5 Proverbs for Life from Boy Meets World

If you grew up in the 90’s then you know the TV show Boy Meets World. It was a huge show back then and one of my wife and mine’s favorites growing up. We loved it so much that recently we decided to rent (via Netflix) the whole series and watch it through again (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it). We have made it to season five!

The show is centered around Cory Matthews (played by Ben Savage, little brother of Fred Savage who is the kid in The Princess Brideso you know Ben is legit), a quirky, kind, and somewhat neurotic teenager. His life-long friend, Shawn Hunter, and life-long girlfriend, Topanga Lawrence, come alongside Cory as they travel through middle school, high school, and eventually college together.

The show brought in millions of viewers for seven seasons because it accurately depicted the trials (and ridiculousness) of growing up as a teenager.

In my opinion, one of the greatest things about BMW was the life lessons that they always drew out of everyday experiences and conflicts. Most of the time the lessons were handed down by the venerable Mr. Feeny, the trio’s everlasting school teacher and neighbor to Cory—I definitely feel like Mr. Feeny helped raise me as a child. Other times Cory, Shawn, and Topanga figure out the truths for life on their own.

Usually, the lessons were pretty standard Disney stock such as, work hard and you can achieve your goals. But as my wife and I were watching the show Monday night, we realized that BMW also taught downright biblical truths!

So I thought I would pull five biblical life lessons, proverbs if you will, from the few episodes we watched that night.

1. Respect your parents

In one episode, both Cory and Eric (Cory’s older, somewhat crazy, brother) get jealous of each other’s relationship with their father. This causes both of them, at different times, to shove their father down to the ground. As soon as it happens, both are ashamed and know they have done wrong. They know that you just don’t do that because sons are called to respect and honor their parents even if they don’t agree. Cory even makes the remark that he’ll probably be stoned for shoving his dad. After coming clean and apologizing, Cory and Eric are able to end up having a more full relationship with their father.

It’s pretty popular in media today to depict parents, especially fathers, as idiots who do not need to be taken seriously. The message to kids is: your parents are clueless so it is your job to clue them in, or just defy them outright. But Cory and Eric’s parents are good people and good parents. They are portrayed as respectable people because parents are to be respected.

Proverbs reflects this notion, stating, “He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother is a son who brings shame and reproach” (19:26). It also has strong warnings for those who have strong words for their parents, “If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness” (20:20). I’m not sure what that whole metaphor means, but it sounds intense.

Better to respect those God has placed in authority over you.

2. The foundation for love is not lust but friendship and commitment

This lesson was actually one of the most surprising to see taught on television (and I wasn’t watching Fireproof). Shawn is known as a lady’s man around the high school but he is also known by the girls as a jerk. He tells girls what they want to hear, that he loves them and never will leave them, then he uses them for his own pleasure and dumps them the next day.

This is Shawn’s mode of operation until he meets Angela, a girl he truly wants to cultivate a relationship with. But on Shawn and Angela’s first Valentine’s Day together, Shawn’s past come back to haunt him—in the form of three psycho ex-girlfriends who kidnap him and lock him in a boathouse.

Hell hath no fury.

Through the whole ordeal, Shawn realizes how fleeting and shallow a relationship purely based on make-out sessions is. If you say you love someone, but don’t really know them at all (besides their body), how can you back up that claim? Shawn and Angela decide to take a few steps back in their relationship to first build a friendship, get to know each other, and save saying, “I love you,” for when it actually is backed up by commitment and time.

It really is easy to confuse love and lust. The emotions and the hormones are raging and all you can think about is that person. They live in your mind, day and night. This must be love, right?

Song of Solomon shows that your beloved must also be your friend too (5:16). It also warns not to rush into love before the time is right (2:7).

If your relationship and ultimately marriage is based solely on physical attraction, what happens when your sexy spouse seasons into a saggy spouse? You will not have a marriage anymore, you will have an 80 year-old roommate. When the looks have all gone away, a friendship will always remain.

