Addressing Cultural Issues
About the Guest
"Mom, what is divorce?" "Dad, what does 'homosexual' mean?" "Mom, did you and Dad have sex before you got married?" Our kids are going to throw some tough questions our way. Will you be prepared to answer? Biblical counselor Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter Jessica Thompson help you answer these challenging questions and more.
Elyse FitzpatrickElyse Fitzpatrick is a nationally sought-after speaker and author, speaking at the Gospel Coalition’s conference and Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s Revive Our Hearts. She holds a certificate in biblical counseling and has an MA in biblical counseling from Trinity Theological Seminary. She has authored 23 books and lives in California with her husband, Phil. Learn more at elysefitzpatrick.com.
Jessica ThompsonJESSICA THOMPSON is an author of several books including Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Christ and frequent conference speaker. She is part of the podcast Front Porch with the Fitzes, and is the director of church life at RISEN Church in San Diego, California.
“Mom, what is divorce?” “Dad, what does ‘homosexual’ mean?” “Mom, did you and Dad have sex before you got married?” Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson help you answer challenging questions.
Addressing Cultural Issues
Bob: As a parent, do you feel the pressure to have all the right answers if your children ask a Bible question—a question about God? Do you feel like, if you don’t have the right answer available, it will shake their faith? Elyse Fitzpatrick says, “You need to relax.”
Elyse: There are things that are mysterious. I don’t have all the answers to everything, and I need to let my children know that it’s okay to be a Christian and not pretend that I know everything or have every answer. On the other hand, we do have enough answers to be certain; but we don’t have all the answers.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, April 1st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. You may not be able to answer every question your child has about faith or about God, but we’ll see if we can help you with some of the stickier ones today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: I want you to talk very fast today.
Bob: You want me to talk fast?
Dennis: Fast. We have got a lot to talk about with our guests today because we’re talking about answering your kids’ questions, and we’ve got some hot potatoes to deal with.
Bob: Let me start over. [Increased speed] And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining with us.
Dennis: [Increased speed] Thank you, Bob, for doing that. I’d like to welcome our guests, Elyse Fitzpatrick—
Elyse: [Increased speed] Thank you.
Dennis: [Increased speed]—and Jessica Thompson.
Jessica: [Increased speed] Thank you very much.
Dennis: [Increased speed] They have written a book called Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions. They both have three children each. The key thing about this is—Jessica is Elyse’s daughter.
Jessica: [Normal speed] And favorite child.
Dennis: And favorite child. [Laughter]
Elyse: Favorite daughter.
Dennis: I do want to say the name of their book again a little slower—Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions. We want to talk about how you handle your kids’ questions about divorce—and their friends’ families getting a divorce—
—about the definition of marriage, about homosexuality, about sex, in general, and sexual sin and, then, sexual abuse—which is a hot topic today.
So, first of all, what you ladies want to do—as we get to these discussion points, we want to give parents the courage to tackle the hot-potato issues their kids are going to bring home.
Bob: And we want to help moms and dads create a culture—an environment / an atmosphere—where these kinds of questions can be openly addressed without fear, without freaking out—where the kids feel comfortable bringing it up because Mom and Dad are comfortable, responding to it—and where, if Mom and Dad don’t have an answer right off, they can say: “You know, I’m going to think about that. We’re going to need to talk about that, but we’ll have that discussion tomorrow”; right?
Elyse: Right, exactly. I think that parents need to become comfortable with mystery in God.
That means we don’t have all the answers, and that’s really what Deuteronomy 29:29 is talking about when it says that “The secret things belong to the Lord our God,”—but then, the verse goes on to say—“but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” So, there are things that are mysterious. I don’t have all the answers to everything. I need to let my children know that it’s okay to be a Christian and not pretend that I know everything or have every answer.
Bob: So, when a child—to get to Dennis’s first question—a child comes home in first grade and says: “I just heard that my classmate, Susie—her mom and dad are getting a divorce. What’s a divorce?”
