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, not 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 as opposed to what we say has a greater impact on children. 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 thing to all people so that some might be saved. His fellow disciple John wrote that we are not of the world. The balance of being approachable Christians versus being different in a way that others know we are Christians is difficult in application. A sense of inclusion for all of God’s people is engendered when we reserve judgment and open our arms instead. For some families, a child who has successfully straddled these two worlds might include an MLC professor; an openly Christian neuro-intensive care nurse; and a pink-haired, pierced, and tatooed 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 were of the world, the world would love you as its own: but because you are not of the world, I chose you out of the world, therefore 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 evidences 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.