What are you doing right now that requires faith? God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through (Chan, 124).
I don’t want to just raise “nice” kids. Ones who don’t swear and attend church on Sundays. I want to raise spiritual risk-takers. Bold, joyful, vibrant children of God. Ones that aren’t intimidated by what life or the world throws at them. Ones who love others deeply and make an impact in the world at large. How do we get there?
I’ve continued reading Tim Kimmel’s book “Grace-Based Parenting” and came to a section that addressed this very issue. Much of what he shares reminds me of Francis Chan’s writing in Crazy Love, another awesome book about living a life of faith. To me, Kimmel’s thoughts here provide for a philosophy of parenting Crazy-Love (or Francis Chan) style. Here is what I’ve been challenged by this week:
Safe Christianity is an oxymoron, like “jumbo shrimp.” Living your life sold out for Jesus Christ has never been a way to enjoy a safe life. It may be a way to enjoy a good life, but not a safe one. That’s because Jesus isn’t safe, but He is always good. On the inside of His goodness (read “grace”), He offers a safe haven for a dangerous life to be lived out (113).
(Children) need to spend the early years of their lives watching their parents live on the front lines of culture. But as your children get older, you need to allow them to experience spiritual dilemmas that enable them to trust in Christ and to strengthen their hope in His goodness. There are risks. We must put our confidence in a God who would not bring anything unpleasant into our children’s lives except for those things that He deliberately desires to use to mold them into His image. This overriding certainty should guide us as we make decisions on how to grow our children’s hope into a strong hope (113 – 114).
Seeing the word “risk” and assuming it is “reckless” is a convenient cop-out for people living in safe, fear-based Christian circles. That’s because they know full well that to effectively raise kids on the front lines of the world system would require a much more spiritually savvy parent. You can’t dump your children on the front porch of the religious professionals or educators and think you’ve done your duty. You can’t prop them up with evangelical clubs or youth programs that have them doing a lot of biblical calisthenics and think they are somehow prepared. You might actually have to lead them across the battlefield yourself. It is not an easier form of parenting—just better. In the long run, this way produces spiritually strong and sound children (Kimmel, 117).
If anything, “safe Christianity” isn’t about a relationship with Jesus Christ; it’s about a relationship with a Western, middle-class caricature of Jesus Christ. Raising safe Christian kids is as much a product of middle to upper-class wealth as it is anything else. These protected environments don’t allow a system of spiritual antibodies to develop within the character of the child. This produces a generation of people who must stay within a spiritually sterilized environment in order to thrive. These are nice systems that produce nice kids who marry nice kids who go to nice churches and hang out with like-minded nice friends (117-118).
To many Christian parents, the idea of developing their children’s faith is like teaching them to swim on the living room rug. They don’t want them to learn how to swim in the water because they could drown. So these children don’t really learn how to live out a strong, adventurous faith; they just know how to go through the motions (120).
Grace-based parents don’t make it their aim to raise safe kids. Instead, they want to raise strong kids. Spiritually safe kids seldom get to see just how wonderful and powerful their God really is. Spiritual safety is a prescription for spiritual impotency. The good news about raising strong Christian kids is that you get safe kids in the process. They know God’s love, they’ve seen Him work, and they understand how to appropriate His power (121).
So if I want bold, strong kids who love Jesus with their whole hearts, there are no easy how-tos or a checklist to follow . It will involve taking risks, being uncomfortable at times, and possibly even danger, along with a fierce dependence on God. It means our family has to get out of its comfort zone. We can’t be focused on safety or keeping our kids insulated from the world, those who believe differently than we do, or pain and difficulty. It may not be the easiest path, but it has the best chance of our children knowing and experiencing a loving, trustworthy God who is active in their lives and the world around them and for them to also develop a tender heart towards others.