Teaching kids about Jesus presents many opportunities to remember the love that changes us.
Yesterday I was the teacher to a group of kinder through 5th graders. The kids sat at their places around the tables, red construction paper hearts and crayons in front of them and one of the older kids read aloud our Bible verse for the day.
“Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.”
James 2:8 CSB
When the child returned to his seat he found that the child next to him had scribbled black crayon all over his red paper heart. The child Bible reader, now red-faced with anger, picked up a crayon and scribbled all over the red paper heart laying in front of the child offender who had ruined his paper heart. The two boys, now red faced, eyes spilling over with tears, were ready to lay down their darkened paper hearts and take up fists with each other.
The boys were separated, the class called to attention again, and with the demonstration of messing up each others’ hearts before us, we dove into the question from our Bible reading: How in the world do you love your neighbor as yourself?
I can go to church, read my bible quietly with a cup of coffee in the morning, put my ear buds in and listen to my favorite writers spell out hope in Christ from their stories and songs, and feel like I’m doing pretty good. Then people walk in my room, pick up my one fragile heart and start scratching it black with their selfish words, or cold manner, or inconsiderate acts. And then, I don’t feel so much good.
I’ll never be able to think of being a Christian as something I’m proud of or good at as long as being a Christian means loving my heart-wrenching neighbor as I love myself.
By the end of our class yesterday all the kids came to the conclusion that we don’t love very well. Not like Jesus did. We decided we need Jesus to help us. And we need to ask for forgiveness a lot.
And this is how I know Christ has hold of me. I see how he loves. I see how he turns my heart towards others with a desire to give what I have no power in myself to give. I see the brokenness in those around me, and I feel the self-protective snatching of my heart away from potential scribblers, and I say, “Lord, it’s too much! Send them away!” And I hear Jesus say, “No. Give yourself to them.” And I watch as he takes my meager offerings of a listening ear, a choice to be quiet, or speak up, or get low or stand up and makes them enough to communicate love.
At the end of our class the older boy went to the younger boy of his own accord, looked him in the eyes and said, “I’m sorry.” The boys hugged each other and played.
Jesus can make you want to make it right with the person whose heart you marred in revenge and hug the person who turned your tidy heart into a scribbled-up mess.
As a Christian parent, my greatest desire is for my children to trust and follow Jesus. I want good things for them, but the world is full of frightening possibilities that threaten my kids’ faith and future.
Maybe like me, you find yourself overwhelmed with concern for your kids and you just don’t know where to start when it comes to prayer.
For centuries Christians have written prayers and used the prayers of others as a guide. Even the first disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, and Jesus gave them what we call The Lord’s Prayer.
Sometimes we need inspiration to know how to pray. That’s why I wrote this. I hope this post will inspire and help you talk to God about your kids and the anxieties you carry for them.
Scriptures to pray over your children
Prayer is a conversation with God. When we use our Bibles to pray, God talks first, we listen and respond. If we make a practice of talking to God about what we read in our Bibles, we’ll have plenty of help with what to pray for our kids.
Here are 8 Bible verses and prayers to use as a starting place.
Prayer for your children’s protection
I am guilty of wishing I could raise my kids in a bubble.
Drugs, alcohol, sexual perversions, greed, love of money, abusive people… the options for destruction surround my kids like a pack of wolves. How should I pray?
The famous bedtime prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,” may sound childish, but the truth is, the Lord is the one who keeps our kids’ souls. He is our hope for their protection.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- whom shall I dread? Though an army deploys against me, my heart will not be afraid; though a war breaks out against me, I will still be confident.”
Psalm 27:4 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayer for a child in crisis
When we get bad news about our child, or they experience trauma or loss, the overwhelming sense of helplessness is paralyzing. We want our kids to be strong and courageous, but when fear breathes down our necks we too need the anchoring truth of who God is to help us pray.
“God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its water roars and foams and the mountains quake with its turmoil.” -Psalm 46:1-3 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayer for children’s health
God has not promised our kids health. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.(John 16:33)” But Jesus also fulfilled the prophecy that says, “…he himself bore our sicknesses…” (Isaiah 53:4) Though our children may not be healed of mental or physical maladies, we can pray they will trust the Christ who bore their brokenness in his own body, and can raise them to new life.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will have life even if he dies. And he who lives and believes in me will never die. Martha, do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26
Pray like this:
Praying for a rebellious child or teenager
Next to the death of a child, watching a son or daughter rebel against your guidance, and especially against Christ, is heart-wrenching.
