Raising Our Children to Be Gatekeepers
And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?Genesis 4:9
What do we mean by the term gatekeeper? In biblical days, cities were often guarded from enemies by high, thick walls. The gates were the only entrances into the city, so gatekeepers were appointed to control who came and left the city by these gates. The gates also served as a market place, court of law, administrative center, and public forum. Gatekeepers thus controlled access to a city’s social, political, and economic center. Imagine how much a gatekeeper would learn by observing the daily activities around the gate, then how influential he could be in those areas of society.
Encouraging our children as gatekeepers
The Bible provides us with many examples of young people who were called to serve the Lord in gate keeping positions. These gatekeepers influenced Israel’s social, political, and economic wellbeing. What is more, God appointed these gatekeepers to stem evil, promote good, and be a blessing to their people. Think of Joseph, Moses, David, Obadiah, Hezekiah, Josiah, Esther, Nehemiah, and Daniel.1 These young people rose to prominence as gatekeepers and worked hard to change the culture they lived in.
In light of these many influential characters, how can we encourage our children to be influential gatekeepers? We advise many of our children to become pastors, teachers, doctors, or nurses. And these positions are important. But what about encouraging them to serve as government leaders, lawyers, and journalists? We’ve heard objections to these positions. Some ask, “How can a true Christian be a politician, lawyer, or journalist? These vocations require deceitfulness, exploitation, and a corrupt mind.” While many in these professions verify this pessimistic outlook, does the Bible also discourage serving in such positions?
Consider wicked rulers in Old Testament times such as King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who instituted Baal worship and slaughtered God’s prophets. Or King Ahasverus, who ordered the mass genocide of the Jews. Nehemiah faced persecution from the governors around him. The kings of Babylon were exceedingly prideful and rash. They had little regard for life. In the midst of such evil kingdoms and governments, the gatekeepers of the Lord influenced kings, governors, and peoples. There is no biblical warrant for us to tell our children to remain out of these spheres of influence.
Christian influence in these vocations today is minimal. Something has contributed to our children not pursuing these vocations. Perhaps Christians sat back and relaxed in the past, thinking their nation was a Christian one. Or perhaps the dangers of serving in gate-keeping positions were considered too great or the responsibilities not emphasized enough. Whatever the reasons for this lack, non-Christians saw the opportunities and worked to place their people in key gate-keeping positions. Liberals pushed the importance of serving in government leadership. Groups labored to minimize the moral determiners of our land through the courts, lawyers, and judges. Same-sex activists began dominating the media, using their gate-keeping positions to bring about the changes they desired. While the Christian church was sleeping, those with an ungodly agenda for our country and society were not. Now many Christians are awakening to the reality that our nation has been cut off from its Christian roots, and its influential positions usurped by unchristian leadership. We must realize that a corrupt government or business is no excuse for the servants of the Lord to shy away from encouraging our children to become gatekeepers.
Too often we cite a text such as, “For our conversation (or citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20), and misapply it to mean that a Christian should be totally divorced from this world. It is true that the liberal social gospel cannot bring heaven to earth. It is also true that if we view the world as two distinct kingdoms, we must put our lot in with the heavenly kingdom at times to the neglect of the earthly. And yet, to have a lasting Christian influence in the world, we must train our children to be gatekeepers in the political, social, and media life of our culture. How do we do this? Here are eight guidelines to assist us.
What we must cultivate
1. We must cultivate the virtues of truth, goodness, and beauty in our children
Since ancient times, the virtues of truth, goodness, and beauty have dominated the work of poets, authors, philosophers, artists, and politicians. Until recent times, many leaders have also sought to cultivate those virtues in their work. However, today’s culture is redefining these virtues. The old adage which says, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” now applies to truth, which has been relativized and pluralized to fit individual preferences. And goodness has become little more than a euphemism or cliché.
Non-believers usually have had a shallow view of virtues. Think of King Ahasverus and his view of beauty. He ousted one queen and appointed another on the basis of this superficial trait. He was impulsive and rash in his decisions and had no regard for God’s perspective of truth, goodness, or beauty. When these three virtues are redefined to fit personal agendas and philosophies, it is difficult to maintain integrity of heart when working in the public sphere. These virtues no longer exist to better humanity or society when they are used to promote one’s own ends and to glorify the individual.
Despite the errors of our times, it is essential that we raise our children to have a true understanding of truth, goodness, and beauty. Augustine wrote, “All truth is God’s truth.” While this statement is simple, it is also deeply profound. What Augustine (and later, the Reformers) meant by this phrase is that wherever truth is, God is. All truth derives its existence from God. R.C. Sproul explains it this way: “All truth is God’s truth, and all truth meets at the top.” 2
Thus, whether truth is found in the social sciences, mathematics, proper science, philosophy, or politics depends on whether it is first from God. God has created a coherent, consistent, and systematic universe. The practical implication of this is that regardless of one’s vocation, truth, goodness, and beauty are present and should be discovered, discerned, and defended. This we saw in Queen Esther. Though esteemed for her outward beauty, Esther’s inward dedication to truth, goodness, and beauty far outweighed her outward appearance.
