How do we know whom to trust? More to the point, how do we make sure that our children find out quickly enough in their short teenage years whom to trust? “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to no one”, is wise advice from Shakespeare; but the Bible was not written by people who understood the perils of the Internet, nor of romance outside of a tightly controlled family environment. Trusting in God means very little to most children nowadays, and few adults are confident to explain its implications.
Prayer is the link that we have to the will of God. Trusting God requires that we have a clear idea of how to follow His will. Sadly, we know that some people who claim to know God’s will commit dreadful atrocities in the name of Christianity; white supremacists and “Christian” militias throughout Africa and the Middle East, for instance. Their confidence that they know the will of God can rob us of our confidence that we are right in our beliefs about God’s will for us. If we are not careful, prayer can simply confirm our own prejudices, as it surely does theirs.
Trusting in Jesus is perhaps a bit easier for teenagers to understand. We are, after all, trying to emulate the qualities of the life of Jesus as we know them. We picked out five priorities that Jesus seemed to have. People – loving all people especially those who are poorer, weaker, with less influence; Teaching – using clear stories that reflected the values of the Kingdom; Team Building – looking out for the best in people, the best that they could be, working with people to help them become their best; – Prayer; deliberation, reflection, thoughtful mindfulness about our course of action, Jesus resorted to this often; and Prophetic Challenge –being afraid (of course) to challenge authority and of speaking truth to power, but doing it anyway.
There is a chance that, before committing their lives to chosen partners, some consideration of the life of Jesus – Trusting Jesus – might lead to better choices for our children. Perhaps this would also keep them safe from some Internet scams, from fickle Internet friends and from the sort of narcissistic reflection encouraged by “Likes” for one’s selfies.
Jeremiah 7 verse 8 contains a clear instruction. “Use your heads!” When we are bombarded by “alternative facts”, by spin doctors manipulating history, by salesmen intent on parting us from our money, we should always refer back to the values that we see in the accounts of the life and teaching of Jesus: no hatred, love being supreme; our convenience and comfort to take second place to the needs of others.
Belonging to a Christian community with all its diversity of belief but firm in its remarkable unanimity about the paramount importance of love ruling our actions, must be the best guarantee of safety for our children. How can we change our community so that they find its membership compelling?