Dennis: And just to set it in context—when I was a kid, there were 43 kids in my class. I went all the way through 12 grades of school. Do you want to make a guess of how many divorces there were in those 12 years, from 1954 until I graduated in ’66?
You want to make a guess?
Elyse: I couldn’t even guess because, now, it would be so high.
Dennis: One divorce. It was such an anomaly.
Dennis: Yet, today, kids—your kids are going to—they’re going to kindergarten, they’re going into elementary, junior high, high school—and it’s as high as 60 percent of their friends are from homes that have experienced divorce.
Dennis: Where do you begin in answering this question?
Elyse: Well, again, we want to get to our paradigm, which is creation, fall, and redemption. What we want to say is: “In the beginning, this is not how God created it. God created marriage as an institution to last an entire lifetime so the man and the woman would be together their entire lives. But because of the hardness of our hearts—
—which came with the fall/with sin—Jesus said, “Because of the hardness of your heart, there is divorce.”
Sometimes—I think that the Bible teaches that not all divorces are unrighteous. Some divorces, I think, Jesus allowed—but all divorces are there because of sin—because someone, not necessarily both people, but because someone in the relationship is living selfishly and is not willing to lay down their life.
So, when Susie comes and she says, “What is divorce?” Divorce is the tearing apart of a bond of relationship—when you say to your friend: “You are now more to me than a friend. You are a lifelong partner, and I will never have a partner besides you.”
Phil and I—my husband—just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. That is an example of God’s grace to both of us—
—but that was a promise that we made: “No matter what—no matter if I’m really feeling in love with you during this little season or I’m sort of kind of wishing not”—this is a promise we made. Divorce happens when one of us decides we’re going to break our promise.
Dennis: One of the things I would want my kids to know is—everything you just said, Elyse, but I’d also want them to know that, even going back to the book of Genesis, the first institution that was attacked—
Dennis: —was between a man and a woman.
Dennis: It was between Adam and Eve. Satan attempted to deceive them. Since that time, we have been being deceived, as men and women / as husbands and wives. As a result of that, some people simply don’t keep their commitment. That’s where redemption comes in—people can be forgiven if they repent.
Dennis: And you want your kids to understand that—but I like what you talked about—
—teaching the standard of what marriage ought to look like. What you ultimately want to talk to your kids about—although I don’t ever remember my mom and dad ever saying this to me—and my dad was a rarity in his day. They grew up in the Depression, and his dad deserted him when he was a boy and his eight brothers and sisters. I mean, they were dirt poor; but somehow, my dad stayed committed to my mom for more than 46 years before he died.
The model of your marriage is a very important statement to your kids. Even if you are divorced—because we have a number our listeners who are divorced, who are going, “How do I answer this question now that we’ve done this?” or “…I’ve experienced this?” You know what? It’s all about what we’ve been talking about here—being honest, being genuine, talking about your own humanity, talking about mistakes, and using it as an opportunity to instruct your children.
Bob: There is a question behind the question for a lot of kids when they come home and said, “Susie’s parents are getting a divorce.” The question that is hidden back there is: “Would you and Mom ever get a divorce?” / “Would you and Dad ever get a divorce?”
Parents ought to address that one, head-on, even if the child never asks it; don’t you think?
Jessica: Absolutely. I think you can encourage your kids when they do come home and talk about that, but I think that what you are saying was important—that it’s not just: “Once divorce happens, then, it’s all over: Your life is screwed up.” “…Our life is screwed up. It’s done.” There is redemption.
Jessica: There is forgiveness. So, adding onto—“As much as your father and I know the future, we are going to stay together. But here is what I know more certainly than I know that. I know that God uses everything for our good and for His glory. So, no matter what the future holds—I don’t know—but I can trust God.
“I can trust God with our future, Sweetie.” So: “We can trust God with our future in this. And we can trust that, even if there is divorce, or brokenness, or any of that—because we are broken people—if there is brokenness, we can know for certain that our God is faithful to use that.”
As much as I want to and I look at my husband, right now, and say, “I can’t ever see us getting divorced—ever,” I don’t know the future. Who knows what will happen? But I can say to my kids: “I know my God, and I know your God. And here is what He promises to do.”
