Children are helpless at birth, but as they grow they learn. It has been amazing watching my children go from birth to where they are now. They surprise me daily with what they have learned, how much they know, and my oldest is only eight. They pick things up very easily. When my oldest son had cancer (he was five) we dealt with a lot of terms, and my youngest, who was two at the time, came out with the word “lidocaine.” I don’t even remember why we were talking about it, but I remember sitting in my room with my husband and my kids, and we were talking something having to do with the cancer, the medicines, and his broviac, and out of the mouth of my baby came that word, very nonchalant. We never know what they’ll pick up from us, what they catch onto even when we don’t think they’re paying attention. With that in mind we have to be sure that they are learning what should be learned. Being an “adult” does not give us the “right” to do whatever we want. We need to be an example to them; a good example.
But being a good example is not enough. We need to teach them in the ways that will help them grow in their faith. We need to teach them right from wrong. They need to learn what the Bible tells us; the “rules” set up for us to follow, and we need to show them where they can find these “rules” so that as they continue to grow they can return to that book over and over again to seek God on their own. We need to teach them that being in the world is good, but being of it is not. Social “norms” are not always what we should follow. Just because it’s accepted in society today does not mean it’s approved by God, and His way is the only way. It’s our job to teach them to stand up for their faith, even if it means not “fitting in” with their peers. And we need to let them know that they can come to us for anything, and with any question, because life is not going to be a smooth ride.
What happens if we do lead them astray? As they get older they are more capable of making their own decisions, but those decisions are subconsciously made by what they’ve experienced, what they’ve learned, up until that point. Then what?
As I continued reading Matthew chapter 18 I came to the parable of the lost sheep. (Mt 18:10-14) I’ve heard it before, and, thanks to Veggie Tales (I love Big Idea Studios!) and other teachings of it, I’ve really grasped what it was about. If we stray from God He will find us and guide us home. He will help us return to Him and all that He has promised. And He will rejoice for the one who returns. I love this parable and the imagery it projects. If we fail, there is always a way back to Him. He will always welcome us back, and we need to let them know. No one can do anything bad enough to keep God from them. He will not turn His back. In the Bible we’re told that there is only one sin that is unforgivable, and that’s sin against the Holy Spirit. “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mk 3:29) I doubt that is something many people do.
But we should do our best not to fail. What I had missed in my previous experiences with this parable was the last line in the section which says, “In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (v. 14) “These little ones.” The children who believe in Him. If they wander off God wants to bring them back again, but He does not want them to get lost in the first place. And that’s the responsibility He has placed on us. Therefore we need to strive to be the teachers He wants us to be, the role models we need to be. We need to be like Jesus. He was the greatest role model who ever walked this earth. If we set our eyes on Him and follow Him always, then we will be able to help the children in our lives walk this way as well. This is what I strive for in my own family, and though I am not perfect, I will continue to teach and guide.
May we all set our eyes on Him and be the models He wants us to be and not what society says we should be. May we teach the children in our lives to love and follow Christ Jesus, and may they continue their faith journey always. In His name, Amen.