It’s that time of year when many are getting together and spending more time with unbelieving family members. Some must even deal with family that is critical and/or antagonistic of their faith or decisions about how to raise their children. This week the 4 Moms of 35 Kids are talking about how to prepare our children to be around unbelieving family or friends.
I don’t believe there is one right way to manage interactions with other people, believing or not. We are all different, with different backgrounds, maturity levels, motivations etc. and so even identical circumstances might need to be handled differently depending upon the people involved.
My assumptions for this post are that you have a vibrant, active and healthy relationship with your children, that your children would naturally desire to come to you with questions and that you, the parent (not peers or others), are the main influence in your children’s lives.
Pray, pray, pray.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God who gives to all men generously. ~ James 1:5
Actively work to train up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph.6:1-4) Saturate your children in the Word of God which is the best defense one can have against error, attack or unbelief. (Eph. 6:10-20)
Don’t be afraid to talk with your children, but don’t force it. There probably is no need to sit your 4 year old down and tell him, “Great Aunt Cecilia is not a Christian.” However, we have found that as our children have matured, they’ve come to us with questions about how a friend’s words or actions don’t align with God’s Word. This is a great opportunity to, first of all, remind them how often their (and our) actions do not align with God’s Word and that we are not able to judge a persons heart. It’s also a good opportunity to speak with them honestly about the situation.
Protect your children, but don’t overprotect to the detriment of relationship. Remember that there is nothing inherently sinful about being in the presence of sinful behavior, (i.e. foul speech, drunkenness, etc.). This is where parents need wisdom to make decisions in each specific instance.
If you have your child’s heart there is little to fear from occasional exposure ungodly thoughts, ideas and attitudes. There may also be little to fear in criticism of firmly held beliefs and ideas. We are after all to be in the world, even though we are not to be of the world. (Please don’t misunderstand the Proverbs are chock full of warnings about ungodly companions.) However, there are two sides of this ditch. We are to protect our children and some things can be particularly damaging.
Two things we have done in regard to protecting our children is that our children are never left under the authority of an unbeliever and we do not expect them to encounter those who are antagonistic to our faith alone. In other words, we primarily protect our children by staying with them.
Teach your children to stand firm with love. This is done by example. As your children see you interact with unbelievers (and sinful believers) with love, compassion and firmness, they will learn to follow your example.
Another important aspect of our children learning to interact and respond with love is to watch what we model for them in private. We can not expect our children to interact with love, if they are hearing unloving criticism for the beliefs or ideas of others in the privacy of their home. Our children should hear truthful, biblical criticism of thoughts and ideas that are contrary to Scripture, but that criticism should be tempered with humility and love. Often when we are discussing an error of our culture, we take a moment to examine how we fail in much the same way in our own personal lives.
What strategies do you use to prepare your children to interact with unbelievers, family or otherwise?
Be sure to visit the other 4 Moms to read what they have to say about this topic:
For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.