We can’t just say, “Divorce is the end of it all, and it’s all a big mess.” Yes, this is true; and divorce hurts in ways that we don’t even understand. But we know, for sure, that God is a God of redemption; and He loves to take brokenness—because honestly, that’s all He’s got to work with—He loves to take brokenness and redeem it and make it into something beautiful.
Dennis: I love the honesty of what you talked about. The only caution I’d have with a child—because they are going to school with so many friends, who are divorced and they are terrified today. I think they’re really frightened that their parents will get a divorce.
Dennis: Somehow, after that conversation occurs, you need to be able to walk them over to the wall and point them to the marriage covenant that you got at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway and you signed as a couple and you had them, as kids, sign and say, “You know what? This is a promise to God,—
Dennis: —“to your dad / to your mom.”
Bob: “We intend to keep it.”
Dennis: “We intend to keep”—
Jessica: Yes, absolutely.
Dennis: —“that promise.”
Bob: Okay, so, now, how about the child who comes home and says: “Susie doesn’t have a mom and dad. Susie has two moms.”
Elyse: You know, I’m just going to make a little comment here. Jessica’s son plays Pop Warner—
Elyse: —Football. He has two team mommies, who are married to each other.
Jessica had a good opportunity to talk with them. We are in a culture where kids are going to play on a sports team, and they are going to have two mommies or two daddies.
Bob: You’re going to either engage your kids, with you taking the initiative on this subject; or the culture will engage them, with the culture taking the initiative on this subject. Honestly, I’d rather be in charge of that conversation than just turning it over to the TV; right?
Jessica: Absolutely. I think, also, letting them know that homosexuality is a sin; right? It is one man/one woman—is what the Bible / that was the standard—but it’s not—
Dennis: Before you go past that—
Dennis: —real quick. We’ve got to stop there because there are listeners who, right now, went, “Okay, here we go.” The reason that statement can be made is not based upon Jessica’s opinion.
Dennis: It’s not based on my opinion. There is a book that is what we consider to be our worldview.
This may differ from the culture’s view of the world / from how other people believe; but we believe this is the Book that was written by God and is the authoritative statement about matters of life.
Bob: But, Dennis, you know there are some people today who read the same Book—and they would say: “Well, that’s your interpretation of those passages. We have another interpretation, and we just need to agree to disagree.”
Dennis: If you look back, historically, in the church—of what the church has believed—there has not been a time, since the church was formed, where the church embraced homosexuality as being an option for two people to embrace and then, ultimately, to redefine marriage to be that as well.
Bob: So, we ought to be asking—at least the question: “If this is a new interpretation that has just emerged, 2,000 years later, what caused this new interpretation to come about?—because we’ve studied the Scriptures harder or because the culture has pressed in harder?”
Dennis: And the reason I stopped Jessica, at that point in the discussion—
—I think parents have to realize, “This is not a one-time discussion you are going to have with your—
Jessica: No, it’s not.
Bob: Oh, yes.
Dennis: —“your kids.” They’re going to go to school; and they’re going to be made to feel shame—to feel guilty / to feel like a bigot—because they have convictions and beliefs that are not in line with what the world is teaching.
We have to train our children to know how to, first of all, critically think from the Bible and build their faith on the Scripture so that—when you do make a statement like you made, Jessica, to your children—they understand the context of where that statement came from—that: “We don’t think this is something that’s right.”
Jessica: Right. Absolutely, and I also think building—like we’ve been talking about—this culture of grace. We are going to talk to them about homosexuals; but we’re not going to say it’s some disease that you can catch or something like that—
—like, “Oh, you’ve got to stay as far away...”
I’m going to engage that team mom and her wife. I’m going to talk to them because what I’ve got is the only thing that’s better—“Jesus Christ is better,”—but I’m the one that tells them that. The way that I tell them that is by building relationship with them, and talking to them, and loving them.
I think the problem with a lot of what the church has done—is set themselves up in opposition to people who experience same-sex attraction.
Dennis: Or all sins.
