Guardrails (I)


For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 1 Corinthians 5:10

When you go into a restaurant and have finished your meal, you often motion to your server that you want the check.  In French, it’s called “l’addition” and in German “rechnung”.  In English, you just ask for the bill.

When you get the bill, you usually check to see that you’ve been charged correctly.  Why do you check the bill? Well, it’s because you want to be sure that it is a correct accounting of your meal before you pay. If it is accurate, you can then pay the bill.

In life, we have a final accounting.  It’s on the last day, when we stand before God with Christ at our side as our advocate. He looks at our life just as we review our restaurant bill – to see if what we’ve accomplished in life – good or bad – will be deserving of praise.  That’s the ultimate accountability. Fortunately, God has erased the bad from our record by sending His son to the cross to die for our sins.

Still, we face an accounting for our actions and deeds on earth as detailed in scripture, although we don’t often act like it, myself included. We often get off the path and slip into the weeds – in many ways and every day.  An angry retort or giving in to a temptation that has plagued you. We often aren’t serious about our sins, and think God will just excuse them at the end.

That would be a mistake and a misreading of scripture. It’s what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace” where we recognize that we are under grace and forgiven, so we can just go on living our lives as if sinning no longer matters.

Why did I use the word “Guardrails” and the above picture?  By guardrails, I am referring to those metal safety devices that you see on highways what keeps your car on the road in case of an accident.  Without them, your car may go over the side.

I have found that my conduct in life has been a function of several different guardrails over time.  I will talk about some of them that helped me and others in this and subsequent posts.  I have asked the question of others: “What has kept you on track in your life?”  Essentially, what “guardrails” in your life kept you from going astray.

One set of guard rails are the innate set of values that tells you what is wrong and what is right. Those values keep you on the road so you don’t have a wreck. The next generation, in this post-Christian age, do not have that innate sense of right or wrong which most of us grew up with in a Christian culture. Put another way, they don’t have a strong set of values that act as guardrails.

They have left the biblical moorings of the prior generation, so moral absolutes don’t apply any more. It’s as if someone has removed the guard rails of morality in their lives.  Their conduct is likely to be more dictated by peers than by any sense of right or wrong.  That’s a dangerous and slippery slope, particularly for a generation which has extended adolescence into their late 20’s or early 30’s.

Their attitudes about drugs, sexuality (and homosexuality,) are not based on any biblical understanding.  Ditto for abortion. Their attitudes are framed by their culture. Some have called this generation the “hook-up” generation. Studies and research is clear on this topic. They have lost the values of the prior generation which acted as a set of guard rails to guide them.

I met a man who told me that he knows a businessman in eastern North Carolina who is looking for employees who will start at $50,000 a year salary, but they cannot find ones that can pass the drug tests.  Almost all have used drugs. Out of desperation, he now hires employees that have tested positive for drug use but otherwise appear promising, and then sends them to a rehab to get them to clean up before he puts them to work.

This is one example of behavior based on peer attitudes without any concern for consequences. Another is the example of babies born out-of-wedlock which now represents 40% of all births in the US today. In the black community, it soars to 73%, and many women have babies by more than one father.  It’s very commonplace, and is now baked into their culture so that it will take years to reverse.

In many cases, the father is totally out of the picture when it comes to raising a child.  In 2014, Pew did a study and only 62% of children under 18 live in a household with a father and a mother as parents.  This is a historic low.

The unwed mother loses, too – she often gets pregnant at a young age when she hasn’t completed her education, so that when she is the sole bread-winner in the family, she has insufficient skills or education to get a good paying job.  The studies bear this out.

Low economic circumstances are devastating in its long-term effect on the children. In a 2015 Pew study, lower-income families cause several limits to the maturity of the children. Sometimes, it is a limit on growing up in a safe environment, or even being exposed to enriching activities that more affluent parents take for granted.  Children from lower incomes don’t have access to positive after-school activities.

The child loses – they are left to be raised in a one parent household, and studies show that this is not a good environment.  Society loses, too, because many of these unwed mothers become dependent on welfare – handouts from the government – which is expensive and does nothing to address the real issues.

So, how does one navigate life to be sure that our choices and conduct is kept “between the guardrails.” Based on my experience, that there are things that helped me make proper choices.  The first of these is a well-developed set of values (See my post on Values).  Those imbedded values are the basis of many decisions.

The second one is fear of consequences.  I know this is a negative motivation, but most people I know would say the same thing.  We are called to be holy in scripture, but too often, it is the fear of consequences that rules the day.  I can’t say that I focus about standing before God on the last day when I make critical choices.  I am more motivated by what others who I respect would think of my conduct.

Two things are happening:  first, the next generation are not getting a balanced set of values exhibited by good role models.  Recent studies confirm that the traditional family with a mom and a dad leads to better outcomes of the children, which contradicts the liberal advocacy that single gender parents are just as good.

Secondly, they are not getting any discipline.  Parental discipline results in the fear of consequences for bad behavior. It is usually the father figure that is the disciplinarian in the family, and if he is not present, there is nothing to fill in the void.

They then look at the culture and their peers for the answers. Unfortunately, adolescents can’t differentiate what is a good path or a bad path, and if they don’t have any good role models or mentors around them, they are adrift.

The challenge here is enormous.  I really don’t know where to start because the trend of diverse families – either single parents, or same-sex parents – is a societal issue beyond my ability to reverse.  But I can reach out to someone in the next generation that might have a gap in their life in their upbringing and help them along the way.  It’s called mentoring, and anyone can do it.  Even you!

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: While you are not a parent to your mentee, you can provide him or her with a biblical role model that they may not have encountered before.  Just being there and listening to them is a valuable resource for their development. Y

FURTHER STUDY:  For the Pew research on parenting:

Pew Research on growing diversity of families:

Studies showing value of traditional family unit on outcomes of children:

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin and Passion sing “We Fall Down”:

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at

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