We must teach our children the value of these virtues. In whatever they set their minds to, they will either be learning or lambasting truth. Whatever they defend, they will be defending or discrediting truth. But we must also be consistent in teaching our children that God’s Scripture alone defines truth, goodness, and beauty. These virtues cannot be abstract principles or personal preferences but must be defined along biblical guidelines.
2. Teach them that only what’s done for Christ will last
We want our children to know this regardless of what vocation they choose. This is also a good principle for our children to remember when they are engaging in the public arena of politics, economics, or journalism. Many who enter these professions attempt to promote their own agendas. Whether pushing their personal ideologies, amassing material wealth, or becoming well known, they seek to do their work to make a name for themselves (cf. Gen. 11).
Obadiah denounced Edom for such self-serving, saying:
For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.Obadiah 15
On the Day of Judgment, the works of wicked men will come back upon their heads. Those who were self-seeking in pushing their agendas and striving to make a name for themselves will be utterly destroyed by God. When our works are done for our own ends, destruction is the inevitable conclusion (cf. Eccl. 12:13-14).
The Christian worldview teaches something entirely different. It says that a Christian politician, economist, or journalist should be different because of the message he bears. Rather than pushing his own agenda, the Christian knows that he exists to make God known, and to glorify Him in all areas of life (see Ps. 105:1; Matt. 10:32). The Christian politician should uphold an agenda that glorifies God, even if it costs him votes, popular dislike, or being labeled as a schismatic. The Christian economist should have his sight fixed first on the heavenly treasure (Matt. 6:20), encourage wise stewardship of material resources, teach how to avoid the burden of debt, and promote economic principles derived from the Scriptures. The Christian journalist should concern himself with giving fair, charitable, and truthful accounts of events, activities, or interviews. He should not seek to smear someone’s public image but to present that person and all events in a truthful light (Luke 6:31).
Ultimately, we must teach our children to be about the work of their Father, and to show them that ultimately, only the work they do for Christ will be remembered and counted on the Day of Judgment (see 1 Cor. 3:13). Those who build upon a foundation other than Christ in their vocations will reap a harvest of judgment. It is essential that our children work as unto the Lord (Col. 3:23-24).
Some may object to this point, saying that what we do Monday through Friday has very little bearing on the type of worshipers we are on Sunday. Our nation’s emphasis on the separation of church and state is an excuse that many use not to be godly politicians, economists, or journalists. But Scripture does not teach such compartmentalization. In our children’s homework, part-time jobs, secular vocations, Sunday school, or school, God must be Lord over all. Paul gives this principle when he says,
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.(1 Corinthians 10:31)
Only work that is done for the name of Christ will have value.
3. Teach them that the fear of God is supreme
Teach your children a love for Christ that fosters fear of God and not fear of people. This fear of God is distinctive, not slavish, but filial, childlike, seeking God’s approval in love. Even good politicians, economists, and journalists are often driven by a fear of man. Whether politicians are defending certain legislation while fearing that their political career may be at stake; or economists are reporting on the financial status of the nation while fearing that the cuts needed are too much for people to handle; or journalists are embellishing, distorting, or reluctantly aiming at truth for fear of being maligned by the popular media or not having a front page story, fear of man drives much of what they do. We must instill in our children a love for Christ that fosters fear of God and not of man (see Luke 12:5) so that they value God’s smiles and frowns to outweigh man’s smiles and frowns.
Think of Nehemiah. As he attempted to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, he and his workers endured much persecution from those around him. Yet he persevered despite the threats of the governors or wayward Jews. With great dedication he remained true to the work of the Lord. Daniel is another grand example. He knew about the decree forbidding him to pray to anyone other than the king, yet Daniel did not hesitate to remain diligent in his prayers to God. Note how God used both of these men. Eventually their dedication and fear of God earned them respect in the eyes of worldly leaders. Nehemiah was esteemed in the eyes of the king and Nebuchadnezzar issued a second decree to worship the God of Daniel. God works through His people despite the evil governments they serve.
We need to raise our children with such integrity and stalwart allegiance to God that the praise of man pales next to the approbation of God. Imagine how different politics, economics, or journalism would be if driven by the agenda of men and women who feared God above all else. Our culture would be significantly different. Our culture would be more consistent. People would have more faith in those who govern, aid, or write for us. Imagine the influence of a culture in which the fear of God undergirds everything we believe. Our culture needs men and women who neither fear the face of man nor the opinions of people but trust wholly in God.
