Friday, October 23, 2009

Teaching Children

Last week I met with Jody Reynolds, the wonderful dynamic Shoreline Kids Church director whom I've had the privilege of working under and with for the last seven years or so. She is one of the most dynamic and energetic person I've ever had the honor of knowing. She is a blessing to Shoreline and gift from God to our children.

During our lunch we begin to discuss what traits Sunday school teachers have in common. One that stood out is we tend to view things in black and white; there is very little gray. I think our poor spouses would attest to this fact. This also probably why we are shocked when they perform evil acts as they are the last people we expect such things from. Sunday school teachers are still seen as moral lighthouses in a dark world.

Which is interesting if you really think it through as it pretty much flies in the face of the worlds conventional wisdom. The world is trying to teach children to have open minds and not to draw conclusions. Sunday school teachers are teaching children that God's word is absolute and anything that contradicts it is wrong. We are teaching them that the ten commandments is non-negotiable, that God's version of history is the correct one and that God became flesh, died for our sins and was seen alive, walking around, eating and talking three days after he died. We are teaching them many things contrary to what they are learning in the public school system. For some, unfortunately, even the home but that is a topic for separate discussion. My brother-in-law says I am brain washing the children and my response is, 'Yes I am. I am washing their brain with the word of God'.

Children have a natural built in truth detector that is only corrupted as they get older. Teaching children can be difficult; if you are not one hundred percent authentic and really believe in what you are presenting you will be sniffed out quickly and thereafter effectively ignored. You may fill their heads with hogwash, but as those of you in my age group remember watching the Berlin Wall fall in one day, they will eventually stop believing it when they hear the truth. When you tell children the wonderful heroes and stories of the Old and New Testament they have no trouble believing it; they even embrace it.

What happens to us as Adults? I don't know. Somewhere along the way we become jaded. Maybe it's the grind of daily living, maybe it's getting hurt over and over again. Maybe we grow weary in doing good. Maybe it's all of these things. But it's wrong that we do this and not because this old Sunday school teacher is telling you; it's wrong because Jesus told us it was wrong.

Picture this; Jesus is doing his thing and his disciples show up with a single question, "Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?". Now it is highly probable that they were all debating which of them had done more for the Kingdom. I can even see Peter snorting, "I walked on water." Then one of them gets the bright idea, 'Hey, let's ask the master.' Why they think this is a good idea is beyond me as every time they have tried this it backfires. This one is no exception.

Jesus grabs a child and sits him on his lap. "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 18:3) Wow. There it is.We must be converted as children or we won't even be able to enter into the Kingdom.

Yea, but what does that mean?

It doesn't mean you can be silly and irresponsible. I know, I've tried and I didn't get away with it. It doesn't meant that you can be innocent and gullible either. ""Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." (Matt 10:16). That doesn't sound like Jesus is telling us to be ignorant to the ways of the world, in fact just the opposite.

What Jesus is saying is that we must believe. We must believe and trust God like children. Now I find this interesting because for those who have children you know, like myself, that does not mean blind faith. The first word children learn is 'NO'. The second word children seem to learn is 'Why?'. Children are constantly asking questions about why things are the way they are. I don't buy this theory that we are suppose to be seen and not heard (nor children). Jesus never treated his disciples that way, in fact he seemed to relish engaging them in conversations that would blow their minds (and still does ours). There are some things children will never understand until they experience it, but that doesn't mean we don't tell them the reason why. With Jesus, there are some things we will never understand and must take on faith, but that does not mean we don't ask questions.

I think what Jesus is saying is we must believe the way children do. When children really believe in something they have this annoying tendency to actually act on it. This is why many a mother has talked a child off a roof in a Superman or Batman outfit. The child really believes that if he wears his Superman outfit he can fly. Children get it in there head that something is true it can be very difficult to change their minds.

We must believe like children to enter into God's glorious Kingdom in the resurrection. We need to believe God's word over the world, prayer over what our eyes see, God's promises over our circumstances. We need to believe God all the way to our grave and when the grim reaper comes for us our Superman costumes are on (the image of Christ) and we are ready to jump off the roof.

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