This week I was in an online discussion (I’m finally learning how to use Google+) and the topic of passing our faith to our children came up. I am experienced in this area, but am by no means an authority.
When we look back on the raising of our daughters, we are amazed that they turned into such wonderful women! Rather than consider ourselves to be experts at child raising, I’m thankful that we have come to realize our “success” had way more to do with GOD’s grace than our expert parenting!
We have also had the advantage of being able to watch many other families raise their children. We have the privilege of hearing their stories a little more behind the scenes than the average church goer.
We have heard of the struggles that don’t always get passed on to others. So with some of that in mind, I’d like to pass on some of the things we did right. . .even if it was only in seed form. Along with that I would like to pass on some resources I have come across, mostly since our children have been raised! Something tells me this might go for more than one post. It’s a very big topic!
First of all, I want to go back to Deuteronomy for a Biblical basis for passing the torch of our faith to our children. I could easily go back much further, but this passage is one of the clearest.
“Hear, O Israel:
The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your might.
And these words that I command you today
shall be on your heart.
You shall teach them diligently to your children,
and shall talk of them when you sit in your house,
and when you walk by the way,
and when you lie down,
and when you rise.
This passage includes the Shema (from “Hear” to “might”), a Jewish prayer. This is a summary of the ten commandments! The Lord our GOD is one, love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind (1-4). Love your neighbor as yourself (5-10). Often, it is prayed at least once a day in a Jewish home, sometimes twice.
Just as we are unable to keep these “simple” 10 commandments, we will not be able to fully pass on our faith to our children either. No matter how diligent we try to be, we won’t be able to do it. In fact, our intensity may produce something we don’t intend.
- That’s why we have the community of believers called the Church.
- That’s why we have tangible sacraments such as the Lord’s Supper and Baptism to reinforce Biblical truth that involves our senses.
- We need people of different ages. We need to have those who are ahead of us in the parenting process to help us understand that perfection isn’t possible. That we need to trust the grace of GOD for parenting our children well just as we must trust Him for our salvation. . .because we can’t do it alone. It is an impossible job.
- We need to go to Jesus when we sin and receive cleansing as well as go to our children to be reconciled when we lose it or speak harshly to them…or worse.
That is not a reason to feel defeated or to give up, but rather, to trust in GOD’s grace to provide what is needed just as He did in providing a Redeemer to fulfill the perfect obedience of the 10 commandments in Christ Jesus!
Learn the theology of your redemption so you can put it into simple words for your children
As we understand the truth of what He did on the cross and in rising from the grave, we will appreciate. . .and not in a guilt-ridden way, our redemption. It is a gift, free and undeserved! No amount of high performing after we believe will make us “earn” favor with GOD and have Him say, “Yes, this is why I chose you.” Why?
Because anything you do in trying to earn favor with Him makes you a slave, pure and simple!
It is not the difference between being a slug or a slave. It is the difference between being a loved, adopted child in the family of GOD with all the privileges of heredity except the genes. It is a lot like being the difference between the foster child who is trying to earn love from the family so they will adopt him vs. the child who is adopted and part of the family with all the privileges that entails.
Or the difference between a slave and the adopted child. One works and works and never feels part of the family. The other one has done nothing to merit her position, but was chosen to be part of the family and is an heir of all their resources.
That child no longer has to prove anything. That child is free to be the person GOD made him to be. That child is free to be open and vulnerable with the family because she is part of the family.
As we teach our children what it means to be part of GOD’s family, what it means to “ask Jesus into their hearts” (which is a term that can be extremely confusing, frankly).
What does it mean that Jesus died for them? What is the difference between the meaning of His death on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for them and the meaning of His resurrection other than it was a very happy time?
At this time of the year, it is important for us to know answers to those questions no matter how young our kids are because we need to answer their “simple” questions from that vantage point.
We are often more aware of the meaning of Christ’s death, but what about the Resurrection?
What does that mean for us?
Simply put, the resurrection was the seal that showed that Christ’s death was valid. It accomplished what He said it did. If Christ was only a perfect sacrifice for sin but couldn’t survive His death, then what good would his death be. For all we knew, He would have just been a martyr. A good one, but a martyr just the same. (cf. I Corinthians 15)
This time it was different. This time He came back to life! He had predicted it and it happened the way he said. . .even though his disciples had forgotten all about His predictions!
Grounding our children in the deep truth of what redemption means, not just so they will be “saved” and have fire insurance, but so they will have a deep assurance of where they stand with Christ during the times when they sin. . .deeply! This is the foundation of what we want to pass on to our children.
Where do we find help to teach our children well?
It involves a lot of teaching of course. Preferably from more than just us. Preferably it will come from a community of believers in our local church. Then we can reinforce what they are helping us teach. It doesn’t absolve us of having to learn, of course, but it helps us if we don’t feel we know much. GOD put us in a community of believers for a reason. We don’t know everything.
Reinforcing includes asking lots of open-ended questions in terms of application when things happen in the home. It also includes questions when issues come up over what to do in certain situations at school, work in the neighborhood, struggles in relationships of all types.
It will also come in modeling. What does it look like to be a Christian? What does a Christian family look like, even one that doesn’t look like the norm? How do we find surrogate fathers/moms for our kids within the body of Christ to teach them what a godly man/woman looks like when we are a single parent?
And most of all, how do we reach our children’s hearts, the place where real change actually takes place? To get there, it will look a bit different with the compliant child than with the child who pushes every limit!
We’ll explore some of these questions in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.