What strange comments have your kids made about God and faith? One mom recently asked me she should say to her son who in a stream of “God loves this or that…” finished by saying “God even loves Satan.” Hmm. I actually didn’t know if that was true or not, so I did a bit of research and concluded that, no, God probably doesn’t love Satan. (He is a different creature from human beings, not to mention God’s arch-enemy who absolutely loathes and destroys all that God calls good. Furthermore the idea that God can’t hate isn’t true. Just because “God is love” doesn’t mean He is incapable of hate.) What would you have said?
A few years ago one of my son’s friends left church crying because my son told him that when we get to heaven we would all work for God and be naked. This poor boy was devastated because he was looking forward to going go-carting with Jesus. (Where DO they get these ideas…? *Nervous laugh*) Guess what? They are both probably part right and part wrong, but in their young concrete minds, they had taken something their dads had said at some point literally and made it true. Whoops.The reality is we can’t address all the strange, wrong and hilarious things that our kids will tell us about God. There will be times that they come home after church or youth and tell you something absolutely heretical and you will wonder how they picked up on that? In fact as a pastor I have often wondered how they pick up on the weird things students do (perhaps not all that different from adults.) So what can we do? Well here are some principles that might help guide your future conversations about truth, life and God.
First, remember there are different categories of heresy and some heresy is not worth correcting. I think the first example of God loving Satan probably falls into this innocent category. Is believing that God loves Satan going to adversely affect your child’s spiritual life or future as a Christian? Nope, probably not. So just leave it. Let them believe it unless you really feel strongly. If on the other hand they went on to say, that it is ok to sin because God even loves Satan and he’s the biggest sinner there is… then you need to say something; clearly it isn’t ok to sin – and God certainly isn’t ok with it. There are grey areas too, and so we need discernment and wisdom as help our kids tumble towards the Truth. I like what Proverbs 3:21-22 says about wisdom and common sense – they are as beautiful as jewels on a necklace.
Next, ask questions more than give answers. There are times when you need to jump in and correct because it is important that you make a statement about something, but more often it is important to ask “Why do you believe that?” and “Where did you hear that sweetie?” (And if you could be super generous with your kid’s cell leaders and pastors when you call to let us know what they “learned” at church, we would all appreciate that! They’ve told us a few things about you too – in case you were wondering ;)) Asking questions, really honours your child. It says that you want to learn together and that you care more about them than about what they say or believe. Plus, it will help your child become discerning for themselves. If you always provide answers instead of leading your children to answers, you end up being their source of discernment and instead of being talk to think for themselves, in a bind they will simply run to you!
Finally, please be careful that you don’t make your kids into skeptics. I’m a big believer in questioning things and being curious about the world! I like the idea that a student’s job is to make sure what their teacher is teaching is correct. But we are so skeptical of everything these days. From leaders to teachers, from absolute Truth to the experience of miracles; kids are bombarded by relativity and unhealthy insubordination that isn’t going to work in the real world. We need to teach our kids to be discerning but not in a way that disrespects authority or belittles those who believe differently. Of course that means that we need to watch how we talk about people who believe differently than we do as parents. This is mostly unspoken and possibly even unconscious. When the first thing you say to your spouse about church is, “What did you think about Kris’s message today? That point three was a little wacky in my opinion…” then you are teaching them to distrust those who are teaching in church. Instead, we should help them to know how to search for solid truth while maintaining respect of our church leaders (and teachers, and principals, and political leaders and on and on).
Your kids are going to have some weird beliefs from time to time; for goodness sake I have some weird beliefs from time to time! My suggestion is to ask curious questions about why they believe what they do, and then have a great laugh with friends over coffee on the weekend retelling all the wonderful ideas that our kids come up with!