I had the privilege of attending evening service for two consecutive Sundays at a Bible-believing and teaching church, a rare sight today, but the highlight was not necessarily the faithful preaching of and edification by God’s Word, as much as that was indeed a great blessing on both occasions, but the highlight was the fact that both times, I sat next to the same person, a 14 year old teenager.
In both Sundays, he did the same thing, which reminded me more of my early days when I initially got saved. He would open his now half-filled note book and faithfully wrote down as much as he could of what the preacher said, and especially the key points and important facts that were emphasized. In both cases, during most of the sermon his head was often bowed down, writing what he heard from the preacher. And even after he finished writing, he went over what he had written with his pen, slowly rewriting over each letter, this time darkening his initial writing, a practice we can identify with when we were younger. He was careful to capture and ponder over all that the preacher had said.
But the preacher never knew there was such a person in his audience. In the same way in our lives, we have teenage and younger audiences we know nothing about observing our lives. Like this 14 year old teenager listening keenly to the preacher, they watch us very closely, and ponder over all we do and say, whether they are our children living with us or those around our society. Teenagers are almost always surrounded by adults whom they observe consciously and subconsciously, and end up imitating in life. For example, we are quick to blame them for watching too much TV and picking bad habits from the programs, but overlook the fact that when they turn on the TV, it is mostly adults that they see, not fellow teenagers. Even when they go to school, it is adults that teach. Any book, newspaper, or other written material they may pick to read, is always written by an adult. When they surf the internet, chances are that probably all the websites they will visit have been developed by adults.
It is because of this that when the Lord gave the commandment that has been famously labelled the ‘Shema’, He attached certain relevant conditions to it. ‘Shema’ is a Hebrew word meaning ‘to hear’. The commandment is termed the ‘Shema’ because of its opening remark that states, “Hear, O Israel”. The ‘Shema’ is found in Deuteronomy chapter six. Verses 4 to 9 read as follows:
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.
You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
The command in its simplicity, admonished Israel to totally love the Lord with all their being, and it is this commandment that Christ repeated in the New Testament and confirmed that it was the Greatest Commandment of all (Matthew 22:37). The relevant conditions then follow, that these words not only be in their hearts, but that they should “teach them diligently” to their sons; they should talk of them when they sit, walk, lie down, and rise up; bind them on various parts of their body, and write them around certain areas of their houses. With these conditions, God not only required His people to teach the ‘Shema’ to their children, but He ensured that even more, their lifestyles would be wholly devoted to living it out; at home or away, sitting or walking, asleep or awake. This is because He knew that beyond verbally teaching their children the command, it would make more impact if they modelled it as well, because by default, children are always surrounded by adults whom they consciously and subconsciously observe and emulate.
The simple question hence arises, what are the children and teenagers around you observing? Are they seeing you live out the ‘Shema’, or are they seeing you ascribe to contrasting beliefs and practices, beliefs and practices that you would condemn if you saw them in their lives? We may accuse the teenagers and children of this generation for taking sin to a whole new level, but in honest truth, they have just been replaying the tape and rereading the books they’ve been recording from hearing and watching us rehearse life.
So, what is the teenager listening to you today writing for use in his future tomorrow?