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Not only is evil omnipresent, but children are learning about its enticements earlier than ever before. Parents are busier (preoccupied) with the cares of life, and the choking of God’s Word and quenching of His Spirit’s activity complicates this crisis in our families.
And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful (Mark 4:18-19).
Perhaps you are a parent who is proactive in your parenting. I praise God for you. Maybe you are aware of the evil influences, the need to guard little minds, and your God-ordained role in the process. If you are that caring parent, you’re fully aware that the opposition to your parental initiatives is strong. You know that some parents have abdicated their roles as spiritual guides by their superficial interest and lack of intentionality with their children.
To round out this problem, you also understand that no matter what you do, it’s impossible to entirely protect your child from the evil influences in our world, especially other children who are not practically discipled to follow Christ. This puzzle is what happened to Biff and Mable. Their seven-year-old son, Biffy, came home from school, asking them about pornography. His actual word was “por-no-graph-fee.” This case study focuses on the parent’s reaction and the crucial need to guide their child as Jesus would.
Biff and Mable knew what Biffy meant, which is why they wanted to meet. Their specific question was how to respond to their son after someone at the Christian school told him about pornography. Part of their struggle was that other Christian parents were not as vigilant with their children. It’s not that you can entirely insulate children from the world, but everyone knew this school has many influences from society.
Their first call to action is not to make this problem about the problem, which is challenging when someone is “messing with our children.” If you want to rile a parent quickly, steer their child into the darkness of our culture, which is why you don’t want to be fearful about stating something quite obvious to Biff and Mable—the gospel. If you lose focus on God’s favor and strength, you will go to hopeless places. The temptation would be twofold:
Both of these reactions are out of line with the gospel. The gospel informs us that Biff’s friends need to experience the redemptive power of Jesus Christ to transform them through salvation or restorative sanctification. People in porn are no different from Biff and Mable in that they need Jesus, too (Romans 3:23). Reacting with sinful anger at their friends will not accomplish the good purposes of Christ.
Even worse, when hurting people are offended, they recategorize their anger as righteous to justify what they want to say to their offenders. This juncture is not the time to trust their judgment about the nature of their frustration. The wiser approach would be to slow down, listen more, and speak much later (James 1:19). An angry response does not deliver the purposes of the gospel to its hearers. It creates division rather than reconciliation.
If Biff and Mable act as though there is no hope for this situation, they will degrade the gospel. The sin Biffy experienced is one of the reasons we have a gospel. Christ came, died, and rose for hopeless people and dire situations. Biff and Mable’s problem is custom-fitted, like a hand in the glove for the gospel, the perfect antidote for what is happening to them.
The gospel can reconcile a fractured relationship and cleanse a polluted heart. Biff and Mable must refocus their energy back on the gospel. It must be their launching point and sustaining trajectory as they work through this problem that someone imposed upon them. Maybe their friends will not respond to their redemptive and restorative efforts. That’s okay; that’s God’s business, not theirs.
They can’t change people, but they must have a gospel-centered understanding of their responsibility toward others. If Biff and Mable align their hearts to the gospel, they will be in the right place to serve their friends by watering and planting (1 Corinthians 3:5-6). They can then pray that God will be merciful to them by granting illumination and possible repentance (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
By re-establishing their role as a secondary agent to what needs to happen, they will have a front-row seat to see if the Lord will use this sin on their son sinlessly. Perhaps the Lord will bring His conviction to this family, and they see areas where they have failed and repent to God, Biffy, and Biff and Mable.
The present evil in this world takes no prisoners. The Devil, demonic beings, children of the Devil, and carnal Christians are collectively participating in corruption with the intent of killing you and your children. See 1 Peter 5:8 and John 10:10. Do not be surprised at the tactics of the enemy. They are clear. The devil wants you and yours dead. Any person who is standing for Christ is an enemy. Biff and Mable are enemies.
Every parent must be working overtime, envisioning, instilling, and building the mind of Christ in their children (Philippians 2:5). They must begin this work early and never let up. Fortunately, Biff and Mable have been doing this. They are not Christians in name only, but they also practically and passionately live it out.
