Over the years in the pastorate, I had people coming to me with concerns like: my child smokes and likes clubbing, oh their peers says it is OK to have ear stubs and tattoo – that’s art! My children are planning for marriage but don’t want to have babies. Others are so fearful that they don’t want to get married. Recently, I met with a group of educators to chart out the possibilities of a Presbyterian International School. One of them shared that when MOE mooted the Gifted Education Programme (GEP), it was meant to gather these gifted kids together to develop them but instead, in a survey conducted, 95% of these gifted kids have additional tuition just to be above the others. What an irony!
Another member shared that parents go all out to bail their children out of their mischief. Parents spoke out for their children when they tempered with MC so that they would not have to take a test. More ridiculous is a parent begging the lecturer to give 1/100 instead of a zero for plagiarism. One parent even told me that when she told her young working child the need to contribute towards the household expenses and also to parents, the child reacted and asked if they were really hard-up for money? What a generation!
Where can we go to get our bearings right? The issue has to do with submission. The Bible is very clear on this, not just submission to spiritual authority in the church, but also to parental and government authority. Gone are the days when children obeyed their parents without questioning. The way we perceive the world and each other has changed. This is reflected in our lifestyles and the innately distinct personalities of children. Research tells us:
- Constant digital stimulation creates attention problems for kids with brains that are still developing, who already struggle to set priorities and resist impulses. (Your Brain on Computers – NY Times series 2010)
- Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing. The worry is we’re raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently. (Michael Rich – Harvard Neuroscientist)
The teenage years are a time of great opportunities—both educational and personal—for children, but also a time when children face difficult growth challenges and decisions regarding sexual activity, smoking, drinking, and suicide. Parents unfortunately have become so busy with their own personal and professional lives that they don’t have as much time as they’d like to spend with their children. The challenge for families is finding ways to remain connected while accommodating busy lives.
The problem with the younger generation is that often they take their parents for granted. Parents are anything other than a source of disposable income, who just happen to provide food and a roof over their heads. Teenagers these days turn their attention towards goals and aspirations rather than focusing on gaining full time employment and having to worry about finances. The youth of today postpone their careers, as they fear boredom and confinement. They want marriage, a house and children but all in their own time. Professional success is on a higher ranking in their priority list. Young people are on their way to making a start in a prosperous world, yet everything is collapsing around them.One of the main issues contributing to the problem of the younger generation is that they lack interpersonal communicative skills that affect their social behaviours and people around them. Parents let their children grow up without the guidance and counseling they used to give; they assume their children are aware of the basic life skills. But the sad reality is that the younger generations aren’t always smarter than their parents were at their age.
To put it simply or into perspective, everything has to do with our attitude to submission. What is biblical submission? It is not concerned with gender or age or social class. Submission is not an issue of political parties or ideological positions. Submission is, in the most general sense, the surrender of one’s will to another authority. It is “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.” When Paul instructs the Ephesians to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” it is clear that he is speaking the sense of “arranging under” or “yielding to admonition or advice” He isn’t telling people to obey each other. God’s Word gives specific instructions to those in authority on how to handle that responsibility. Throughout the Old Testament, God often rebuked the leaders of Israel for their self-centered, deceitful, and abusive shepherding of God’s flock. (Deuteronomy 13, Jeremiah 23:1–4, and Ezekiel 34:2–4.)
Children are to honor and obey their parents and this is repeatedly taught in Scripture. It is in the Ten Commandments: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you” (Ex. 20:12). Disobedience to parents marks the ungodly: “Men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy” (2 Tim. 3:2; cf. Rom. 1:30). Children are to obey their parents in all things. The only limit placed on a child’s obedience is when a parent demands something contrary to God’s law. Jesus cautions those in positions of authority—parents, husbands, pastors, and elders— not to misuse those God-ordained positions for self-centered purposes. These roles are given to us by God to humbly serve the individuals or groups that have been entrusted to our care, not to have our egos stroked or to get our own way (Mark 10:42–45).
The most basic unit of any society is the family. It is the first God ordained institution in the Bible. God has placed parents in charge of the family. To disobey a parent is to disobey God. To strike a parent is to strike out at God. To curse a parent is to curse God. To treat parent with contempt is to treat God with contempt. Whenever there is a breakdown in parental authority, there will follow a breakdown of law and order in society. (Romans 1:30 – 32) Frankly, I’ve no model answers to all the issues facing our generation today. How I wish I could come up with a FAQ that parents can refer to for help. The generation today, the Apps generation is deeply involved in the digital media. But are they “Apps dependent” or “Apps enabled”? The question is: How can we mobilize the generation of today?
Pastor Cheng Huat
February 9, 2014