I must confess that I never really enjoyed the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel” when I was a kid. It’s the story of two children, abandoned by their destitute parents in the forest, who stumble upon a wonderful cottage made of cakes, cookies, and all types of sweet treats. But this is a trap set by a terrible witch, who captures children so she can kill and eat them . . . not exactly a story from which sweet dreams come!
Tragically, this “witch” is alive and well today and murdering our children. Our enemy, Satan, is the witch, the thief who has come to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10a).
I live in Stark County, Ohio, which recently was declared by health officials to be experiencing a “suicide contagion” amongst our children and teens. In the first semester of school this year 16 kids, ages 12-18 have killed themselves, with 6 of them in the school district where I live. Our county is part of the greater Cleveland, Ohio region. This region has seen teen suicides triple in just three years, with a 136% increase of suicides amongst 10-14 year olds since 2001. Estimates are that 1 out of 5 children and teens in this region will attempt suicide at some point. It is not unusual for first-grade teachers to report attempted suicides and cutting by their students!
This witch has built an alluring, appetizing cottage in our “forest,” constructed of all the empty philosophies of today’s world. It is trapping our kids and leaving them overwhelmed, with no sense of direction or purpose. Her house is built on every corner of every path in our forest, enticing and trapping the unwary with lies such as:
“God is just a name for an impersonal life-force . . .”
“We are just part of an evolutionary process . . .
“We are free to choose our sexuality . . .”
“Truth is what you make it . . .”
Our kids, in their innocence and curiosity, are drawn into these cottages without the discernment needed to recognize these lies. Soon they find themselves trapped and, unless rescued, headed for destruction.
What can be done to end the reign of this murderous witch?
If you listen to all the pundits, you will hear a number of theories about how to stop the killing—provide better mental health care, end bullying, increase parental involvement in kids’ lives, limit social media usage, etc., etc. All these ideas are good, but I don’t think that they really deal with the foundational causes: hopelessness and despair.
A key step in fighting this witch is to expose her enticements for what they are—lies that kill.
- If God is an impersonal life-force, then there is no hope.
- If evolution is true, then life is all about survival of the fittest. So if you aren’t the fittest, you have no purpose and you might as well die.
- If it’s up to each person to determine what’s true, then who are we to say that suicide is wrong?
No wonder kids are killing themselves when all the world has to offer is a meaningless existence, despair and death.
But Jesus clearly proclaims: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,” (John 10:10b).
Secondly, the best defense is a good offense.
“The weapons we fight with . . . have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4–5).
We are at war with our enemy, Satan (see John 10:10a). But we need to remember that he is a defeated foe and we have the only message of hope that brings healing to hurting hearts and transforms lives—the gospel of Jesus.
Yet demolishing strongholds requires that we go on the offensive, confronting the lies while boldly proclaiming the truth in relevant ways—allowing the light of the gospel to shine in the darkness of the lies. We need to aggressively take the truth into the world in new and creative ways, partnering with parents and equipping them with the tools needed to turn their homes into households of light in their neighborhoods. Churches need to begin to offer training for heads of households on how they can take on their biblical responsibility of the spiritual training and nurture of their children. Ministries that have traditionally been church facility focused need to move into the communities where the kids are, utilizing Christian homes as their base.
We need to throw out our ministry focus on behavior modification and begin to teach with the goal of life transformation for our children. We need to remove admonitions such as “kids need to learn how to behave in church” and “Christians don’t do that.” Instead, let’s help them understand that when a person (and children are persons!) comes to faith in Christ, it affects every aspect of his/her life—morally, spiritually, physically, intellectually, and emotionally.
Jesus welcomed children of all ages and blessed them. We cannot wait until our children reach a certain age before we begin teaching them God’s truths. When we cuddle a baby, we are teaching him that he is worthy of being loved. When we gaze at a star-filled night sky with a child, we can tell her that the God who created all this loves her. When a child misbehaves, we can begin teaching him that God’s love has made a way for his sins to be forgiven.
Imparting the hope of the gospel in everyday life lessons shows our children that a relationship with Jesus transforms all of life.
The murderous witch begins to brainwash kids from day one pushing its twisted message on them at every turn. But all she has to offer is hopelessness, despair, and death.
We have the only message of truth, hope, love, forgiveness, and life. That is what we need to be proclaiming from the rooftops—every day, everywhere. The survival of our children depends on it.