Dennis: You with me?
Jessica: Yes, so: “Sinners are welcome here.”
Jessica: That should be above every church.
Elyse: “Sinners, welcome here”; right.
Bob: So, now, we’re back to kids—and kids having this question about: “My fellow football player has two mommies. So, what’s going on there?” How much do you explain about what homosexual practice is? How much do you explain about how to respond to this? How do you deal with that?
Jessica: Well, first of all, you know your children. That’s something we say over and over again in the book: “You need to be able to know them and talk to them.”
I would talk to them real plainly. If it were an eight-year-old, I would tell my daughter: “What it is—is these people think that there is something that’s going to make them happy. What they think is going to make them happy—the only way they’ll ever experience happiness—is to be married to someone of the same sex. The truth of the matter is—Jesus is better.” That’s what I would tell my kids. “So, just like you think that the only thing that’s going to make you happy right now is if you get that toy, or that chocolate bar, or the new iPod®, or the new whatever—the only thing that conquers that—is: ‘Jesus is better. He’s better than the new toy. He’s better than the relationship that you think you need.’”
Dennis: There are some parents freaking out, right now, thinking: “How in the world will I answer my kids’ questions about this? What if they ask me, ‘What are the practices—of what homosexuals do?’” Here is the thing—
—all these questions can’t be fully addressed here. You’ve got to ask God—you’ve got to have a relationship with God and ask Him to guide you.
Let me tell you something—if He promised—that’s Jesus—if He promised you that He would put you in front of kings and He would give you the words to say in front of kings, I promise you—He will give you the words to say in front of your children.
Bob: One of the questions that is likely to come up in this context is the question of: “Well, if those two women want to be married, I mean, shouldn’t we just let them? I mean, they don’t believe what we believe—they don’t go to our church. Shouldn’t we just say, ‘Okay, if that’s what they want, we’re going to let them do that’?”
Elyse: I don’t think that we should do that—simply because marriage is more than just this earthly relationship. Marriage is a portrayal—and it’s really the best portrayal—of the relationship between Christ and the church and even of the relationship between the Father and the Son.
If we tear the very fabric of how God has made the world to function—if we tear that apart, then, what happens is that our society will fall apart. It’s more than just “Oh, Sally and Susie are really happy with each other.” No, it’s tearing apart the very structure of how God made this world to function.
Bob: See, I think, if my kids were young and they were saying, “Wouldn’t it be okay if they just came together and got married?—we let them get married?” I might say, “We have a family cat.”
Bob: Okay? “Why don’t we just decide that we’re going to call that a dog instead?”
Bob: “Instead of calling it a cat, we’ll call it a dog. As long as we agree it’s a dog, isn’t it okay if we call it a dog?” Well, the neighbors are going to think it’s a cat. Honestly, if you look in the encyclopedia, it’s going to say, “Cat.”
The fact that we want to call it a dog—I guess we can do that if we want to, but that doesn’t change—
Elyse: —the nature of the species.
Bob: That’s right. It doesn’t change the cat into a dog just because we call it that. I think we have to say, “They want to call this marriage,”—and I guess we can say it is okay—“but that doesn’t change what real marriage is.” You can’t just decide to redefine it on your own—it’s not ours to define. Somebody else has got to define it.
Dennis: Well, I didn’t have to answer this question with my kids—
Dennis: —because this—
Bob: —wasn’t an issue.
Dennis: —this was not an issue, at the time. But if I had to answer it today, at some point in the conversation, as the child was old enough to receive it, I’d open the Book/the Bible—and I would open it to the book of beginnings—the Book of Genesis. I just simply read what it says in Genesis 1, the first chapter, “Let us make man in Our image.”
In verse 27, it says: “So, God created man in His own image. In the image of God, He created them. Male and female, He created them.”
Dennis: And so, this is a book that is the beginning. In its opening pages, it’s declaring that God is the originator of marriage. And I just would challenge moms and dads to not capitulate to the culture—don’t cave in. Don’t think you’re going to somehow be better liked if you train your children to think like everybody else is thinking—instead, train them to be loving, to be compassionate, to have relationships with people who have all kinds of issues that they are facing in their lives because we face them too; okay?
