Thursday, March 5, 2009

To Train Up a Child -- Or a Parent

I'm listening to some old tapes I've picked up from speakers at homeschool conventions (I love homeschool conventions!). I just have piles of them, and don't need them all anymore -- I'm making notes of stuff I want to remember and then going to give the tapes away. The last one I listened to was about 10 things you need to teach your kids for them to be "spiritually educated", or something to that effect. Hmm.

They started with, the Bible is the Word of God. Then, check everything you hear by the Word of God. Then, we must modify our behavior by the Word of God . . we must give immediate obedience to God's commands . .

Now, mind you, I don't disagree with any of this. But I'm listening to it thinking, "Is this all they need to know for their spiritual education? To be obedient?" Somehow, that seems quite unbalanced.

I mentioned in a post in October ("Obedience-Focused") about my revelation that discipleship should be relationship-focused, and not obedience-focused. The thing is, it should be both. It's not an either-or situation . . . it's both-and.

God is complex beyond our understanding, and so is the relationship he wants to have with us. That's why he uses so many metaphors to describe it: he's our Father, he's the bridegroom, he's our friend, he's our shepherd . . there are many dimensions to it. And because it's so hard for our measly little brains to get wrapped around all of that, we end up focusing on one aspect or another. Thus, the myriad of denominations. Thus, the constantly swinging pendulum between the Puritan-types and the Emergent-types.

I've thought about this a lot in regards to how we "train up" children in the church--in Sunday School and such. It's a tough job. We say, "God loves you!!" . . and then we say, "Here's how he tells you to live." An immature concrete thinker can't quite grasp that one is not dependent on the other (that's difficult enough for most adults to grasp). No wonder the church of my youth produced a lot of rule-checking Pharisees who are never certain of God's love. And today's church is producing a lot of pleasure-seeking adultescents praising Jesus and banking on cheap grace.

I'm not sure what the answer is -- that is, to how we should teach children in the church setting. I'm still trying to figure out how to teach my own kids at home. I want them to understand that discipleship is multi-dimensional. It is about knowledge -- you have to know what's true, which requires a lifetime of study. It is about submission -- knowing that you're not God and willingly obeying the one who is. It is about service -- being God's hands and feet to the world around you. And, by all means, it is about relationship -- knowing God, one-on-one, intimately in a passionate, growing love affair. Of all of them, that's the piece that was missing in my growing up years. But they are all necessary and inter-related.

What a formidable challenge -- communicating all that to little ones. Oh, but wait -- I just remembered! That's not actually my job . . . it's the Holy Spirit's! He's responsible for making it all click. Whew! What a relief. I just live it in my own life, in front of their faces, and the Spirit will make it all clear to them in due time.

Live it in my own life . . . oh yeah. There's the formidable challenge.

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