Last week, as I began preaching on 'Wise Parenting' from Proverbs, I talked about how wise parents understand their children from a biblical perspective - which includes coming to grips with the painful fact that our children's hearts are not naturally good but extensively depraved (see Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:10ff., etc.).
Modern Americans practically, if not self-consciously, deny much biblical truth. Perhaps the chief doctrine most quickly denied is the natural depravity of our children. I recently came across a telling example of that in Dave Cullen's journalisitc re-telling of the worst school shooting in American history in his book Columbine. As we all remember, the question on everyone's lips following the massacre was 'Why? What influenced Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to commit such a crime?' Cullen writes:
"National polls taken shortly after the attack would identify all sorts of culprits contributing to the tragedy: violent movies, video games, Goth culture, lax gun laws, bullies and Satan. Eric did not make the list. Dylan didn't either. They were just kids. Something or someone must have led them astray."
- Dave Kullen, Columbine, p. 107
Without minimizing the very real influence of wicked, outside forces, most people - especially parents - insist on seeing people as morally neutral, blank slates whose direction in life for good or bad is largely or entirely influenced by external agents. Not only does the Bible tell a different story entirely, it does so for a crucial reason. Unless we help our children understand their inherent wickedness (due to the Fall), they will never utter Paul's cry in Romans 7:24, "Wretched man that I am, who will rescue me from this body of death?" And without such a painful realization, they will never feel the joyful liberation of v. 25, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" As painful as it is for us to face, the best gift we can give our children is a compassionately communicated but straight-forward assessment of their dark hearts. Only then will our gospel proclamation to them be meaningful, life-changing and God-glorifying.