I don’t teach my kids to believe in Jesus.
I teach my kids to love Jesus.
If you love someone, you have to also believe in them. You can’t love someone you don’t believe is real. I love wife my wife, therefore I obviously must think she is real as well.
But if you believe in someone, you certainly don’t have to love them. I’m not talking about the universal command to love our neighbor as ourselves, I’m talking about the personal, deep, intimate (not sexual) love that I share with those closest to me. I believe in many celebrities and historical figures that I do not love in this way and I believe in a global population that I don’t and can’t love in this way.
It is certainly possible for me to believe in my wife and not love her.
When we tell our kids to believe in Jesus, we typically are telling them to believe in historical facts about a historical person.
Believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins.
Believe he will forgive you of your sins if you ask.
Believe he is God, the Son within the divine Trinity.
So we have our kids “ask Jesus into their hearts” or ask Jesus to “forgive them of their sins” and now they are “saved.” This box has been checked and our kids go on with the rest of their lives professing this belief.
The problem is my kids also believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny.
There was a time my kids believed the computer animated creatures they saw in live action movies were real and lived on planet Earth, likely in our backyard.
If we are honest, most of our kids will believe in most of the things we tell them. So while I am thankful for each child that puts faith in Jesus, as I did at the very young age of 4, and know the Holy Spirit can grow this belief into something more, I’m not very impressed by it anymore.
Even the song “Jesus Loves Me” doesn’t really point us to Jesus loving me. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Why can’t Jesus tell me so? I have to first believe the Bible, then I can believe that Jesus loves me. If Jesus is resurrected, living, and real, couldn’t he tell me this himself? This is like saying, “Your spouse loves you, the marriage covenant you signed on your wedding day tells you so. Go read it to find this out.” I think there’s a more direct way I could get this information, don’t you?
Beliefs can be stumped. Your child may go off to college or grad school and learn an archeological or scientific bomb that shatters their belief in the Bible. I have seen it time and time again with friends of mine who grew up in the church and are no longer Christians. Taking your kids to a Christian museum where Adam and Eve ride on dinosaurs isn’t going to prevent this or fix it when it happens.
Love can’t be stumped. Bomb it all you want, it still stands. This is because love is experienced. Not only do I teach my kids to love Jesus, I teach them to experience his love for them. My audacious belief that Jesus is real and alive and loves me is based on my experience of meeting him. Of him loving me, forgiving me, walking with me, and seeing him do the same with countless others who follow him that I am in community with.
I don’t need to defend Jesus. He’s alive. I just need to introduce him to others and let him do the rest.
I pray with each of my kids every night. I thank Jesus for dying on the cross for our sins and raising from the dead. I thank him that his love is the best thing in the world and that we get to have it. I pray for my child by name that they will love Jesus their whole lives. My silent prayer is that when the bombs come, and they will come, that their love for Jesus will remain because they have experienced the reality of his love for them.
Don’t get me wrong, belief matters. I know that in Acts 16:30 the jailer asks Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved and they reply in verse 31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” I also know that James 2:19 tells us, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” If you love Jesus, it mandates certain theology about him. But if all you have is the theology, best of luck to you.
You can believe and love, like the jailer. But you can certainly believe and not love, like the demons. What you can’t do is love and not believe. You’re not choosing between love and belief. When you choose love, you get them both.
My desire to study Scripture and theology is to know more and more about this person named Jesus that I love and who loves me. It’s not the other way around. Who wouldn’t want to know more about a person that they love deeply?
Are you teaching your kids factoids about an ancient man named Jesus? Factoids that may or may not stand up to the future bombing they will endure. Or are you introducing them to a person who loves them so deeply, longs to adopt them into his family, and is there for them every step of the way, even through the bombings of their beliefs.
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