The 4th of July brought more pessimism than patriotism this year. I saw posts on Facebook about our religious liberties being stripped away and how we should fear for our children’s futures.
Because Lee and I traveled to China last year, we know a little about countries that lack religious freedoms. We couldn’t carry Bibles into the country. Lee was put on a watch list because he’s a pastor. We couldn’t attend a passport or house church without raising more red flags or putting someone in danger. When Lee tried to access sites like Desiring God, our Internet service would block him. It was assumed our rooms were bugged.
But instead of faltering under the weight of persecution and restriction, the church is China is growing. In fact, the authors of a new book about Christianity in China believe persecution is one of the reasons it’s growing. “Persecution ‘served as a potent selection mechanism. Lukewarm liberalism could not generate the level of commitment needed to hold onto one’s faith in the face of considerable persecution risk. Moreover, a high level of member intensity is always what it takes to achieve rapid growth’” (72). (A Star in the East review from The Gospel Coalition).
As hard as it seems to be getting here, we still have many freedoms our brothers and sisters around the world don’t have. But what about our future? As parents we want our kids to have easier lives than we have had, but that doesn’t seem likely in the area of their religious freedoms. So what should we do?
If you’ve been relying on Sunday school, Christian school, or Veggie Tales to save and disciple your kids, it’s time to stop.
We can’t pass the responsibility on to anyone but ourselves. We can’t shy away from the hard questions. We can’t only pray the safe prayers. We can’t keep telling our kids that God wants them to be happy and healthy above everything else.
We aren’t called to be perfect parents, but we are called to be faithful. Faithful to present the gospel and how it changes a person from being dead in sin to being alive in Christ. Faithful to say “repent and believe” and not stop at “just ask Jesus into your heart.” Faithful to pray, read Scripture, cry, question, praise, repent, and meet with other believers with our children, not hiding the hard parts of life in Christ.
And here’s an especially tough one for me: We can’t focus so much on raising children who are never prodigals that we find ourselves with Pharisees. Rule followers who can’t even rejoice when a sinner comes to repentance. Those who turn their backs on people Christ called friends. Those who pray, “Thank you God that I’m not like other men” (Luke 18:11).
We must teach them the gospel is not only for the moment of salvation, but for every moment we live. “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost,” (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul doesn’t say he had been the foremost sinner, but “I am.” And because he continues to see himself as a sinner, he continues to live in grace and spread the message of grace, not keeping it all for himself.
We have to prepare our kids for a world that is different from the one we grew up in, but that may not be a bad thing. They will have to be more committed, more knowledgeable, and more grace-filled than generations before them. We must be faithful to prepare them for that world.
As C. S. Lewis wrote, Aslan is on the move. Let’s be ready to join Him.