Every generation has it’s foibles, it fanatic fights, it’s earnest beliefs that we can choose to let live, feed and grow, or allow to fade on our watch. I look at the innocence that runs about this house and realise I am his starting blueprint. I am the influence that will start his conversation, form his prejudices and set his values.
This Easter I struggled but as I explained the story of what happened to my 3 year old he drank it all in, he wanted more, and it’s a journey I’m really excited about taking with him. He redeemed my Easter celebrations with his curiosity, trust and faith. As we journeyed I found myself opening supporting materials and closing them rapidly. I’ve realised there are things I was taught as key parts of my early christian identity that I’m not going to pass on. These are my top 5:
1. Overly sin-centric approaches
So many explanations of Christianity start with sin. I’ve been through phases of being very aware of being sin-soaked and never quite knowing if this was positive or negative. I do believe a lot has to do with the churches obsession with what’s called penal substitution. My every sin piled on the already wounded shoulders of my saviour, adding to Jesus’ agony and need to separate the father from himself. Forgiveness came with a heavy guilt price tag. But I’ve come to reject that theology, separation of God is impossible. Your ledger isn’t heavy or light, you have none, there are no accounts or records, only acceptance and forgiveness. Sin has been dealt with, end of story. Jesus has died and our sinful selves with him, the new life is there for the taking. You can either take the grace on offer or ignore it, but you can’t do anything to change it. I want to introduce my child to God’s great world and how he saved mankind again and again and again until Jesus came along and dealt with the underlying problem forever.
2. Purity culture
Purity culture has one huge flaw, it make sexual sin greater than any other. I was a late bloomer, by the time I finally got the hormonal kick up the backside I’d already been to countless things that discussed how to ‘keep pure’ and ‘how far was too far’. Honestly speaking, “True love” waits is kinda insulting to relationship that don’t. The sex thing was a thorn in my side. It made my faith a faith of barriers not liberation and frankly that’s really quite sad. This great litmus test pushed many youngsters away. Sex shouldn’t be a weapon, a tool, a hormonal frenzy or a legal contract. It should be a beautiful equal next step in the love shared between two of God’s beloved children. I’d still advocate a wedding as part of that journey.
3. God hates.
Did you read the title and nod? Perhaps not visibly. I saw a post about a kids lesson entitled the six things God hates and recoiled from the screen. Many of the things that upset God in scripture are quite reasonable, the proverbs 6 list this lesson uses, the unforgivable sin of Mark 3, or the wicked heart of Hebrews 3. If you look hard enough you can make God sound black and whites, angry and unapproachable. For the absolute mind of a younger child the nuances of God being apposing things isn’t helpful. The lion of Judah is indeed fierce and demands respect but even when he appears in a burning bush he still tenderly draws us close to his love. Talk about what makes God sad, what disappoints him, but the divine parent doesn’t hate his children.
4. Declaring something wrong
As a child I read my Good News Bible and it stated – “Don’t you know that God’s people will judge the world?” It’s easy to replace that ‘will‘ with ‘can‘ or ‘should‘ or even ‘need to‘! The same passage in 1 Corinthians 6 condemns homosexuality. Who was I to question the scripture? I was taught that other religions were simply wrong, misguided at best. Sadly they topped a long list. Somehow this feels very far from the God man who doodled in the dirt and challenged someone to throw the first stone. I want to raise a child who recognises God is not limited to our perspective. Just because we don’t see, or we think that it’s not compatible, it doesn’t mean God isn’t in the midst of it. Ahem, astrology and the Magi?
5. Friendships with an agenda
The instructions echo in my memory – We should be sharing the gospel with our school friends. We should be getting them to join the ‘God club’. Go befriend her and introduce her to the best friend ever – Jesus! I squirmed so much at the talk of evangelism targeted at kids, I still do. Friends should be important allies as kids, not pet projects. Faith sharing for kids should be something they feel free to talk about but not pressured to do. Kids can serve God in so many ways, they can share the gospel in so many actions, they can build his church, I know this as absolute fact. There is a reason people close their door to cold call evangelists, youngsters don’t always have that option and peer pressure is powerful. Frankly, most parents would also prefer their religious choices not hijacked either.
So there are my 5 things I’m sure I missed some biggies – What would you add?