Dennis: We all need to be loved. We’re all broken; but at the same time, there is nothing wrong—in fact, there’s everything right about being a person of conviction, based upon the Bible, and doing it in a loving way.
Bob: Okay, you obviously did not talk fast enough. Is there one more you want to try to tackle before we’re done?
Dennis: Yes, it’s the question of sinning, sexually. And so—
Bob: Hang on. Let me—let me first tell listeners how they can get a copy of the book; okay?
Bob: And then, we’ll come back and let these ladies address that subject and how you’d have the conversation with a child. And by the way, that question is addressed in Chapter 7 of the book—“Why and How Do Some People Sin, Sexually?” So, we’re going to talk about that, here, in just a minute.
The book we’re talking about is called Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions: Helping Them Understand Loss, Sin, Tragedies, and Other Hard Topics. We’ve got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You can order a copy of this book from us, online. Again, the website, FamilyLifeToday.com—or if you’d prefer to call to place your order, the toll-free number is:
1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
Dennis: Well, we have been talking with Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter, Jessica Thompson, around answering your kids’ toughest questions. I’m going to ask you, Elyse, if Jessica ever threw a hardball at you and asked you if you were sexually-immoral prior to getting married to Daddy? Did she ever ask you that question?
Jessica: I don’t think, as a child; but I think that, as I’ve gotten older, we’ve had conversations about it.
Elyse: Yes; yes. Again, what we want to do is set up a culture of openness about our own weakness. I was married and divorced before I became a Christian. I lived a life that was utterly debauched—I’ve been very open about that.
Certainly, even though Phil and I were in Bible college together—that didn’t mean we didn’t sin, sexually. Now, having said that—I want to be very open—I want to have a culture, with my kids, to say: “I’m not different than you. Yes, I love Jesus. Are there things in my life that I deeply regret? Yes.”
Dennis: Okay, I’m going to stop you.
Dennis: I’m going to turn to Jessica because there are moms and dads, right now—they are going, “No—
Bob: “…not going to give that answer.”
Dennis: —“not going to give that answer, even when they’re—
Bob: I’m going to say: “Look!—Halley’s Comet”—[Laughter]—completely different—
Jessica: “A giraffe!”
Bob: Yes. [Laughter]
Dennis: Jessica, when you’re mom shared that with you, did that diminish her value, as a mother and as a mentor—
—someone who was—
Bob: Did your respect for her go down?
Jessica: No, it goes up. It goes up, for sure, because then I can see and understand that she’s just like me—that Jesus Christ is a friend of sinners.
Jessica: So, it’s not about Jesus Christ is the friend of the righteous—who was pure their entire lives and always did it just right—there’s not a verse that says that.
Dennis: There are a lot of people who think this broadcast is promoting that.
Dennis: Here is the thing—if that was who our listeners were or the hosts were—there would be neither. [Laughter]
Jessica: That’s correct.
Bob: Thirty-minutes of silence every day.
Elyse: “This silence is brought to by Pharisees International.” [Laughter]
Dennis: On this side of the gates, we’re all broken.
Dennis: We’re all sinners.
Dennis: So, just want to clarify that to the pious listener, who is going: “Well, you’re just—you guys are just wretches. That’s all there is to it.”
Jessica: And then, I would say, “Yes, I am.”
Dennis: “I am too.”
Jessica: If I can somehow control it outwardly, I can’t control it inwardly—
—which is why Jesus Christ had to come and die for my sins. So, when I hear her confess that, sexually, she was broken—that, sexually, she had problems—then, I can think to myself: “Look at what He’s done with her life. Look at how He’s redeemed that.”
Dennis: How many books have you written, Elyse?
Dennis: So, you’ve been helping people, as a redeemed person.
Elyse: Yes, by God’s grace. See, the wonderful thing is the message is not: “Be like me. I’m perfect.” The message is: “Jesus works through broken people, and He can work through you too.”
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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