Monday, December 06, 2010

Biblical Passages for Those Who Parent or Work with Teens

My blog over the next few weeks will be devoted to my work with students. Next year will mark 20 years that I have been involved in Christian Education and I wanted to reflect a little on my ministry philosophy and set some goals for the future- see the original blog at


Luke 5:33-39: 33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”
34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”
36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” 

This passage has always helped me in my work with students AND as a parent. I know that the applications may be less direct in my line of work, but some clear principles are here both for the teacher/parent and for the students. And even though the context here is the nature of the New Covenant Kingdom- the applications are valid.

Context and Overview: Jesus is being carefully watched and critiqued. It is interesting how the flow fits here, and you almost paint a narrative though I admit it brings in some speculation. Jesus is getting active and drawing interest and the implications of His ministry is causing uneasiness. The status quo is being challenged and it always attacks rivals. The key word is found right above this passage, in verse 29 “But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect ‘complained’. What is the difference in a complaint and a question? What is the dividing line of helpful critique and a damaging complaint? We know the answer- matters of intentionality.
Their first critique is that they are eating and drinking with sinners. Jesus answers the sinner issue. The second criticism is that they are eating and drinking. In their understanding, religious zeal is regulated and evaluated by ascetic lifestyle. I find it interesting that Jesus uses a wine analogy to answer the charge.
Of course the biblical principle centers around the timeliness of behavior and allowance of the pleasurable when appropriate. Basically Jesus is saying- sometimes the time is right and sometimes the time is not right. Ultimately we enjoy pleasure at the allowance of our King who also is our Father. We serve at his will and not ours. There are times for feasting and there are times of fasting- it’s not important what we do, it is important why and for who we do it.
This seems to be an important point of the New Testament and the emphasis on conscience and concern for the weaker brother- or in other words- not using freedom as an offense (another day and another topic).
Jesus implies that He is involved in a process and the first step is preparation. You prepare a new wineskin, then fill it with new wine, as it ferments both the wineskin and wine are changed. The structure influences the substance and the substance changes the structure. The process takes time and involves pressure and constriction and contraction.
At some point, the wineskin is opened and the aged, desirous, aromatic and beneficent drink is used.
To put new wine into an old/used wineskin is foolish. The old skin cannot withstand the new process – it can only take so much for so long. And it is senseless to patch an old with a new piece- you ruin both. You must make allowances for time and pressure to produce the good stuff.
The overall point is that Jesus is bringing in a new administration of the covenant of grace and these disciples are going to carry this new wine into a new structure. They will face pressure and suffering- they will fast in time-AND the product will be beautiful.

PATIENCE- wineskins are in process. As sophisticated as a senior seems, they are still just a new wineskin that will be filled and capped in time. My guess is that they will pour out the gospel in whole new structures and I have no clue what it will look like. I will not be able to work in that new structure- I just need to pour out my wine in faithfulness to my Father.
PROPRIETY: In a weird twist- we should teach the teens to serve at the Lord’s will, not their hasty whim. The bridegroom is away for now- so we need to fast and practice self discipline- enjoying pleasure- YES- but in His timing and in His way.
So we have a strange application- the trials of life are coming- be patient. I do not expect my senior daughter to have the sanctification of a 30 year old. God will fill her and ferment her in circumstances and time to produce a beneficial fruit. She will be changed and the world will be impacted- at His pleasure and for His glory.
At the same time- trust God in this timing by obeying Him. There is a reason He wants abstinence and soberness- pleasure is not sinful- using pleasure outside his allowances is sinful. As a parent/teacher I am to be patient with their spiritual immaturity and they are to be patient with God’s restrictions. Both are points of perseverance.

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