3. A good friend will tell you when you’ve done wrong

Although Cory tends to walk the straight and narrow, there is one episode where he cheats on his girlfriend, Topanga, with a girl at a ski resort. They talk all night and end up kissing. To make matters worse, Cory then lies about it to Topanga.

Normally Shawn is the morally compromised character of the show, but to his credit he calls Cory out on his lies and his unfaithfulness; and Shawn does it with gusto. Shawn even, although in a humorous way, exhorts Cory to “Read the Bible!” Yes, Shawn and Cory are the best of friends, but Shawn cares enough for Cory to get in his face and let him know he is doing is wrong.

Most of today’s society would say: follow your heart; what is true for you is true for you; don’t judge other people’s choices. Instead of proclaiming truth and calling sin sin, friends are expected to sit back and be the biggest cheerleaders while the people they care about are driving their lives off a cliff in flaming glory.

Even a 90’s sitcom and the biggest womanizer (outside of Eric) on the show knows that following your heart is not always the correct thing to do. There is right and there is wrong, and a friend needs to love enough to point out the difference.

Solomon says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6). It’s the people that never confront you who you should worry about.

4. When you play with fire, you will be burned

Same episode as the previous point but different lesson. Cory’s fall from grace did not happen suddenly, it occurred with one wrong decision after another.

First it was long gazes, then flirting, then staying up all night talking, then pretending to be injured so he could spend time with her and not Topanga, then lying to Topanga, and then finally the kiss and subsequent lies to cover that up. Shawn, the ever faithful friend, warns Cory multiple times that he is “too close to the fire” but Cory does not take heed and eventually he does get burned. A couple episodes later, he loses both Topanga and the other girl.

In reference to adultery and sexual sin, Proverbs says, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” (6:27-28). The obvious answer is no. You play with fire and you will be burned.

In spite of common sense, people always like to test this theory out. They first inch closer to the fire. They feel its warmth. They extend their hands out. But they do not stop there. They get closer and closer until they are in the thick of it and by the time they realize it, it is too late. Their pants are on fire.

5. Husbands and boyfriends, listen to your woman

My wife probably appreciated this episode the best. In a pretty comedic setup, somehow every main male character on the show ends up angering the woman he cares about because he simply did not listen to them. Instead, they stubbornly hold to their ideas and opinions and every guy ends up in the doghouse.

The men hold a conference to try and figure out what went wrong. They finally come to the conclusion that guys are idiots—not only that, but they are big idiots. Specifically, they are idiots because they want to make their woman happy but are unwilling to listen to them to find out how to do that. They eventually reconcile with their woman by a joint dance number to “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer.

Peter exhorts his male readers to “live with your wives in an understanding way” (1 Peter 3:7). This means to be gentle and listen. You must close your mouth and open up your ears. I am speaking from experience here—what you think you heard and what actually was said may not always be the same thing, so listen carefully. The one who is too quick to speak is a fool instead (Proverbs 29:20).

Let’s take a page out of Boy Meets World as we seek to live for Christ in the real world.

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Should Churches Encourage Singles to Use Contraceptives?

 

Consider the numbers. According to the National Association of Evangelical’s Generation Forum, 4 out of 5 Christians (18-29 years old) have had sex. 64% of those young Christians had sex within the last year. 30% of unmarried Christians are involved in an unintended pregnancy. And about 1 out of 3 of those unmarried Christian pregnancies end in abortion.

Obviously something needs to be done. Something needs to change.

Jenell Paris, writing in Christianity Today, believes that a solution is to have churches educate singles about contraceptives because “abstinence absolutism” hasn’t quite been cutting it (she was responding to this article). It’s not that Paris believes it is kosher to have premarital sex, but since singles are still sleeping around and getting pregnant, she thinks churches should “take a both-and approach to abortion reduction: both uphold premarital chastity as the biblical ideal, and encourage and educate unmarried singles about the effective use of contraception. Encouraging, not pushing. Educating, not affirming.” It’s a compromise, she admits, but a “sacred one”—one that will eventually save lives.

Will this work? Will encouraging the use of contraceptives actually curb unintended pregnancies, abortions, and hopefully along the way, premarital sex? Possibly. Maybe. Probably not.

