Wisdom often leads to conflict, and it is spiritually neglectful not to explain to our children that if they align their lives with God’s will, they will be met with challenges.  If we don’t, we can be sure we’ll be raising a generation of what I call Second-Seed people—those who walk away from their faith when the going gets tough.

When we read Jesus’ parable of the sower (Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8), which describes why faith grows in some but not others, we hope we’ll only find our inner lives described in one key passage.  When we find our faithlessness laid bare on the page, we sometimes fail to understand the real reason: We simply don’t have the backbone to withstand the difficulties that come from being the oddballs God wants us to be.

Second-Seed people respond superficially to God’s Word. 

These are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy.  But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. (Mark 4:16-17 NRSV).

They lack the rugged virtue of fortitude. Why? Because their training makes them so eager to please others that they crumple under even mild criticism.  They were trained to be nice kids instead of good ones.

Such people may possess a saving knowledge of Jesus, but they do not follow Him closely. This is what’s caused by an anxious mindset born from spiritual neglect: It depletes people of their rootedness and brings fearfulness, though “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2Timothy 1:7). Passive, worried people are being shaped by someone other than God; they are being made into the image of their life experiences, starting in childhood.  We parents need to stop creating spiritual veal and give our kids the training they need—the harder but more rewarding endeavor of creating true spiritual warriors.

I see this, generally, in our teaching children about love. When we encourage them to be more loving, we usually encourage them to do nice things for others. We must also show them that love includes caring so much about someone that you confront him when he’s wrong and defend him when he’s under attack.

Fortunately, a growing cluster of writers are reconsidering our current portrayal of Jesus and Christian faith as a conflict-free existence, they are, as Mark Galli claims, “filling in the picture.”  Galli, managing editor of Christianity Today, is among the bright lights emancipating Jesus from well-meaning yet hazardous sermons, books, and songs that portray Him as history’s all-time Nicest Guy.

In Jesus Mean and Wild: The Unexpected Love of an Untamable God, Galli is quick to point out that he does not live up to the rugged ideals he finds in the life of Christ and in the admonishments of virtuous Christian behavior.

My family and friends tell me that I do indeed live out Jesus’ “mean and wild” love—courage, boldness, righteous anger, etc.—more than many people.  But I still feel that I am addicted to niceness, and that there are many instances when my courage to act in love fails me. So I’m looking to Jesus to help me grow in this area.

Galli wrote this powerful book to address a subculture in many churches that emphasizes the gentler virtues, which are great, but sometimes don’t address the tougher virtues like courage and boldness. This subculture puts out sermons where we hear that Jesus never got angry, never lost His cool, never said a mean thing and was always patient.  This isn’t what you find in the Gospels. I personally was stunned by His boldness and anger found in the Gospels, especially the Gospel of Mark.