4.Teach our children that work is God’s gift
Our children must learn to view work as God’s gift to humanity. When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, they were told to till the ground (Gen. 2:15). God ordained that man should have dominion over the earth by subjecting it to himself through work. Work as a divinely given gift is not how we often view work today. We see it as tiresome, laborious, and mundane. This mindset drives us to work as little as possible and get paid as much as possible. We look for shortcuts or fail to do our best. Profit sharing and vacations and other benefits become our standards of a good job. We must remold the image of work so that our children see it is a worthy calling. They must view their future vocations as opportunities to use the gifts God has given them and to make Him known in all their work.
When Paul commissioned Timothy to preach the gospel, he said, “Stir up the gift of God” that is in you (2 Tim. 1:6). From Scripture we learn that God has given us different gifts. Our aim is to help our children recognize these gifts and to use them in vocations that will stir up these graces. We should not impress our own hopes, desires, aspirations, or dreams upon our children. Also, we should encourage them not to go the way of culture to simply try to find a job that pays them well or provides generous benefits. Our children need to use their gifts to glorify God. We must be intentional about helping some of our children develop their gifts of administration, mathematics, or accounting, while guiding others to hone their writing and editing abilities. In so doing we will be cultivating our children to enter the public world of work.
When Queen Esther was vacillating about whether or not to approach the king, her uncle Mordecai wisely asked:
And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?Esther 4:14
Mordecai recognized that the Lord had placed his niece in her particular vocation as queen so that she might approach the king and plead for her people. Esther did not squelch her God-given sphere of influence but used it to save the Jews from mass genocide. She is a good example of stirring up the gifts of God within her.
5. Teach them to understand the times
Whether our children enter the field of politics, economics, or journalism, we need to encourage them to learn about these different spheres. Our children cannot be effective gatekeepers in any area of society if they do not learn much about their culture. It is good to inform our children of recent political debates on Capitol Hill. It is also wise to discuss the contemporary issues that drive our political climate. Our children should know the basic agendas of those who have been called to serve their country.
We should also encourage our children to use their finances well by understanding basic accounting or budget making. We should teach them about the market, stock exchanges, and other economic institutions in our country. Especially in today’s economic climate, our children should be taught how using money without discernment can lead to wasteful spending and future debt. Our children should also be aware of contemporary affairs that affect our nation and the world. While media coverage continues to disintegrate into slander, gossip, and crass speech, we must help our children sift through these reports to discern truth.
Esther again is a model for understanding the culture in which she lived. In many regards, she was the product of her culture; she was reared by her cousin in the land of Persia. As an exile from the land of Israel, she had to face the harsh realities of living in exile. At a very young age, she was forced to enter the harem of the king, where she endured a year of beautification. Then, like a beauty pageant contestant, she was paraded before the king. Through God’s providence, she was chosen to be the new queen.
Though Esther was a Jew, she had a great understanding of Persian law. She understood the danger of approaching the king uninvited. She clearly knew of the Persians’ immutable law that once something was signed into law, not even the king could change it. She understood the high place of dignity that Haman had among the Persians. And she knew enough loopholes in Persian law to reverse the order for the mass genocide of the Jews. Esther, in many regards, is a prime example of what it is like to be “in” the world but not “of” the world (cf. John. 17:6-19).
Talk with your children of what is going on in your country and culture today. Cultivate within them a love (or concern) for our cultures, societies, and world. Open their eyes to realize that life is not always glamorous and stretches far beyond their little community. Stir their hearts to be faithful gatekeepers by training them to become leaders in their communities and countries.
6. Encourage them to have the courage to work for change
According to many polls, most people see problems in our government today, such as political divisiveness, competing ideologies, and unwarranted slander from both sides. The latest president of the United States was elected on the slogan “Change,” which most of us can embrace even though we adamantly disagree about the means of change. In light of this need, it is imperative that we encourage our children to take an active role in leading our country toward change. While many on both sides of the political aisle view necessary change as political, economic, or social, Christians are convinced that the most necessary change is spiritual.
We need to make lasting changes that can only come by putting biblical principles in practice. One of these principles is that political change should only be advanced legally (see Rom. 13). When Nehemiah sought to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he appealed to the king for permission. When Esther sought to overturn Persian law, she did so by using the law. In both cases, these biblical leaders sought to reform their governments through legal change. To effect spiritual reorientation in our country, we must also fight for it legally, for, as the Bible says, the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord (Prov. 21:1).
