What is the single most important thing you'd like your child to gain from religion?
This is a question in a poll I took on an online mom community. The single most important thing I want my son to gain from religion? First, I don’t want him to have a religion. I want him to have Jesus. Second, what if none of those things are the single most important thing I hope he gets from that relationship with Jesus? Let me finish my thought before, as we say in the South, “you get your panties in a wad”.
To be saved/go to heaven
Of course I want my son to go to heaven. I think that all Christians, in fact I'd go as far as to say everyone wants to go to heaven. And of course we should live our lives with a heaven-ward focus. But if you read the words of Jesus in the New Testament, it’s not about YOU going to heaven, it’s about doing all you can to make sure EVERYONE in the world goes with you! The GREAT commission (Matt28:19) commands us to GO and make disciples of ALL nations. This is a veeeeery hot topic for me right now. My heart is pierced and convicted by the fact that I simply do not do enough to spread the Kingdom to the ends of the globe… ahhh, but that’s another post entirely.
A firm belief in God or a higher power
In my experience in walking with the Lord, it takes more than believing He exists- you have to TRUST Him. Many, many people believe in God- in fact, James 2 says that’s great, “you do well to believe God is one” but “the demons also believe, and shudder.” I want more for him than belief in the one, true God I want him to trust the one, true God and follow him wholeheartedly all the days of his life.
Knowing right from wrong and other moral values
I think the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word "Christian" is the idea that they have good moral values. I wouldn’t associate knowing right from wrong with this, I would hope that everyone over the age of 5 knows right from wrong- whether or not they choose to do it is another thing, I guess. There are numerous, Christian moral values that I want my son to have- generosity, integrity, loyalty, etc. More than just these though, I want his life to exhibit the Fruits of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (and yes, I just sang the song as I typed those out). When you are trusting in God (not just believing) and following (better, pursuing) Him passionately, the fruits of the spirit inevitably show up and we are then convicted to put them to work because faith without works is dead (James 2).
A sense of identity/A sense of community
Having a sense of who I am in Christ and knowing that I belong to a community of believers are two of the greatest things about being a Christian. They are. The single most important? Nah. But they are good. We live in a world that does not understand, or often approve, of the things we do in the name of Jesus. Here lately as my husband and I try to describe to people that we are trying to live radically for Jesus by spending less on us so we can spend more for the Kingdom’s works, people look at us like we’ve lost our minds. (Sidenote: DO NOT READ RADICAL by David Platt, CRAZY LOVE by Francis Chan, THE HOLE IN OUR GOSPEL by Rich Stearns AND THE NEW TESTAMENT IN SUCCESSION. YOU WILL BE CONVICTED AND IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE. At least I hope so, because if not you have heart made of stone.)
“What do you mean you’re getting rid of TV?” “How do you downsize from a 1700 square foot home?” “You didn’t have a yard sale, you just gave that stuff away?” And just when I get to the point that I think they are right, I am crazy, I need all this stuff… God sends me some other radical goofball to encourage me and I am again motivated to work toward living the life Jesus called us to (Thank you, Prathers and Mark Weaver!). As if scripture isn’t enough to convict you that this life is NOT ABOUT YOU, there is line from Radical that breaks my heart every time I think on it. "There is never going to come a day when I stand before God and he looks at me and says, ‘I wish you would have kept more for yourself.’"
Never. There is never going to come a day when my Savior looks at me and says those words. There will however be a day when He says, "Why didn't you help the hurting, clothe the naked, mother the motherless, feed the hungry? You didn't have enough time and money? What about all that I gave you? It was more than enough to grow my Kingdom and serve my people." I do not want Him to be looking at me when he says those words. In fact, my laptop may short out because giant tears are streaming into my keyboard as I type those words. I do not want to hear those words and I do not want those I love to hear those words from His lips either.
So, what is the single most important thing I want my son to gain from
religion a relationship with God? How about his soul. Abundant Life. Not a belief in a God but a trust in God, not the knowledge of right and wrong and other moral values but the fruits of the spirit and a faith in action. Not just to go to heaven but take all of the 3 billion non-believers in this world with him. Not just to have a sense of identity and community but to encourage community and identity in Christ among his family, friends and social circles.
The single most important thing he can gain from a relationship with God is not to live the American Dream and make much of self, but to live the Gospel Dream and make much of God.
Lord, I want to make much of you so my son desires to make much of you, too.