It’s not an easy task to raise kids in the Christian faith. The world seems determined to undermine the principles of the Gospel. In schools, in entertainment, in culture—our kids confront messages that contradict what they're learning at home and in church, whether it's in beliefs about life and its origins, morality, the design of the family or lifestyle choices. Our Enemy has a clear objective: to erase truth from our kids' minds and pull them away from the path God has for their lives.
How can we better equip our kids to have a thriving faith in today's world? I believe we must help our children develop a deeper understanding of the core principles of Christianity. Consider the example of the Secret Service and its charge to protect our nation's currency system from forgery. As agents are trained, they examine genuine currency to a degree that they become so intimately familiar with the authentic item that they can immediately spot a fake. In the same way, if the core truths of Christianity are deeply sown within the hearts and minds of our kids, they'll be better able to recognize false messages when they see them.
What's more, these core truths help our kids understand the culture they live in. The Gospel is not so much in conflict with this world as it is made precisely for this world. C.S. Lewis famously put it this way: "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."
God’s Word is the best place to begin exploring the core truths of the faith. The Bible is not a collection of unconnected stories, but rather one grand story of God’s design and pursuit of humanity. Help your kids see the big picture winding throughout all the pages of Scripture:
The design. When it comes to the integrity of God's Word, the beginning is where the world's assault often begins. Philosophical materialism and Darwinian beliefs are now deeply embedded in our culture, effectively wiping the role of God from the history of humanity. But God's story starts with an important truth: He made our world and everything in it. He designed us. Celebrate the reality of that design with your kids. Visit zoos and aquariums and marvel at the intricacy and power of the creation. Study snowflakes and colorful rocks and the other fingerprints of our Maker that we encounter daily. I often encourage parents to grow plants with their children. This can be a valuable way to give your kids a hands-on look at the mechanics of God's design.
As your kids grow older, let God's design and His plan for our lives be a central theme when discussing other topics, whether it be the entertainment they consume, the friends they keep or the lifestyle choices they make. In everything, acknowledge the core truth that we are the beloved creation of the King of the universe—and that He has a design for our lives.
The problem. From the very beginning, God had a plan for people's lives, but they chose to live differently. The notion that man is a fallen, sinful creature has become an unpopular belief these days. Tolerance is regarded as the better virtue, which usually means approval of any lifestyle or moral choice. But as we raise our kids, they cannot fully understand the Gospel unless they also understand the fall of humanity. If we discredit the fall of man . . . well, what need is there for any help?
From early on, you'll have plenty of opportunities to help your kids understand that they are part of the fallen race. Those times of disobedience and selfishness and dishonesty are teachable moments. But so are the times when you, as the parent, drop the ball. Own your mistakes, helping your kids see that you recognize your own fallen nature as well. Additionally, we must help our kids understand that all sin separates us from God—whether those sins be little or large, ours or theirs. All humans are fallen people separated from God. Every one of us needs restoration.
The solution. Yes, sin happened, but God sent His Son to be the Savior, to take the punishment for our sins. Childhood presents so many opportunities for our kids to experience a tiny window into this grace. I sometimes tell kids to imagine they've broken a neighbor's window with a baseball, with the cost of replacement being $500. They quickly recognize, of course, that they can't pay that bill, but I ask them to picture their parent giving the money to the neighbor, and to imagine the relief they would feel when the price was paid on their behalf. Look for real-world opportunities (hopefully less costly ones) to give your kids a glimpse of God's grace.
I once heard a story about a native who said to a missionary, “You built a bridge of love between my heart and yours, and Jesus walked over.” Of course, Jesus himself was the ultimate bridge builder. When He died on the Cross, He made it possible for mankind to cross the impassable, sin-filled gulf that separates us from God. But as your kids interact with nonbelievers, tell them that God has called us to be bridge builders as well. If we confront non-Christians in a harsh, judgmental manner, it will only set the bridge ablaze. Instead, we must instead build bridges by loving others and seeing them as God sees them—lovingly designed and in need of God's redemption. Just like us.
This article appeared in the March/April 2013 issue of Thriving Family magazine. Copyright © 2013 by Alex McFarland. ThrivingFamily.com.