Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The God Who Wants Your Children

The people of God have always struggled with building a multi-generational faith on the experiences of a few people.

"Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the LORD your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt ..." (Deut 11:2-3).

To our knowledge, Jacob's sons saw nothing like Jacob's vision. That was it until Moses. The generation of the Exodus saw many mighty works of God; their children less so. And their children saw few if any miracles until the time of Christ.

So how were the children of Israel to pass on their faith?

"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth" (Deut 11:18-21).

Fix these words ... in your heart and mind
This chapter, like the whole book of Deuteronomy, says again and again "carefully observe all these commands I am giving you." First and foremost, your children need to see you following the word of God. Let them see it in action, see how it permeates your life.

Some Jews literally tie symbols on their hands and foreheads to remind them of the Law. Like the "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelets so popular twenty years ago, the idea is to be reminded to live out what you believe. People say that character is caught more than taught; the Bible agrees. Your children will believe what you say only when it is also what you do.

Teach them to your children
But don't assume they'll "catch" the faith. Teach it to them, too. Surround them with it. Talk about what we believe and why. Often.

This particular passage doesn't mention telling them the stories of days gone by explicitly (though "these words" may include Genesis and Exodus and surely includes the beginning of Deuteronomy which recounts some of God's mighty acts). However Jewish society was built around the great feasts that remembered God's works (eg, Deut 16), and there were other reminders as well (eg, Josh 4).

For Christians, our "Passover" is obviously the cross and the resurrection. Our kids need to know that it really happened and why it matters. And then they need to know what difference it's supposed to make in our lives.

If your kids are like mine, this will be both easy and hard. Kids ask lots of questions. Sometimes it seems like they'll never stop. But Christianity can get lost in all the noise in their heads and lives. Some of their friends aren't Christians; some are "Christians" in name only. This seems unimportant at times; it seems mean at times. It can get crowded out by sports and friends and by Santa Claus and the Easter bunny. And they may wonder why the stories about Moses and Jesus are true but the stories about Hercules and Harry Potter are not. And we have to be able to steer them through that.

If we completely give up, Christianity will march on because God will always have his people. But I really believe God wants your children. And you want him to have them, too. So make sure they see and hear the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

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