Since its release in 1984 with the comic book “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” every generation has had Ninja Turtles in some fashion, be it comics, cartoons, video games, and movies. Each generation of Ninja Turtles seems to have its own flair and style while maintaining the basic structure of four mutated turtles who are teenagers, ninjas, and simply trying to survive. In the 2023 Teenage Mutant Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, things are a little different. We’re not just looking at one set of mutated teenagers but two sets of mutated teenagers. What makes these two groups of teenagers distinct is the fact that a loving father raised one group, whereas the other group did not have a loving parent necessarily there with them. What is this difference? How does it play a part in our day-to-day lives? Let’s talk about that today on Geek Devotions.  

What was interesting to me about it was the relationship between Master Splinter and the Turtles and then a second group of mutants who didn’t necessarily have someone in their lives to lead them like Splinter. In the film, the Turtles meet a group of other mutants created by Baxter Stockman who were raised in the sewer on their own and led by the main mutant Superfly. Now on the surface, they both want the same thing. They want to be accepted. They want to live freely in the world. But there’s a difference in the philosophy.

On the turtles’ side, Splinter taught them to stay underground and just to kind of chill. But at the same time, he taught them some morals. How to be good people…er… turtles…er…. Mutants?

On the flip side, this other group of mutants who Superfly raised were raised in an environment of anger and frustration. There was no real love. There was no one there to guide them and direct them appropriately. And so their mindset was, “Well, just wipe out the humans and make more mutants.” Towards the end of the film, there’s a significant conflict and some discussion amongst this other group of mutants. And one of them said something very specific when they were in the process of changing their mindset. That simple phrase is this.

We didn’t know another way.

We live in a time when Gen Z, millennials, and alphas are being talked about, not necessarily in a good way. In the same breath, they are told they need to be better while being told how useless they are. They’re told they’re stupid, worthless, and have no value. As this happens, they start to group up and find people who will “love and accept” them. The problem is that within society, within some of these groups, they find themselves in places where it’s not a good thing. It’s not a positive thing, but because nobody can speak positively to them and have pushed them to the side, they don’t know another way.

There’s a proverb that says:

Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6 (English Standard Version | ESV)

This is a great proverb. Many people have this quoted and think about it often when talking about being a parent and all sorts of stuff, but they forget an essential aspect of training a child in the way they should go. This proverb is not just simply a proverb of, “Hey, this is good stuff that takes place.” This is also a warning. If we train up children in the next generation in a fashion that teaches them that they have no value, that they have no place, no worth, and are worthless, that they have nothing to offer, then when they are old, they’re not going to depart from that mindset. They’re going to continue to think that. They will continue to lean back and think they have nothing to offer the world, are worthless, and see things in a terrible mindset.

This, in turn, feeds the angst, that feeds the anger, that feeds things that become self-defeating. Then one day, Gen Z, Gen Alpha, when they become adults and are confronted with a better way, there will be those who look at you honestly and say, “We didn’t know there was another way.”

Our duty is to speak to the younger generation and teach them a better way to help them live things out in a different mindset. It isn’t easy. Don’t get me wrong, especially the older they get. There are people who are in their late teens or early 20s that have cemented a mindset that says that they have no value to anybody and that they should do whatever they want because it feels good without caring about the individuals around them. To be honest, that’s how they were taught and what’s been presented before them. We have a generation of individuals that conversation about a two-parent household is so foreign to them, so alien, that it’s strange when they see that taking place.

The reality is that these kids need people to come into their lives to be somebody who can speak life and hope, that can encourage them, that can say that they have a place in this world, that they have value, that they’re loved, that they’re cared for. If they don’t hear it from those who are stable, who are mature, from the people who are grounded in the faith of Jesus Christ, then what they’re going to do is they’re going to get it from the world. When they get it from the world, things start to degrade because the world has its own view of love and acceptance, and it is not the biblical foundation that we, as Christians, live in. The problem is that we have a generation of adults who have forgotten the foundation of Christian love. They’ve forgotten what showing individuals hope, grace and peace means.

This is what the kids need. This is what young people need.

What can Adults do?

Young people need adults, yes, to bring correction, to guide them in right and wrong, but to show them grace. They need adults to show them love, speak life to them, and show them a better way.

One of the things I loved about Master Splinter in this movie was that he had a revelation that while he was doing a lot of things right, there were some things he was doing wrong. There are adults out there who are doing some good stuff, but there are certain things that maybe aren’t quite right. They’re not doing it entirely to the matter that they need to. What will bring success and change the world is if we, as adults humble ourselves, recognize where we’ve gone wrong, and apologize. And then endeavor to do better and teach them.

To the younger generation:

I need you to understand a few things. I’m talking about adults giving you grace, but I’m also asking you to give us adults grace. I’m asking you to allow us to do things differently, see things differently, understand you, and let you speak. We love you. We care about you. There is a genuine plan and purpose for your life. God has something very specific and special for you. Don’t let the world corrupt what’s inside of you.

You’ve been taught some great things, but at the same time, there have been some things that you’ve been taught, and you don’t know another way. I’m here to tell you that there is a better way. Jesus Christ has made a way for you. If you’ll lean into that truth, lean into God, and lean into what the scriptures have to say in an appropriate contextual way, you will find a better way. Please forgive the adults who have done things wrong and said things terribly. Have grace for those who have said “the right thing” but done it the wrong way.  

The Challenge  

Adults, we have to do better. We have a generation that needs to be equipped. We have a generation that needs hope. They need to know they’re loved and cared for because they don’t know better. Our challenge for the week is to examine ourselves, see where we’ve done some good things, and see where we faltered and do better. Be intentional about reaching out to young people. For some of you, you are parents, look at your children and ask yourself, how can I raise them to do the right thing, to be the right thing? Be aware that it’s not just lip service. You have to do the right thing too.  

Some of you are parents in a split home situation, and a rift has already occurred. That’s a challenge. I’m not here to debate what’s happening in that situation, but I am telling you there’s an opportunity for you to do the right thing by your children, speak life, and teach them a better way. Some of you, you don’t have kids, but you live in a world with people around you and young people around you. There are 20-year-olds and teenagers and children at your workplaces, schools, community centers, and churches, and they need you to step in and encourage them, inspire them, and teach them a better way.