My youngest popped up with an interesting observation the other day. She said (and I paraphrase), "Sometimes, I think it would be easier to be a Christian if you weren't raised as one." I suppose many Christian friends of mine would have been shocked at this remark, probably dismayed, and perhaps even a bit horrified.
But I told her, "You know, honey, I've been thinking exactly the same thing."
But not only can truth become humdrum . . . it can become warped.
I read (and reposted) a great article on Facebook last week called "How to Raise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home". (For those who are picky about such things, Johnson, the author, has a disclaimer about his broad use of the term "pagan". Don't get hung up on that and miss the point.) Johnson writes about a concern I've had for years: in our churches in America, we teach our kids legalism. We teach them that God loves them and wants them to be good -- and that's NOT the Gospel. The Gospel tells us that we can't be good, at least not good enough to earn the favor of God. The author says it so well:
The gospel is not about making bad people moral, but about making dead people alive. If we teach morality without the transforming power of the gospel and the necessity of a life fully surrendered to God's will, then we are raising moral pagans.
The gospel is about making dead people alive. And one thing I've noticed about people raised in the church is they often aren't aware of their deadness.
My daughter's concern -- and mine, also -- is that, the Bible teaches that we are a new person when we surrender to Christ. The old is gone; the new has come. But when you are raised with clear and explicit knowledge of what this kind of new person looks and behaves like, you can do a pretty good job of faking it without ever experiencing the real transformation. I've done it. I bet many of you have, too.
Back when we were first married and moving around a lot, joining new churches on a frequent basis, Hubby and I used to playfully bemoan the fact that we had pretty boring testimonies. Raised a solid Baptist . . . baptized as a kid . . . faithful in church attendance and service . . . yawn. Not that we wished for a past drug addiction or something to liven up our histories, but you know -- just a better story. That's what I was -- here's what I am now, thanks to Christ. No big dramatic changes to talk about when you've been "raised right".
I'm not arguing that we shouldn't raise our children "right" or raise them in the church -- I'm just saying that we need to be certain that we're raising them in the truth. And that requires us having a really solid grasp of the truth so we don't accidentally communicate something else.
As the author quotes Phil Vischer saying, we need to stop worshipping the "Oprah god", stop drinking the "cocktail that's a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel." We need to stop believing (and thereby communicating) that the Christian life is about keeping yourself clean, working hard, and being nice to everybody -- and that when you do that, God just blesses us with comfortable, easy, prosperous lives and all our dreams comes true. Plus you get to go to heaven when you die.
That is NOT The Gospel, and it will only make us -- and our children -- moral pagans.