I was listening to J. Warner Wallace’s podcast recently, and it’s one I encourage all of you to listen to. He talked about presenting talks on apologetics and how youth get enthused about it. I started pondering then why that might be, and I’d like to share a suspicion I have on the matter.
I have written much on how the ancient world was an honor/shame culture where we’re a more individualistic one, but that does not mean that we are totally devoid of any idea of shame. Social status is everything to many a teenager. This is why so many of them buy clothes they might not care for and get into fads that they wouldn’t care for otherwise. They want to fit in with their peers and not be embarrassed.
Now picture a teenage youth who is a Christian. Is he on the outs with his peers in any way? Well if he’s a good and observant Christian, he’ll be a virgin (since most teenagers in high school aren’t married). Will that lead to any shame to his peers? Yep. Especially since they consider “getting laid” to be a rite of passage and a sign that you are a real man or woman.
So what happens with a boy who’s seventeen and can drive and who is with the guys who are talking about their sexual exploits and the guy has nothing to contribute? If he is asked why he’s not “getting some” he replies that he is a Christian. Is that going to win him any friends? Nope. His “friends” there will most likely mock him for believing in antiquated ideas that science has disproven and tell him he needs to get with the times. Result? The young man is shamed.
Now imagine instead if he’s told the latter part about how his ideas are antiquated and instead, he’s able to make a rational case for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Do you think he’ll be able to be shamed the same way? Sure, his friends can still mock him, but he can take the mockery as a sign that they cannot answer his arguments. The young boy has honor then, rather than shame. He might not be sleeping around, but he can hold his head high knowing he can stand up against his peers.
If your youth group meetings consist only of pizza parties and concerts, then your youth will not be able to stand against their peers. Besides, if a kid wants to get pizza or go to concerts, all he needs to do is get a job or else hang out with people who have one and who are feeling generous. The church needs to give youth something they cannot get from anywhere else.
Now we can talk all we want about how they should seek the honor of God rather than that of men, and that is true. But why should we add an extra hurdle for them to clear? Furthermore, if they are shamed in public, then it is not just they who are shamed, but Christianity and in turn, God’s name that is mocked. This is not saying that we can change God, but we can change the way the world views Him.
No one wants to be embarrassed, and that includes youth, but if our young people think they can do something that none of their peers can do, it will help them to have that honor that they seek, and there is nothing wrong with seeking honor. Remember the parable where Christ told us to take a lowly position at a banquet so our host would say, “Move up to a better place” and we would be honored? He was saying that that is the proper way to receive honor. Don’t just go out and try to grab it. Let it be given to you.
There are many things that a young person can be ashamed of, but if they’re intellectually unprepared, being a Christian is something that they may be shamed for. In the face of temptation, they need a reason to be obedient rather than just, “The church says so” or “Mom and Dad say so.” Neither of those will be seen as honorable positions. They need to know for themselves why it is that they hold the stance that they do. If they are waiting until marriage, they need to know why. If they believe a man rose from the dead, they need to know why.
That youth are eating this stuff up should tell us something. Youth don’t want to be shamed in the eyes of their contemporaries. They won’t mind holding a different position as long as they can defend that position. If they cannot, then the tide of social pressure could be enough to get them to abandon that and if their emotions and wills start acting against Christianity, it is only a matter of time until the intellect follows.
Let’s not risk having the youth be casualties of the faith. Let’s give them something that can allow them to walk tall in their Christian convictions and live them with passion. Let’s give them the reason for the hope that they have.