Why? I can answer that in one word – inconsistency.
Children and teenagers are intelligent enough to see our mixed messages. We saw the inconsistencies in the generation before us, the generation behind us sees our inconsistencies. When our instructions and corrective discipline say one thing and our actions and lifestyle are opposites, how can we expect them to listen to us?
Let’s be honest, society is inconsistent. We want young people to learn compassion and we spend millions on public service announcements and education to teach them the importance of compassion. Yet, we abort children up to the moment of birth without thought for those children. We teach compassion and turn away those seeking help. We give them video games, tablets, and phones to pacify them and then complain when they don’t know how to do things for themselves. Schools have dress codes and guidelines about inappropriately touching the opposite sex, but then host a school sponsored prom, where teens violate that dress code and are allowed to touch each other in ways that would get them in expelled if they did that in the halls during school. The same could be said about some cheerleader, dance team, volleyball, wrestling, and basketball uniforms.
Churches, we are not above this reproach; church, we are inconsistent. We teach the importance of respecting God yet set aside His word for our own desires in worship and daily living. We teach marriage is between one man and one woman for life, yet churches are filled with people who refuse to repent of multiple divorces and marriages. We correctly teach the Fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control and then we violate all of them in the way we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ (church fights, gossip, exclusive groups, etc.).
Parents, we are inconsistent. We teach our children honesty, then lie saying, “The next time you do that I am going to . . ” and never follow through. We teach them to tell the truth, then they hear us tell our employer / client that we are busy or have them tell the salesman at the door that we are not home. We put on a “church face” when we are at assemblies, but live and act like the world the rest of the week. We teach purity then watch filth on TV and in movies or allow them to go to events that encourage immodest dress and behavior. We say church, God, and Christ are important and prioritize sports, the lake, and more over time in worship with God’s people.
I know I am not perfect and that like you, I slip up from time to time, but when our only consistency is our inconsistency in these and other areas do we really want the next generation to follow where our footsteps are leading? If we are talking out of both sides of our mouth, can we expect them to become anything different? The apostle Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. ” (1Co 11:1). He also says, “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, . . . but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.” (2Th 3:7-9).
Will you and I be like Paul and live consistently in front of the next generation? Be like Paul!
Bonus video. Gerry Brooks is an educator and what he says here is evidence of how we are inconsistent.