Back in October I mentioned I’d like to explore in an unofficial blog series the issue of raising children in the faith – and I’m finally comin’ round to it again. In that post I started backwards with college students, looking at our tendency to surround and overwhelm them with religious activities – because if we don’t structure their time to be with God they’ll fall into sex, drugs, and rap (rock and roll is dead).
So today we’ll venture to the beginning. This is of particular interest to me as I am figuring out how I want to raise my own daughter into the faith. She’s just shy of 5 months old and I have yet to walk her through the sinner’s prayer – mostly because she smiles at me all the time and wouldn’t be able to take it seriously quite yet.
Not many people can contest that Jesus never intended to create a new religion. If anything, he came to break down religious to its very essence – namely, love.
Whatever it is he did create caught on. It couldn’t stay contained – island-hopping and transcending people groups, cultures and dividing lines. Conversions were radical experiences where people met Jesus, in figurative and literal senses, and were transformed. It’s why we say Christianity isn’t a religion but a relationship.
Belief in Jesus was not inspired by apologetic debates or through intellectual convincing. It was a lot more infectious than mere philosophy, because love does not keep to itself. To me, the kingdom of God was to be spread from person to person, much like how a wildfire hops tree to tree. So naturally I’m sure the first Christian parents were a bit puzzled as to how to raise their kids in the faith when traditionally it had been passed around like a good disease. All of a sudden belief was not coming from a experience of God.
Do you see this shift – from Christianity as spreading from the transformations of adults to raising Christian children? From discipleship to parenting? To me it is a huge difference. You can’t pass down a relationship with Jesus.
At this point I’m not even sure how to raise my child in the faith because I can’t standardize an encounter with God, and this is ultimately what the Christian faith is. And in my experience –all the curriculum, programming, videos and story books are not the way to go – as their all lack the power to induce a meeting of God.
We all know how it’s been done (poorly) in the past – but how you do raise a child to have an encounter with grace?
If anything, many people met Jesus when his mercy and forgiveness stood such a stark contrast to the deep and hurtful sin coupled with condemnation and guilt. Obviously, it is not a good thing to try to convey this to a child, though of course many well meaning fundamentalists have convinced their children they are dirty rotten sinners.
What do you think about the shift? How do we navigate it? If you’re a parent, how did you raise your child in the faith?