Teddy, my 7-year-old son, received the Citizenship Award for his year at school last year. He had the little trophy in the car on the way to church on Sunday. He said he wanted to show everyone the trophy he got for showing his class how kind, loving and caring Jesus is.
Megan and I have intentionally helped our kids see that following Jesus means helping others see who he is in their daily lives, and inviting them to join in as well.
Faith for my kids is personal but not private. It’s like a show and tells where they take Jesus into all parts of their day and bring him out for others to see and get to know.
As a dad, it’s beautiful to watch your faith and children’s faith tell a story that says, ‘If you want to know who is – if you want to know what it means to follow him – watch me.’ It a story that’s complete with beauty, successes, failures, repentance, and redemption.
The private faith fallacy
I read these words on Facebook recently: Jesus didn’t say ‘follow Christians’ he said follow me.’
What do you think about these words???
I think they sound cute, but unwise words for discipleship.
Private Faith vs Faith Community
To say ‘I only follow Jesus’ feels like you’re saying you can go it on your own – you don’t need other Christians.
The problem is, not only is it untrue, it’s unbiblical.
Think about how Paul uses the image of all followers of Jesus being part of his body. Or the way he shows spiritual gifts are given to build each other up. Paul doesn’t let it be just you and Jesus. His language compels you to see the following in the context of how it relates to fellow followers.
The real kicker is when Paul tells people to imitate him as he imitates Jesus (1 Cor. 11:1). Far from the happy-clappy Facebook phrase, ‘Jesus didn’t say follow Christians’ he said ‘follow me’, Paul says follow me as far as I follow Jesus.
Worthy to be followed?
It’s all well and good for Paul to say ‘imitate me.’ I mean, he’s Paul, right? But do I really want people imitating me?
Well, remember how we are intentional about raising our kids as followers of Jesus. We don’t just tell them about Jesus. We let them see us as we follow Jesus. They learn from us by what we say and by watching what we do. And they copy.
Imitation can be good.
I want my kids to see me at my best and know how much I love God. I want to know my love of my wife comes second only to God. Let them see the way I carry Christ into the everyday interactions and parts of life. These are the things I want them to imitate.
But my family also see the worst of me. They see the sins I battle with and the areas I struggle to submit to God. I don’t want them imitating this.
And yet I’m hanging my hope in 2 things about God’s grace:
- My kids will learn what repentance means in the midst of my failings. My kids don’t really need to imitate my faults, they have their own. I hope they learn to find forgiveness in God by watching me.
- God continues to be faithful. The Holy Spirit works in the lives of Jesus’ followers to make them more like Jesus (2 Cor. 3:16-18). If there’s anything worthy of imitation, it should be the way we respond to God’s faithful work in our lives.
I am a pastor, blogger and speaker. I help ordinary people connect with an extraordinary God, so they can follow Jesus in their everyday life.
I love this so very much, and there is such a powerful truth to this. I learned by my parents actions in their everyday lives of what loving like Jesus and what following Jesus looked like. And I am intentional also with teaching my children by my actions.
As a mom now this is what caught my attention, “But my family also see the worst of me. They see the sins I battle with and the areas I struggle to submit to God.“
This is so true, this is my constant worry. I can pray for and love on people all day to show Jesus but this… this is what I hope they don’t imitate. I love what followed that statement, it is an encouragement to me.
Thank you. I feel like this was written for me to read.
Thanks so much for your comment. I really believe that kids have the ingrown ability to observe us. It means they see both our mistakes and also how we deal with them. I’ve seen my kids slowly start to realise that sorry isn’t something you say to get out of trouble but rather a heartfelt cry.
So, be encouraged. As you continue to live your faith do so in a way that helps draw your children (and other people) to to Jesus.