“But why, mommy?” My five year old cried, his head on my shoulder. “Why did Jesus die on the cross?”
“Well, honey, he died so that we can have a relationships with God.” I smoothed the hair back from his forehead, thinking back to the crucifixion scene we let our twins stay up to watch on The Bible mini-series.
I had been hesitant. Are they ready for this? I wondered. Maybe. Maybe this is going to be the moment!
I took a deep breath and moved forward.
“We are all sinners; this means we do bad things and our sin keeps us from God. But Jesus took the punishment for our sin when he died on the cross.”
I paused, looking into my son’s tear filled eyes, amazed at the tenderness of his heart in this moment. “Do you want to thank Jesus for dying for your sins? Do you want to tell him that you want a relationship with God?”
My son shook his head. “No.”
In the past few weeks, a blog post has been floating around the internet and has been reposted on my Facebook wall several times over. The article, How to Raise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home
, resonated with many of my friends, and with me as well. The message of the blog post was this:
“If we teach morality without the transforming power of the gospel and the necessity of a life fully surrendered to God’s will, then we are raising moral pagans.”
While this post did resonate with me, it left me unsettled as well. Because I do teach my kids to be moral. I teach them that when you hurt someone, you say you are sorry. When you take something that’s not yours, that’s called stealing; you take it back, you apologize, and you don’t do it again. I have said, “The Bible says we don’t steal. We should not lie. That is unloving. This is not the way God wants us to live.”
I say these things and I know I am teaching them to be…well, according to the wording of the linked blog post, “moral pagans.”
Because this is all I can do.
I cannot teach my children to be Christians.
I wish I could. I wish I could make them be followers of Christ simply by teaching them the ways of Christ, by making them “pray the prayer,” by teaching them to be moral.
I wish I could say, “In our family, WE believe THIS!”
I probably have said this. But it is not 100% true. My husband and I believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. We humbly accept Christ’s righteousness in place of our sin. We choose to walk in His ways.
But I shared the story at the beginning of this post to demonstrate the difficult truth that I can teach my children about Jesus, all about his atoning sacrifice on the cross, his miraculous resurrection, his forgiveness, his life and teaching, and the amazing new vision of life that he gives those who say, “Yes, Lord! I trust in you.”
I can teach them all of this. And I do teach them these things and will continue to do so.
But I cannot raise my children to be Christians. A child does not become a Christian because he matriculated through a “Christian” home, because he has listened to his mother reading the Bible, because he heard his father pray, because he was in Sunday school every week, because he memorized scripture, because he prayed a prayer at Bible School, or because Mommy and Daddy are Christians.
I can teach and demonstrate all these things but none of them will make my child a Christian.
Because to be a Christian, my child must choose Christ for himself.
My children are sinners. Without a transformed heart, every scriptural mandate I teach them is a moral code, a law.
But it is my hope and deepest prayer that Galatians 3:23-25 will be manifested in their lives:
But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
So, all I can do is teach my children to be “moral pagans.” My efforts fall far short of their salvation.
But where my efforts stop, God’s grace begins. Christ died for my children the same as he died for me. I can only trust that his Spirit is at work in their lives, as he is in mine, and pray that when Jesus whispers to their souls, Come follow me! at the right time, they will say YES.