Their example is the most effective and practical teaching tool a parent can give a child. Though their son’s friend gave him pornographic images, they have been giving Biffy something more significant—an authentic vision for living the Christ-life as understood by their lives.
If a parent is not exporting an authentic relationship with Christ to their children, the first place for them to begin is godly repentance—to God first and then to the child (2 Corinthians 7:10). They must communicate where they have failed and their plans to change. Every parent shares the message they live. If they live a worldly life and then talk about following Christ through this crisis, they will confuse the child.
Biff and Mable want to ask specific questions, drawing Biffy out about what he saw. They won’t articulate exactly what he was looking at because it may teach him more than what he knows. They must discern what happened, what Biffy did, and what the other person did to him. It’s best to use proper anatomical words, so they can discuss the problem while teaching him the right way to talk about body parts.
Too many parents get weird when it comes to talking about sex with their children. Their shaping influences were so strong that they map them over their parental responsibilities. What they must realize is the world is not shy or “weirded out” by sex. They are explicit, clear, and vulgar. Christians should be explicit, clear, and pure in how they speak about sexuality.
If they don’t introduce the world to their child incrementally, the world will present itself to him. The operative word is incremental, as well as appropriate. There is a time to start teaching children about the culture, which begins at birth. Biffy was born in this world, and he needs to know how to navigate it, including all the cliffs, ravines, gorges, and swamps.
There is no set of rules that will lay this out for any parent. This process is Spirit-led, Spirit-illuminated, guided by God’s Word, and the community of faith as the parent discerns the uniqueness of each child. No two children are the same and should not receive identical parenting. Part of a parent’s motivation for “early world teaching” is because the evil is in his heart already. It’s not as though parents can keep a child from sin by barricading him in the home.
Children are sinners who live in a home where sin happens. Good and evil are not new to Biffy. He is fully aware that there are bad things in his world and that the proponents of evil desire to take his soul to hell, though he won’t say it this way. Of course, it’s too early to be talking about porn, but Biff and Mable have no choice but to reframe this problem biblically. Hopefully, he’s your typical seven-year-old and not interested in girls. If so, this incident could slowly vaporize as an anomaly.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).
The best approach is to use the fruit of the Spirit, outlined in Galatians 5:22-23, as the filter to talk to Biffy. Biff and Mable need the Spirit’s illuminations and empowerment, which will keep their minds appropriately adjusted. This perspective is also what Biffy needs. Thus, the parents are in the vital position of exporting this “spiritual fruit” to their son.
For example, self-control is paramount here when talking to him. Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone who was troubled by something, and their way of talking about it was more like a runaway train? Biff and Mable do not want to “speed up” Biffy by talking about this problem in a way that makes it worse than what it is. He needs their calmness, not charged emotionalism.
Faithfulness will also be critical as Biff and Mable talk about what God’s Word says about the matter and how following His truth always has good, non-chaotic outcomes. Of course, they can patiently, kindly, and gently talk to him about his relationship with the other boy and how to be Christ to him. An excellent exercise for any believer is to go down the nine elements of the Spirit’s fruit and think through how to be Spirit-led in a troubling situation.
Biff and Mable need to inform Biffy that they will be talking to the boy’s parents. Biffy needs to be discreet when he goes back to school. Like his parents, he does not want to blow this out of proportion, so self-control is critical. The other parents’ maturity and Biff and Mable’s relationship with them will determine the type of conversation they can have.
Ideally, Biff should take the lead in this opportunity. Biff and Mable also need to assess how at peace Biffy is about them talking with the parents. They will further guide him about the future possibility of this happening again—from anyone. Biff and Mable want to guard Biffy’s heart about matters of sex; it’s too early to have that talk with him.
Biff and Mable will need to talk to the school’s administration. As the overarching authority over the students, they must know. It will be their responsibility to make sure there is a safe environment for all the students.
As Biff and Mable progress through this problem, there will be many other issues and questions. Speaking with one of their church leaders is crucial. They want to borrow brains because each situation is different, and there will be things that they will need outside care to affirm or dissuade what they want to do. Finally, here are three more considerations.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).