The problem with Paris’ view is that she sees this issue as either/or. Either we teach abstinence only to our singles (hoping the whole way that the shame and guilt of defilement before the church will scare them into keeping their pants on) or we teach them that if they happen to have sex then at least use protection (better to fall into the littler sin of premarital sex than to commit a larger one via abortion). The problem with this understanding is that Paris reveals that she does not know what actually changes people.

I AM MY OWN DISEASE

Boundaries, fear of shame, guilt, and education cannot keep a person from having sex or from wanting sex. Those aren’t solutions. They are bandaids trying to cure a tumor. The problem is not sex but sin. Sex is a symptom of the diseased human heart and society’s conspiratorial rebellion against God.

Paris’ “sacred compromise” lessens the weight of sexual sin. It is less about obeying a holy God and more about being chaste and more importantly, being un-pregnant. There is no discussion of the heart. There is no acknowledgment that it was sin that put Jesus on the cross.

When you lessen the weight of sin, you devalue the horror of what Christ endured on the cross. When you devalue the cross, you begin to lose reasons to live for Him, to seek His face, to love Him above all things, and to find Him more pleasurable and worthy than even sexual pleasure itself.

Let us never lessen the weight of sin. Sin is serious. My sin and yours. God hates sin. It put the Son of God on the cross.

Part of moving forward from the sexual sin epidemic is recognizing that the problem is not what I do but what is in my heart. Sin.

THE GOOD NEWS

The problem of premarital sex in the church is found in the heart. Only the Gospel can change a person’s heart and we need a new one desperately.

In her article, Paris gives a passing nod to the Gospel—but only in part. She writes, “After all, ‘just saying no’ to premarital sex, important as it is, is not the heart of the gospel. The heart of the matter is saying yes to God. Maybe we often rely on shame and fear because it’s hard to believe that people would say no to something as tantalizing as sexual pleasure if they didn’t stand to lose something extremely valuable such as honor, the affection of family and church, or even eternal life.

I understand what Paris is trying to get at here, but “saying yes to God” is not the heart of the Gospel. The Gospel is, in Paul’s words, Christ dying on behalf of our sins, according to the Scriptures, and being raised again so we may have life (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). When we place our faith—our trust—in this message, we become “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We gain a new heart, a new mind, new desires, new values, new goals, a new Master.

This is what people need to hear to change. If too many Christians are having premarital sex and having abortions it is because they are not getting enough of the Gospel. It is the same if they are committing adultery, gossiping, being divisive, stealing, or addicted to pornography. They need more Gospel. This may seem like an impractical solution, but it is in the Gospel that God has placed His divine power to save and change (Romans 1:16). We should not over look that.

THE HOSPITAL

The solution to keep people from committing “bigger sins” is not to make it safer or more normal to commit “smaller sins” (although the Paul would argue that sexual sin is not a small sin; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20). Nor is the solution accountability groups, computer software, kissing dating goodbye, mission statements, or purity rings. Those things can all help and are sometimes the first step, but the solution is the Gospel. And by God’s grace, through Gospel-focused discipleship, Gospel-driven evangelism, and Gospel-saturated preaching, we will see less and less sexual promiscuity in the church.

Will there still be sin in the church, even one surrounded by the Gospel? Yes. Where there are humans there will always be sin. It follows us like stink on a hog. But hopefully, when people sin the church can be the first place they run to instead of the last, as Paris reports. The church is called to be a hospital for sinners, to bind up the broken and the hurting.

I know where Paris is coming from. I have seen the church self-righteously shun those it should be embracing with gracious tears. But I have also seen it done correctly. I have seen the lost get found. I have seen single mothers get accepted into the family. I have seen the unmarried repent of their sexual sin and save themselves for their future spouse. I have seen the dirty and the defiled be picked up and washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. I have seen it because it happened to me, along with so many others.

And it is all done through the powerful Gospel and the wonderful cross.

For further reading, see Trevin Wax’s article “Both Chastity and Contraception: A Scandalous Capitulation

Photo Credit: “Church/08/08/08” by lovstromp through CC 3.0