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FIRST-PERSON: What kind of world indeed?

CORDOVA, Tenn. (BP)–Holding your first grandchild on her first birthday is more than special — it is unforgettable. As my wife and I took turns holding and hugging our daughter’s daughter recently, we marveled at the miracle of life and love that God grants us through each succeeding generation.

At the same time, we wonder and, perhaps, worry a bit for that tiny bundle of energy and joy even as she smiles up at us. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 tragedy, I turned from the newscasts to see my wife weeping. Not an unusual reaction to the heartache experienced by wives and children and other relatives of those lost. However, as I asked her if she was OK, she simply cried, “What kind of world is Emily going to grow up in?” Like the experience of millions of Americans, suddenly the enormity of what had happened crashed down in our world, hundreds of miles away from the twin towers.

What kind of world, indeed? While we experienced childhood in a relatively safe and stable environment, our grandchild would face a world forever changed. We could never have imagined a society in which more than 15 million babies would never smile into the faces of their grandparents, a society in which the schools could become battlegrounds and killing fields without warning, a society in which morality has been turned on its head so that Christians are vilified and vile behavior is glorified.

How would our baby face the culture’s growing hostility to the exclusive nature of salvation in Christ alone? Would she be able to stand against peer groups whose ideas of normal behavior are formed increasingly not by parents, churches or even schools but by mass media, movies, video games and MTV? As she grows up, how would she develop a sense of security in an economy that can be booming one day and see more than a million homes lose their livelihoods in a matter of weeks?

Then we stepped back from the void of doom and gloom and realized that while the world in which our grandchild would live was challenging, even dangerous, she had some tremendous advantages going for her. Her parents are two loving people who care for her and for each other and who have made individual commitments to Jesus Christ as Lord. They pray for her, love her, teach her, hold her and protect her. Less than a month old, she lay in their arms at their church as they dedicated her to the Lord.

More than that, she not only has parents and a large extended family who love her, she has a Heavenly Father who loved her so much he sent his only Son to die and then to live again for her. The Creator is more than adequate to equip her to deal with whatever mankind might have done to damage his creation. Just like we can trust her tiny life in the hands of caring parents, we can ultimately trust her into the hands of God.

Watching our grandchild with both hands wrist deep in her first birthday cake also made me do a personal gut check about my own commitments. Would I simply send this new life out into the world as it is or would I do everything possible to make a difference in that world? We must never be content to yield our children into the influence of a secular culture simply because “that’s the way it is.” God has equipped and empowered each of us to do something, even if it affects just one other person, which can make that life better. We may never see the overall culture return to the ideals of our own childhood, but we can touch at someone’s life with the message and life of Christ. Who knows? Perhaps that one person we lead to the Lord may be the very one who makes a difference in our own children’s lives.

Regardless of the tragedies and heartaches and evil that mankind might bring on this world, we can face it — not with tears, but with hope, because of he who holds it all, including our families, in his mighty hands.
Phillips is associate professor of practical theology and director of the practical missions office and denominational relations office at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Memphis, Tenn., and former executive director/minister of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists.

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  • Jere Phillips