing we see in the world escapes the sight of God. God saw when Judah went into Tamar. He relates to us Joab’s violent and treacherous ways, and he revealed how Joab’s life ended. The events in these texts never stymie God in his quest to save a people for himself. He shows his people the depth of their sexual and violent depravity, and in Christ, conquers all of it either through his wrath poured onto the Son himself in the crucifixion or the Son’s return in Revelation to cast all evil into the lake of fire. These attempts to usurp the goodness and glory of God in his creation ultimately misfire as he brings them under the feet of Christ.
Approach these texts prayerfully. Approach these texts cautiously. Approach them with the help of a pastor from your church. Approach them with your children using discernment. But whatever you do, approach them.