How Do You Talk to Your Kids About Faith?
Did you ever want a glossary of biblical terms to use in raising your kids, like faith, repentance, or love? This is a new blog series on how to weave biblically weighty words that our kids hear in worship and read in Scripture into the ways we speak about matters of sexuality. Like all of us, our kids need to be marinated in the language of Scripture so that those very words can transform their hearts and minds (2 Timothy 3:16).
The language of the world teaches us to “love the world or the things of the world,” but all that is in the world is “passing away” (1 John 2:15, 17). Curated Instagram accounts and witty tweets won’t make it past Jesus’ second coming. Furthermore, Paul warns us in Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human traditions, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
Our kids need to know Christ, and the language of Scripture is there to help them discover Him. The Spirit grows the mind of Christ within our kids as they encounter the Scriptures and its language (1 Cor. 2:16b). Let’s start with the lofty term of faith.
What is Faith?
To use the language of faith with our children, we’ve got to know what it is ourselves and how it plays into sexuality. Faith has three inseparable aspects: knowledge, assent, and trust.
Knowing about God is foundational to grasping what faith is. This why Scripture commands us to teach our kids about God and the content of the Bible. Deuteronomy 6:7 commands us: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Kids can’t put their faith in what they don’t know. This is a call to us as parents to work towards teaching the content of Scripture to our children regarding life including sex and sexuality. And we must teach more than the letter of the law, the “do’s” and “don’ts.” Take the seventh commandment against adultery for example. We need to go deeper to “why’s” (we are to faithfully love our spouse as Christ loves us) and the “why not’s” (we shouldn’t selfishly use others sexually because it destroys others, and because it does not honor Christ).
Assent moves forward on the basis of knowledge. It is not just when our kids intellectually understand something as a fact but when they agree with that fact as true. It might even be helpful, from time to time, to ask our children, for example, “Do you believe that a husband and wife ought to stay together even if it is hard?”
The third part of faith, trust, seems like it is very similar to assent; however, trust is more personal than assent. When our child trusts God, he or she is banking on God, and the assurance that faith brings results in gratitude, love, and willing service. And what started as mere intellectual knowledge culminates in knowing God in fellowship and intimacy; it becomes an active relationship that changes one’s life.
In its fullness, faith is not something we can manipulate but something only God can create in our hearts (Matthew 11:27). This truth, above all, drives us to pray for God to transform our kid’s hearts.
Because of our sin nature, humans naturally put their trust not in God but in created things, god-substitutes, or idols, and this results in sin upon sin, idolatry upon idolatry. Because our faith is exercised daily, either in turning to God or god-substitutes, how can we integrate the language of faith into how we talk about sexuality?
Integrating the Language of Faith: Cultural Moments
I strongly suggest having intentional conversations with your children about what exactly faith is. God is pleased when we have faith (Heb. 11:6,) and God highly values our growth in faith (“more precious than gold … though it is tested by fire,” 1 Peter 1:6-7). Talk about how faith — knowledge, assent, and trust — play out in how we live our lives. One way to do this is to use a pop-culture moment or song as a discussion starter. Check out our friends over at CPYU (CPYU.org) for great resources on cultural analysis and how you can use that to effectively talk to your children.
Integrating the Language of Faith: When Our Kids Sin
Another important way to integrate the language of faith into parenting is to talk about faith when our children sin. Let’s say your late tween or young teen willfully used porn, sent a sext, or got caught kissing someone. Instead of accusingly asking, “Why did you do that?!”, we can directly engage their misplaced faith by asking:
What did you believe doing that would do for you?
Did it satisfy your expectation?
Of course, our kids are not cognitively aware they are rejecting faith in God’s loving wisdom and providence in favor of using their own “wisdom” to take care of themselves and whatever situation they find themselves in. But, by asking good questions, we can point this out.
Here, we can bring the truth of Jesus to bear on their situation, contrasting the empty promises of sexual sin with the reality of Jesus. So, as we ask questions to try to uncover their heart’s motivation for their actions, we can weave in some suggestions on how they might think and choose faith in Christ rather than sin. With the sexting example, you might ask, “Don’t you think it would be better to talk with me about how you are feeling pressured by your friend to send pictures of yourself that are inappropriate? That would be a way to follow Jesus during a real difficult time.”
Faced with a myriad of temptations, faith in God is hard to implement; it must be Spirit-given. It’s always good, then, to let kids know that putting our faith in Christ will be difficult in this world. But it’s helpful to come back to the truths of Scriptures, to match them up with the empty promises of what the world, in its “wisdom,” offers.
When we employ the language of faith, we get to turn a sinful situation into a gospel opportunity by having intentional conversations that also ground our kids in the language of the Scriptures. When we do this, we prepare them both to live the Christian life in the reality of God and to understand how the foundational building block of faith makes a difference in everyday life.
That’s it for now; the next installment will be the language of repentance.