A message to parents and youth leadersfrom Josh Mcdowell
Twelve to 24 months from now pastors, leaders, and parents in churches across
our country are likely to wake up and say, "What happened to our young
people?" The answer will be summed up in one word ... tolerance.
In almost every Christian home, you will find two definitions of tolerance—one
held by the parents, the other by the kids. Both think they are saying the
same thing—but they aren't. And parents are realizing it too late.
The traditional definition of tolerance is: "to recognize and respect (others'
beliefs, practices, etc.) without necessarily agreeing or sympathizing"
(Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary). This is what you and I were
But today's definition—the one our kids are being taught—is vastly different.
It says "every individual's beliefs, values, lifestyles, and truth claims are
equal." In other words, all beliefs are equal. All values are equal. All
lifestyles are equal. All truth is equal.
SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
What happens when your child is taught that his beliefs and values are no
different from a Muslim—or a homosexual—or someone involved in pre-marital
sex? This is today's tolerance. And it's the number one virtue in America,
especially among our youth.
Our kids are being taught that all truth is relative to the individual.
Knowing Right from Wrong doesn't matter. To say something is right or wrong is
not being tolerant.
But God never once in the Bible calls us to be tolerant. Our children are not
called to be tolerant. Rather, He calls us to act justly and to be loving. In
Micah 6:8 the prophet says: And what does the Lord require of you? To act
justly and to exercise loving kindness. To do this we must discern Right from
HOW WILL IT AFFECT ME?
If our young people are confused about truth and believe tolerance is good,
they will not be able to determine Right from Wrong and make biblical choices.
In fact, in our 1994 national study among churched youth, we discovered that
kids who do not accept an objective standard of truth become:
•36% more likely to lie to you as a parent! •48% more likely to cheat on an
exam! •2 times more likely to physically hurt someone! •2 times more likely to
watch a pornographic film! •3 times more likely to use illegal drugs! •6 times
more likely to attempt suicide!
How our youth think about truth has a definite effect on their behavior and
the choices they make.
HOW DO I RESPOND?
Whether you're a parent, youth leader, or someone else concerned about young
people, you may be asking, "So what do I do?"
Truth was designed to be taught and lived out in the context of a
relationship. Truth without a relationship leads to rebellion, but truth
taught in the context of a loving relationship leads to response.
Here are four basic things you can do to build relationships with your
children and pass on biblical values:
1. Express ACCEPTANCE.
Accepting your children gives them a sense of security.
2. Show APPRECIATION.
When you appreciate your children, you give them a sense of significance.
3. Give AFFECTION.
Being affectionate with your children helps them to know that they are loved
and capable of giving love.
4. Be AVAILABLE.
When you are available for your children, you communicate to them that they
Concerning tolerance, I believe there are four more important things we can do
to set a good example for our children.
1. WE MUST PURSUE TRUTH.
John 8:32 says, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you
free." This means embracing all people—not all beliefs. Listening and learning
from all people—but not agreeing with all people.
2. WE MUST IDENTIFY WITH JUSTICE.
Psalm 106:3 says, "Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do
what is right." Justice requires a moral basis for discerning Right from
3. WE MUST AFFIRM BELIEFS SO THAT THEY BECOME CONVICTIONS.
Deuteronomy 11:18-19 says, "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds;
tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them
to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk
along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Seventy-five percent
of our youth only have feelings about what is right or wrong, i.e. "I feel
that is wrong." Twenty percent have beliefs about what is right or wrong—but
only five percent have convictions! If we don't turn our feelings into
convictions we're going to lose this entire generation!
The bottom line is we must do what God calls us to do. We must discern right
and wrong. We must act justly and exercise loving kindness—not tolerance.
Which is exactly what Jesus would do.
(Listen fo Focus on the Family radio program on December 3 and 4 entitled
"Tolerating the Intolerable." Join Josh McDowell for a fascinating look at
the new meaning of tolerance and how it is undermining the spread of the gospel.)
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