His answer? The Babylonian captivity. To save you the time it would take to look it up, know that this was the period about 600 years before the birth of Christ, when the Kingdom of Judah, the last remnant of the once-great nation of Israel, was overthrown by the army of Babylon.
A peculiar characteristic of the Babylonian captivity was that the best and brightest of Judah’s leaders and young people were taken away from their homeland and forced to begin again in a strange place. The Bible book that best captures their struggle is Daniel.In that book we meet four young men – Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (You might know the last three by their Babylonian names – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego). These fellows are chosen to undergo a rigorous indoctrination that is intended to prepare them for service in Babylon’s government.
Kinnaman pointed out that the time and place in which these four young men lived was best characterized as “open.” That is, all the limits on behavior and belief they had learned back in Judah were now removed. In fact, they were invited to throw off those limits and join a majority which held that “anything goes.” And yet, because the four were deeply grounded in their faith, they stood against the pressure and chose to trust God and obey His commands instead. When they did, they found Him faithful to bless and even deliver them again and again.
I know that when I look at our world today I want to protect my children with some sort of religious bubble wrap. Are things so “open” that their faith will not survive the inevitable challenges? Guess what. At some point the bubble wrap has to come off! The best thing to do is to teach them the right way to live, by both word and example (If you haven’t noticed, kids hate the “do as I say, not as I do” model of parenting).
Then test their progress. Give them a measured amount of freedom and see how they do. If they handle it wisely, loosen the reins a little more. If not, pull back and let them know what needs to change.
Trust the Lord for the final result. Whether your children never fall or have to make some mistakes, believe that what you taught and demonstrated will eventually bear fruit in their lives. That can seem impossible when you live in Babylon. But even there Daniel and his friends kept the faith. Your kids can, too.
Jay Fleming is Pastor of First Baptist Church of Goliad.