The Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for Sunday, February 23, 2020
Speaking to Our Children about Christ at Home
Our Lord Jesus Christ left us his followers a gigantic task of spreading knowledge of him. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV). This means we are to talk to people about Jesus. But we need not think of talking to strangers only. We can start with our children at home.
At the very least parents should talk to their children about Christ. Parents can think it is enough to take their children to church and other religious functions. So, they bring them to the church at every opportunity. But this is not enough. It is necessary for the parent to go out of his/her way and talk to the children about Christ. Look for teachable moments, such as when they ask you a question about God, or when something good has happened and the child is all pumped up with joy. Find a way to steer the conversation and bring it to talking about Christ. In your daily attitude and demeanor show the child that God is important to you, and that you live by his standards. Show your passion for him. The parent should live with the constant desire to show Christ to the children (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). The teacher in you should pounce on the slightest opportunity to show Jesus to the child in beautiful words and actions.
We all know how important it is to teach children to be good citizens of the world. We want them to learn to say excuse me; I am sorry; thank you. We teach them table manners, etc…. Together with that teaching, we need to deliberately talk about Christ to them in a natural and beautiful way. We sell him and his ways to them so that they buy them for themselves and want to follow him. If we don’t intentionally do this while the children are still little, if we simply continue doing our Christianity before them and sometimes perhaps not so well as far as they are concerned, we run the risk of losing them to the faith when they grow up. Perhaps they were baptized and confirmed, and perhaps even became acolytes and led the procession in church carrying the cross with priests walking behind them. But they might have a different story running in their head when they grow up. They were dragged to church to listen to unintelligible stuff and now that they “know better,” they go nowhere near a church. It is not that they know better, but that they didn’t know a thing. They didn’t become Christians. They were not given the opportunity to ask questions and have them answered and so understand what is going on, what the Christian faith is all about.
Of course, it is important to teach kids the right Christian message. Salvation must not be depicted as simply straightening outward behavior, and conforming to a certain moral paradigm as if once one succeeds in complying with the “required” outward standards, one has become a Christian. This was the Pharisaical way of teaching which Jesus went against with full force. The Jesus Way is not a system of good works nor an ethical set of rules to obey and rituals to practice. Its motivation and disposition are internal, bringing about a transformed character because of submitting to the lordship of Christ. This requires a continuous willful growing deeper in the knowledge of God. Christian disciplines help us to grow our friendship with Jesus.
I must mention that there’s really no way to ensure that our children will embrace Christ in their lives when they leave home to start out in life. Children who leave Christ are not a testament to the parents’ not having done a good job of training them in Christ. It could be true that the parents didn’t go about their spiritual training of the children with intentionality. But it can also be true that they did well, but the child still rebelled against what they told him/her. We can do all the right things and say all the right words. Still, it is the Holy Spirit that convicts a person and moves him/her to believe in Christ.
In a nutshell, what is the Christian message? The Christian message is simple. It is this:
- God created humanity.
- Humanity rebelled against God.
- God sacrificed his Son to be reconciled to humanity.
- Those who believe in God’s Son are reconciled to God and go to heaven.
- Those who reject him, remain alienated from God and go to hell.
Many spiritual gurus suggest having a family altar in the home, some space in the house where the family gathers to pray. It might be some corner of the living room or anywhere. That place should be visited at least once a day by the family to pray together. Children can act as ushers and take turns to arrange the place and bring Bibles and/or hymn books and other materials to be used at the prayer time. This way children get used to serving. A rota can even be made for them and posted at someplace where they can read it. And surely at no time should the parent ever attempt to exert pressure on the child to move ahead of himself to “accept” Christ. May the Spirit of the Lord guide us as we speak to our children about Christ.