I want to take this opportunity to share something briefly with those of you who are parents, grandparents, or caretakers of young children. Consider if you will the following quotation from Gary Thomas:
My kids know that prayer and Bible study have been staples for virtually my entire life. If, knowing that, they see that I lose my temper with the same regularity as someone who doesn’t seek God; if they notice that I treat my wife no better than anyone whose heart has never been convicted by God; if they witness that I do not possess the joy of one who has experienced God’s grace and salvation; if they see that my religious disciplines make no discernable difference in how I live – then the only conclusion they can be expected to reach is that all this “God stuff” doesn’t really matter.
In fact, if they regularly see me praying and studying my Bible but acting no differently from anyone else, you could make the case that my religious devotion is more harmful to them than helpful. Religious hypocrisy is like an inoculation that gives a minute fraction of faith but just enough to develop sufficient antibodies so that those around us never come down with the real thing – true devotion…..It’s like telling my kids, “God is powerful enough to change my mind but not powerful enough to change my life.
Gary Thomas is one of my favorite Christian writers and it is passages like the one above that draws me to his work. When I first read these words, taken from his book, The Beautiful Fight, I was strongly convicted. In fact, I thought someone had hit me in the back of the head with a 2×4. Don’t get me wrong. I am a fairly decent father, I think. But like most of us, I have certain areas in my behavior that could stand major improvement. After reflecting on these words by Thomas, I became acutely aware of how strongly my behavior can impact my daughter’s development, especially from a spiritual perspective.
It is precisely for this reason that it is vital that we who claim to be followers of Christ take great care to make sure our faith takes root in our character in a transformational way. Unless my beliefs are translated into positive actions in my life, they are worse than useless – they can be downright harmful. It is for this very reason that scripture encourages us to be “doers” of the word and Paul instructs Timothy to “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (I Timothy 4:16)
Granted, none of us will ever be perfect in aligning our beliefs and our behavior but I suspect most of us can do a good bit better than we do. I know I can. It is imperative that we make every effort as parents to live an incarnational lifestyle in our home, modeling for our children how to go about being the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus in this world. We can’t do this on our own, but we can avail ourselves of God’s empowering grace and work with the healing agency of the Holy Spirit.
Otherwise, we run the risk of giving mixed messages to our children.
© L.D. Turner 2010/All Rights Reserved