We should also raise our children to be faithful gatekeepers of our society to effect needed change in the political, economic, or social spheres. Francis Schaeffer once said the only way to effect biblical change is for Christians to infiltrate the academia, political arena, publishing houses, and other “gates” of our societies. Even a small number of outspoken politicians, economists, or journalists can effect massive change. The homosexual agenda reveals how influential an outspoken minority can be. If these outspoken minorities were speaking out for Christian principles, think of the change that could be effected.
Some might object, saying, “What the nation needs is not primarily social change but the gospel. Anything less than this won’t do.” It is true that our nation needs more than political, economic, or social transformation; the gospel message is the only hope for lasting change. Though the likelihood that the United States will once more become a “Christian nation” is slim, we still have the obligation to lead our society according to Christian principles. When a farmer prepares his land for a fruitful harvest, he tills up all the ground in his field. He labors with great difficulty to prepare acres of farmland. He carefully removes large stones scattered throughout the field. He pulls up weeds that would steal water or choke germinating plants. The land is made ready for a great harvest, though all the land may not be used. If we encourage our children to be faithful and courageous gatekeepers to bring about change in different spheres, we may not convert a nation but we will prepare our land for the harvesting of God’s Word by removing weeds and rocks that would otherwise hinder the spread of the gospel.
7. Teach them to be aware of undergirding worldviews
There are no neutral ideas, opinions, or perspectives. Everything that politicians, economists, and journalists put forward flows out of their understanding of God, man, and the world (Luke 6:45). It is thus important that we teach our children that our leaders are not engaging neutral ideas. Often there is a larger picture than meets the eye.
If a particular economist views money solely in terms of buying power, it is likely that he will not view debt as enslaving. If an economist sees money as something that serves his own pleasure, it is likely that he will counsel his clients to gain as much as possible, even at the expense of others. Likewise, if a journalist writes an article on the neglected social work in the inner city, it is likely that this issue frames his worldview of how people are to help the oppressed and the marginalized.
Understanding that no ideas, opinions, or perspectives are neutral will prepare our children to be cautious when approaching various vocations. Not even those who teach particular topics can remain unbiased. While teachers of secular universities may claim to approach a topic with neutrality, they do not. Prepare your children by encouraging them to look for undergirding worldviews, values, or ideologies present in all the ideas around us.
8. Urge them to understand the calling to love our enemies
As we teach our children how to engage, respond, and defend their Christian worldview within the arenas of politics, economics, and journalism, we must also teach them the importance of loving their enemies. Think of the political climate today. It is common to listen to advertisements, political promotions, or debates that hurl insults against opponents. This cultivates a spirit of hatred. To prepare our children to be faithful gatekeepers we must teach them the supreme importance of loving their enemies (cf. Matt. 5:45-48). It is easy to give in to political bashing, which returns evil for evil. It is understandable that politicians, economists, and journalists get caught up in the frenzy of emotions and feel the need to respond in kind to their sinful opponents. But we must teach our children to turn the other cheek, to hate what is evil and cling to what is good, and to always have the interest of their neighbors in mind.
Proverbs teaches the simple truth, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” Prov. 15:1.
We must teach our children that love should undergird their attitude towards anyone who seeks to smear their name. We need to be above reproach in everything (cf. 1 Tim. 3:12), to be at peace with all men (Rom. 12:18), and to let our love be genuine (Rom. 12:9). When our children portray this type of attitude, they will convey the message to the world that they answer to a higher calling than politics, economics, or journalism. They will show there are more important things than winning an election or writing the top news story.
They will put feet to Jesus’ command to do unto others as they would have done to them.
Think of the attitudes of the biblical characters we have discussed. Obadiah, Nehemiah, Esther, and Daniel all had enemies, yet they did not seek personal vengeance or fight back against their enemies. While God brought justice on some of their oppressors, these leaders were satisfied to wait for the Lord’s vengeance (see Deut. 32:35). In like manner, we must not think it is our duty to right every wrong leveled against us, but to endure with patience the oppression of evil people.
Commit your children to God’s grace
Encouraging our children to enter the public sphere in vocations such as politics, economics, business, or journalism is risky. There are many more principles that we could draw from the Bible to prepare our children for the difficulties, intensity, and temptations of these vocations. Despite the dangerous climates of these vocations, it is important that we raise our children to maximize their gifts for God’s glory. We must raise our children to have a concern for their nations, cultures, and neighbors. We need to encourage them to be gatekeepers for their cultures.
We want to raise our children to be warriors in the public arena for God. We want to fight for the freedom in our culture to study and preach the gospel. We need leaders to remove legislation, ideologies, or principles that stand in the way of God’s Word. In so doing, we will not only glorify God but will better our society and prepare a way to bring about change that we can all hope in. Ultimately, committing our children to God’s grace, we need to send them into the world, trusting that God will work in and through them (Phil. 1:6) to His own glory.