In Psalm 51, David writes a broken-hearted prayer of repentance after his sin was exposed. It was only after recognizing his own sin that he was able to teach others to turn to God. In our prayers for our children we must seek God’s wisdom to discern where our own confession of sin and repentance is needed to help our kids return to obedience.
“Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you.” -Psalm 51:12-13
Pray like this:
Prayer for your child’s future
God knit our children together, weaving their personality, talents and number of days like a master tapestry, before their first cry. We can pray with confidence in the goodness of the God who holds their future in his hands.
“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it…For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:7,11
Pray like this:
Prayers for your child’s success
Because God’s thoughts are not like ours, the way we and our kids measure success may leave us with an insatiable thirst for more. We want our child’s ideas of success to grow out of God’s thoughts, not their own. Whatever our children set out to do, we want them to be motivated by a desire to glorify God.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayers for teenage relationships
Next to the “terrible twos,” the teenage years have the most notorious reputation for trouble.
Teens live in a tension between playful childhood and adult expectations. The fact that teenage relationships are between two immature and broken people means there will inevitably be trouble. We can’t keep our kids from this kind of suffering, but we can pray that in their relationships they will learn to love others well.
“This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you.” – John 15:12 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayers for my daughter or son to come home
The goal of parenting is to launch our children out into the world equipped to follow Jesus. We want this to be a deliberate and happy launch. We don’t want anger, shame, and lust for the world to drive our kids away from home. When a child leaves home in rebellion, the desire for them to come home is a desire for reconciled relationships. Like the Father in the prodigal son story, we must look for restoration. Praying is how we watch for the day when God brings our child back to a right relationship with us and him.
“So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. – Luke 15:20 CSB
Pray like this:
Never Stop Praying
As our kids grow through the various stages of life we must never stop praying for them. Using these 8 verses and prayers we can begin praying with confidence in what God says. The Holy Spirit will help us when we’re weak and don’t know what to pray.
“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.” (1 Samuel 12:23)
And click here to get free printables of these 8 scriptures and prayers. And here for an editable word document of the same.
I’m pretty sure I’m one of the most forgetful people on the planet.
I joke that I think I have early dementia, but it might not be a joke. I forget the names of people I’ve known for a long time. I forget what I was doing when I walk into a room, and have to go back to where I started to try and jog loose some clue that will send me back to the room to do what I set out to do in the first place. And I forget about God.
I have this nagging ache for Jesus to break through in my life in a visible, tangible way. I want so badly to see the evidence that he is alive and changing the hearts and lives of those I love. Even my own life. I want to see that I have an actual desire to love those who I feel unloved by. And I forget that he is here, with me, unseen, and working to transform me. I also forget this means I will actually need to make intentional changes and stop in the parking lot at the grocery store to tell God out loud in my car how angry I am, how frustrated I am, how tired I am, and then thank him for the promise that He won’t leave me or abandon me. I forget that Christ lives in me. In ME.
So tonight, I’m intentionally remembering the miracle that it is in me, even now.
“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” – Colossians 1:27 ESV
I read somewhere recently, or maybe I listened, I don’t remember, that the meaning of glory in the Bible has to do with substance or weight. Glory isn’t just getting attention or honor or being at your peak in performance or potential. Glory is weight. Glory is substance. (Oh, I remember now, it was the book God Of All Things by Andrew Wilson). As Wilson put it, “To speak of God’s glory, in biblical terms, is not just to speak of his splendor and beauty (though that too) but also to speak of how weighty, heavy and substantial he is.”
The lyrics to the song by Switchfoot come to mind here.
I can feel you reaching Pushing through the ceiling ‘Til the final healing I’m looking for you
In my restlessness, in my longing to see God’s substance, his glory in my life, my changed life, and in the lives of those I love, I forget Christ in me.
This is why I need the Church. This is why I need the disciplines of meditating on scripture, praying, all the time. Or like the Bible says, “without ceasing.” This is why I need to remember.
Father, it’s quite miraculous that I wake up still being held by you. Jesus still has hold of me. I still love Him whom I have never seen. It’s a miracle. Please, let me see your glory. Let my children see the weighty substance of your actual life-changing reality. Don’t let me forget you.
