Yesterday I wrote about the confusing “world of faiths” that has developed in Western countries over the last few generations. It is this faith supermarket that our children enter. I didn’t even mention celebrities and Scientology, or the crazy “God will make you rich” fringe of the Christian church – attempts to justify consumption and not feel bad about it. Also I didn’t mention the impact of the marginalisation of the Bible in many churches and the resulting liberalism and watering down of the gospel.
So how do we guide our children? One stream of parents I come across say that we shouldn’t guide our children. “Let them make up their own minds in their own good time. If Christianity is the best faith or the most suitable faith for them they will find it in time. We have an open family where all things are discussed and in time they will chose for themselves. After all, what we believe may not be the best thing for them.” A very open approach.
There are two things I want to say about this:
1. It is not an approach we would use in other areas of life. “Children will discover for themselves the need to brush their teeth, and wash their hands after having been to the toilet. If they wish to follow our example they can, if they don’t, that is their own choice.” We would call that neglect. The result would be rotten teeth and hepatitis Anyone who said this would be considered dim. “When the child decides that school is for them, then they will go to school or be educated.” We can imagine a host of other situations like this. Why then do we do this with faith? I believe the answer is simple. We have consigned it to the less important areas of life. Faith is personal, individual and not part of the mainstream of life. It is not worth the parental investment required. We will encourage sport and music, but not faith.
2. My second point is that this approach is the antithesis of what Scripture commands.
Teach your children at every opportunity (Deut 6), train your child (Prov.22:6), do not hinder them from entering the Kingdom (Matt 18). God’s approach, the Bible’s approach is that children are precious and so need to be nurtured in eternal truths – the character of God, the nature of salvation and their place in His Kingdom, from an early age. This takes intention and time, effort and passion, faith and family. Scripture suggests that nurturing children is one of the most important, if not the most important, calling a parent has. There is no place for a laissez faire attitude.
We guard them from live power points, suspicious people and moving cars, so why don’t we protect their eternal souls from the clutches of the evil one?
Next I want to look at the opposite approach: Blinkering the child from other faiths.
I think people tend to take this approach because they themselves do not want to be told what they ‘should’ believe. They recognize the hypocrisy if they then impose any way of thinking on their children and so they opt out. They contribute to the ruin of another generation because of their own stubbornness and insistence that no one, no thing, no god, should tell them what to do or believe.