By Kate Ritchie
This month we continue our blog series on walking with our children through seasons of doubt or challenging questions. Last month our article was "7 Ways to Help Your Child Struggling with Doubt." If you haven't had a chance to catch up, we would love for you to read last month's blog!
This month we are discussing parent pitfalls that might hinder our children from talking to us about their doubts and hard faith questions. As parents, we want to be an approachable and safe place for our kids to process life. Regarding their Christian faith, we want to ensure that our kids know they can talk to us about their doubts and challenging questions. During my time as a children's minister and now a parent, I have noticed hurdles that might prevent children from opening up about any doubts they might be facing with their parents.
1. A culture war mentality
In recent years, there's been a growing, prevalent movement among some Christians (and Christian parents) that is taking up arms against culture. The language of this movement is "us against them" or "taking back America for Jesus." But the Biblical support for this mentality is not founded in scripture.
Jesus came proclaiming a Kingdom "not of this world" (Jn 18:36-37). He came proclaiming peace and reconciliation to those who were his enemies (Ps 120, 2 Cor. 5:16-21). The culture war mentality isn't a new temptation among followers of Jesus. People in the time of Christ wanted Jesus to be the King that defeated Rome, but instead of pushing against Roman popular culture, he died on a Roman cross. I'm not saying that we ignore culture and withhold engaging in politics or policies; instead, we check our motivations for these interactions. We should engage with kindness and for the common good of society, not to be right or win back culture. Our goal should not be the power; it should be to serve.
Jesus came to save sinners, not win a culture war.
As 2 Cor. 5:18-20 says,
"All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."
I'm concerned that in our fear about the direction of culture, we could miss the impact that the "culture war mentality" has on our children. I am most concerned about how this will affect the youngest generations of Christians when they struggle with challenging questions and doubts. Christians with an "us versus them" mentality cannot expect their children to come to them when they have doubts. As our kids grow and experience different ideas, we never want them to worry that we are against them. If we are arguing with our neighbors online on Facebook, why would the children in our homes talk to us when they have big questions? There must be a way to engage culture in truth and love.
Saving culture will not save our children; only Jesus can do that.
As Christian parents, we are responsible for keeping the Gospel and the message of Jesus at the very center of our homes. We must reject the notion that saving culture will save our families. We already have a Savior in Jesus Christ. We are responsible for going to those who need Jesus the most and displaying and proclaiming how good he is. We must respond to our children and the culture around us with love because Jesus has loved us (1Jn 4:18-20).
If your children have never seen you cry out to God in your weakness or imperfections, it will be hard for them to come to you in their shortcomings or deficiencies. If they have never witnessed you repent of sin and fight for holy living, they may believe that this practice is unimportant when it is at the heart of our faith. Hypocrisy steals authenticity.
Many studies have observed hypocrisy as one of the biggest reasons young people leave the Church. Our children must see our faith lived out vulnerably and consistently. Children are excellent observers and notice what their parents run to when they are hurting, scared, and tired. If that refuge is not Christ, your words may not match your actions.
If we want our children to come to us with their doubts and challenging questions, they must see our faith as the most central thing in our lives. They already observe our neediness and imperfections every day, but they must see Jesus as the answer to our needs. We must be parents who repent to Jesus and our children when we have not loved God with our whole hearts and not loved our neighbors as ourselves (Duet. 6:2-9). Authenticity is contagious and starts with those God has called to lead in Christian homes.
Christian parents, culture offers a million answers to the questions in your child's heart, but only one that will truly satisfy them. Family discipleship is an intentional way of life. We want to be a safe and secure place for our kids to discuss and wrestle with their faith. We must be parents of reconciliation, God making his appeal through us. We must be parents of authentic faith.
If you've gotten distracted by the turmoil and noise of culture, taken up arms in the cultural war, and lost sight of the message of the Gospel, there is peace in Christ Jesus. You do not have to fear the story unfolding in the world because we know that in the end, Jesus wins. He has done the work of our salvation on the cross, and his kingdom is coming to bind up wounds and heal the brokenhearted.
If you have been dealing with the brokenness of the fallen world by putting on a happy face and powering through, you no longer have to walk in the shame of your failures. There is no condemnation, and nothing can separate you from the love of Christ (Rm 8). Your failures are an opportunity for your family to see how good our God is.
God's mercy is new every morning, and every morning is a new day to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbors (and the little people in our homes). The Good News of Jesus is compelling and brilliant, and it is a message worthy to be at the very center of your home. May you center on that Good News as you proclaim it to your family and the world!