In one of the first classes I took in seminary, my professor for whatever class it was, Developmental something-or-other, I remember two comments that have stuck with me since 22-year-old Josh began his seminary hike. The first was, “There won’t just be Baptists in Heaven. There will be people from all denominations, colors, etc.” This comment, in context, was made to emphasize caution when falling on our swords about tertiary issues in the faith- If infant-baptism were a salvation level sacrament we would have more clarity in God’s Word (Presbyterians are off the hook). The second comment went’ something like this, “Kids will go through the motions of something their parents took seriously. Kids won’t bother entertaining something their parents just went through the motions doing.”
Now that I have a 4-year-old at home, it has become glaringly obvious how much he looks up to, and mimics things I do, both good and bad (i.e., honking the car horn!). Because of this growing reality, Deuteronomy 6:6-8 has taken on a much heavier meaning. Ah yes, now the scripture reference for this article!
6These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”
What is striking about these verses is its implication that we teach them at all times, in a variety of manners. God should be honored, remembered, and a part of all aspects of life. He should be a part of folding laundry, playing Monster Truck, swimming at the pool and dealing with angry drivers. If God is regulated to nice words, singing songs, and not making noise in service on Sunday, we have pretty much told them this is meaningless stuff. Correction- we are teaching them God is not very meaningful to life.
Our kids see us when we fail, they see us succeed, they see us when we do nothing. They know what “really” is important to us and what we do out of obligation. You and I may be able to fool everyone (though I have learned people are not as easily deceived as I once thought they were) but the realities, even if unable to be articulated by our kids, will not be a mystery to them.
I had the, what I now know is SUPER unusual experience, of knowing my dad did his quiet time at 5:30am every morning (maybe 6 on weekends but definitely before I got up). I remember often getting out of my bed in early grade school to go snuggle while he read. Naturally I didn’t understand what the Bible was all about, nor did I know I would need to care, but I knew it was important to my dad. Fast forward to my older elementary and middle school years. I got to see him work through difficult situations at work, actively trying to do the right thing regardless of how much harder or inconvenient it would be personally. While I didn’t fully understand many of the issues, or even agree with his conclusions (I was a pretty smart 13-year-old, he should have listened!), I knew his #1 goal was to take the road that honored God, not what was popular or expedient.
As I entered the world as a young adult, and saw the overwhelming debauchery and hedonism expected from a young adult by our culture, I struggled being around it. Not because I didn’t understand it, but because the implication was you couldn’t help but live like your average 23-year-old lives-regrets and all! I knew, thanks to my dad, that at least 1 person didn’t live like that! You didn’t have to degrade yourself in order to get along in life.
If we fail to show our kids Christ matters to all of life, then we are, by default, communicating that he isn’t that important. Do our jobs, our hobbies, our social calendar interfere with our relationship with God? Forget going to church (the over-used, cop-out argument of “I don’t have to be in church every Sunday to be a Christian” is, of course, true.) But do you think that is really the issue? Does your Bible reading, praying, teaching, hospitality, giving, encouraging other believers, self-evaluation, and Christian Stewardship suffer because of your other priorities? If it does, I would argue strongly you have just told your kids what matters more than Jesus.
No doubt there are many life situations that can make some of this more difficult than others. I’ll assume you are all adults and know what I mean. If we tell our kids we love Jesus “sooo” much but can’t explain salvation, don’t show them we consistently read the Bible, they never see us pray, never made a life decision based on Godly wisdom, what do you expect them to take away from your example?