How can I help my child be in the world but not afraid of the world?
In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus calls his followers the “light of the world.” Then he encourages them, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (v. 16). As Christian parents, we not only want our lights to shine, but we also want to help show our children how to let their lights shine. Sometimes, though, we want to hide our children from the world so that they aren’t exposed to worldly influences. So, how do we balance Jesus’ call with our instinct to protect our children?
“Be a light!”
It seems like the world is getting darker—and louder. Maybe it’s that, as my children get older and they are in the world more, my ears are more sensitive to the noise of this world. What is the world saying to them? How is it being said?
Chosen Gen Teen Ministry (www.chosengenteens.org) shares an activity where one person is “The Captain.” It runs much like Simon Says except that while the Captain is giving orders to the crew, music is playing. As the game goes on, the music gets louder and louder making it more difficult to hear the Captain. See where this is leading?
We know that our children have to be in the noise (world). In fact, Jesus says, “My prayer is NOT that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:15-17, emphasis added). We want to hear the Captain (God) loud and clear so we know truth.
The evil one is very crafty. He uses so many regular things, and often good things, to create noise. Stress, movies, relationships, books, family, video games, peers, conflict are just some examples of sources of noise.
It would be nice if we could keep all the worldly noise out of our children’s, and our, lives, but that just isn’t possible. As parents, we can be intentional with teaching them how to hear God’s voice. Reading Scripture, prayer, and solitude time with God are rhythms we do in our home that still us enough to quiet the noise and hear God’s voice over and through the noise.
Not only do we want to teach our children these things, we want to model them as well. It isn’t just our children who are in the world. We are too. We want to be prepared as much as they are, if not more so, to stand and be a light in this world. When as a family we hear God’s voice, we can be a light of his love in this world.
Whenever my children leave to go into the world, you will always hear me repeat my tagline, “Be a light!” I have found this to be a good reminder for our family to be in the world but not of the world. Light looks different. Light shines. Light attracts. Light warms. Light shows direction. Light reveals.
So the encouragement I give to my children I also pass on to you: “Be a light!”
Jenni Schubring and her husband, Tad, have four children.
“I’m shiny with bright scales, now give me a try. I swim up the river and jump toward the sky. Who am I? I’m a . . . SALMON!”
It’s one of my boys’ favorite pop-up books. Each page offers a short, rhyming riddle where they have to guess, “Who am I?” with each answer being a different Alaskan animal.
But as my 9- and 11-year-olds have outgrown pop-up books, the question becomes less of a game and more of a critical puzzle in life. “Who am I?” is something they ask more and more.
“Who am I? Am I a cool kid? the smart kid? the boy that girls will like? Am I an athlete? a musician? Am I . . . a loser? a dork? a kid that nobody likes? Am I really loved . . . by Mom and Dad? by God? Do I meet their expectations? Am I really forgiven?”
They don’t often voice these questions, especially since boys don’t usually talk about such deep subjects. But I know that they’re asking these questions because every kid does.
“How do we prepare our kids to be in the world and not of the world?” That’s a question every parent ought to consider. And I believe that our kids will be ready when they can answer the question, “Who am I?” with the right response: “I am a forgiven child of God who lives to show my thanks to him in all that I say and do.”
We all have the privilege of finding our identity in Christ. Instead of wondering, “Who am I?” we can trust in God’s answer: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9,10).
“Who am I? I am chosen by God. I belong to him. I’m special to him. He calls me holy. He gives me purpose. He defines who I am. I am a Christian. I am a little Christ. And though I may be considered a weirdo or a dork by others for following him, I don’t care. I care what other people think about me because I want to serve them. But I care far more about what God thinks of me. He is the God who loves me, who saved me, and that’s why I want to live my life for him.”
How do we prepare kids to be in the world, but not of the world? We keep telling them and ourselves where we find our true identity: in Christ.
Rob Guenther is a pastor in Kenai, Alaska. He and his wife, Becky, have four sons ages 11 and under.
Raising children to have compassion for this tainted world without undue fear and feeling love for God’s blemished people without prejudice is a monumental task. Scripture gives us guidelines, a dos & don’ts list for living in this world yet not being of the world.
It is this perilous journey that my husband and I saw as we raised our children. Or as my very wise Christian father said to me, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” We wanted to raise our children to function as children of God and lights in this world without falling prey to its sinful temptations.
Scripture makes it clear that God is to be first in our lives. This will most likely evidence itself in the priorities we model for our children. The frequency of God’s name and Word may range from mealtime prayers to regular devotions and Bible study. Connecting our children to God’s Word outside of the home is also a directive from Scripture. Studies show that what we do has a greater impact on children than what we say. Consequently, living our Christianity as parents, husbands, and wives becomes our children’s textbook. Our hunger for God’s Word and the application of its tenets are a powerful example.
In 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul tells us that he became all things to all people so that some might be saved. John wrote that we are not of the world (John 15:19). The balance of being approachable Christians and at the same time being different in a way that others know we are Christians is difficult in application. We open our arms and our ears to embrace and listen to those who are different but retain the one thing needful—Jesus. The Lord works his miracles, making believers of all kinds of people: a professor at Martin Luther College; an openly Christian neuro intensive care nurse; and a pink-haired, pierced, and tattooed behaviorist for autistic children who is on her church’s Board of Education.
Self-righteous segregation is not a good witness tool. Neither is allowing our children to participate in questionable activities for the sake of fitting in. In John 15:19, Christ tells his disciples, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” Helping our children cope with the reality of the persecution and mockery of Christians in this world is the inevitable, yet necessary, role of the Christian parent.
When we as parents have a sense of true joy in our faith, it shows itself in our parenting and in our homes. A guilt-ridden sense of obedience can produce fearful, resentful children who are quick to rid themselves of what they perceive as an unloving church or system of values.
A hurting world out there needs what we have. A gospel-filled heart teaches our children by example how to navigate this world, how to live a godly life, and how to share this good news with others.
Mary Clemons lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband, Sam. They have three grown children and four grandchildren.
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Volume 102, Number 10
Issue: October 2015
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