Monday, February 27, 2017

The Question that made me go "huh."

Last Friday, the boys, hubs, and I were at the Kids' Night of Worship (NOW) at Southeast. We thought Daniel would enjoy it since it was geared more toward kids. Matthew enjoyed looking at all the lights in the room, the kids and stage crew dancing, and the music. Daniel did more watching than participating, but that's his style. I've learned that Daniel does participate by observation even if he isn't actively involved.

Anyway, the youth pastor asked the kids if they could fill in the blank. "The one thing God wants us to do is ________." Daniel looked at me and I asked him if he knew it. He shrugged, but my mind filled in the blank with "Obey and know the Truth."

The pastor followed up by saying, "The one thing God wants us to do is believe."

What? Daniel was still thinking about the answer, but my answer wasn't what the pastor had said. Granted, the sermon was geared toward kids ages 5 - 14, but still, he had to boil theology down to the very basics, and God wanting us to believe is a very basic piece of theology.

"Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent." John 6:29 (NIV)

Well, there ya go. But that makes sense. We believe in God and then we worship in spirit and in Truth because Christ is the way, the Truth and the Light. We also obey because we believe and are connected to Christ who transforms us (John 15:5, Romans 12:1-2).

So, if belief is the core component of theology, why did I automatically think of "truth" and "obey" as the things God wants the most from us? Or, the Hermione Granger part of my brain asks, "Why did I get the question only partially right, or at the very worst, wrong?"

And why does it matter? It matters because of the little guy that was my arms and the little guy young middle schooler standing next to me that evening. As Matthew's mom and as Daniel's stepmom, I have an influence on their faith and they look to me for spiritual guidance (Ok, Daniel does. Matthew just likes snuggles in church for now). If I want to guide them down the right path, I have to have a solid foundation myself.

Why is it easier to say God wants us to obey and know Truth than it is to say that God wants us to believe? Well, there are rewards for obedience and the Hermione Granger in us enjoys the recognition that comes with knowing something well. Obedience can be measured: I was patient the last three times I waited in line. My co-worker jabbered my ear off again and I didn't snap at her. Knowledge is measurable: I memorized half a chapter today. Belief is less measurable. You either believe that Christ died for our salvation and rose from the dead to give us new life, or you don't. Belief can be demonstrated in outward signs such as baptism, character growth, and good works, but it is definitely harder to grasp.

I think from a developmental standpoint, it's easier to explain to kids that God wants us to be kind, so share your toys, God made the world in six days and on the seventh He rested. These are easier for kids with less abstract thought to digest. I think that's why we start with these. Those aren't wrong, but I could see why a kid would see "obey" and "know Truth" as foundational if they were introduced to those ideas first and then salvation by grace as a gift of God's love as an added bit of truth. I think I was raised in a church that leaned a bit more toward obedience and knowledge as a means to come to God and His grace was less emphasized.

As a parent, I must remind both boys that Jesus loves them and always start there.

Daniel has accepted the basic premise of salvation and chose to be baptized a few weeks ago as a symbol that he accepted Christ's death on the cross for his sins and has been brought to new life in His resurrection. Daniel will understand this truth and all its implications as he develops greater abstract thought, learns more about his faith, and connects with God in deeper ways. I want to facilitate this connection as much as I want to give him little nuggets of theology to learn, and again, that starts with reminding Daniel that Jesus loves him.

Little Matthew's church experience is purely sensory: the lights from the stage, the music, hearing different people talk, but I whisper to him that Jesus loves him. My hope is that some of his early memories, among those of a warm loving home, are those of his parents telling him that God loves him and that will plant the seeds for him to seek out and accept God's love as he gets older.

Lord, help me to grow deeper in knowing Your love and Your grace so that I may grow closer to You. Please use me to draw the boys closer to You as that is my prayer for their lives.

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