There’s a handmade wooden sign in the hallway leading to my bedroom with these words in black:
” And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20
I walk by that sign daily and don’t give it a thought, but the other day I stopped and read it over and over. I considered whether I really believed what it said. I mean, Jesus told his followers to go out and tell all kinds of people all over the world about him and what he has done and taught. He told them to baptize them and teach them, make Jesus-followers out of them. And then, he said, “Hey, pay attention (which is what I take “Behold” to mean). I know what you all are thinking. I know this will feel, and is, impossible for you. So get this: I WILL BE WITH YOU. All the way to the end.”
Do I believe that? Do I believe Jesus is with me? The Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus who told a storm to stop after being woke from a nap, and it did. The Jesus who touched untouchables and healed them. The Jesus who suffered the torture of Roman execution and the rejection and abandonment of his friends and came back to life after three days of rigor mortis in the grave. Do I believe this Jesus is with me?
I am surrounded day in and day out with people I love who don’t turn to Jesus as, “…the way, the truth and the life.” And I can’t explain my belief to them. I just know, even in the midst of my own lack of faith, that he’s with me.
In Colossians, Paul wrote that there’s a mystery going on in those who follow Jesus, the mystery is: Christ is in us. I can’t explain this mystery. I can’t even get my own mind around it. But I know, something greater than me and my tired pea-brain compels me to, cry out to a God I’ve never seen but love, reach out to a people who look at me with condescending sighs (because I’m their mom) and constantly seek to love God and love people better. For Jesus’ name’s sake. Because he’s worth it. That is happening in me. And it’s a mystery.
Today I got in my car and drove away from my house alone. Again. However many Sundays there are in 28 years, that’s how many Sundays (minus a few Christmas and Easter Sundays) I’ve been going to church alone.
Almost every Sunday I have to fight the numbness that threatens. Going to church every Sunday can become so routine that you forget exactly why you’re going. It’s just what you do. Going to church every Sunday alone, while the man you love stays home to work on his latest project, throws pain at the numbness that won’t let going to church become a routine. It’s like arthritis of the heart flares up every Sunday, but I’ve gotten used to the pain.
My life circumstance lie to me week after week. They tell me God’s not there. And if he is, he’s can’t reach my husband and sons. And if he does, they wouldn’t embrace him. And at times I find myself lost in complaints, bitterness and blaming like the dwarves from The Hobbit did when they lost their way in the Mirkwood forest. I need to remember what God told Ezekiel to tell the people of Israel when they were generations deep and poisoned in their own Mirkwood forest.
“I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
– Ezekiel 36:24-28 ESV
God promised to give his people a new heart and new spirit. And he has. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve experienced it myself.
I’m not a Bible scholar, so I won’t go into the when or how the fulfillment of this prophecy happened or will happen for Israel. But I know there was a time in my life that I didn’t care about God. I cared about me. I didn’t want to walk in God’s ways, I wanted God to give me my way. And I don’t know how he did it, really. I mean I know the right theological answer, but I can’t tell you how he made what beats inside of me every day long for Jesus. All I know is, I have a heart I didn’t have sometime before age 16 when I heard Jesus call me to follow him.
And I’ve seen it in my sister’s life. God took out her heart of stone and gave her a tender heart that loves Jesus and people.
I need to remember. I need to believe. I don’t know when or how, but my God is a heart transplantor. He takes out hard hearts like the one I’ve seen resist the gospel for 28 years, and replaces them with hearts that love Jesus.
I remember things that seem to have zero importance. Like the smell of the small stairway that led to the attic-level Children’s Ministry classroom in my childhood church.
I remember the smell. I remember the stairway being narrow. I remember the small window from which I could look down and see the church sanctuary. And I faintly remember dark cabinetry and a flannel board.
But when my son is obsessed with his appearance and I fear that I didn’t do enough to instill God’s word and the hope of the gospel in his life, I seem to have total amnesia to the eternal, historical and experiential truths of God and Christ. I forget what God has done. I forget what he’s promised. I forget how he redeemed and is still redeeming me.
When I am scheduled to teach kids at church on a Sunday, or speak to a group of people on a specific subject, I’ll do the work needed to prepare myself. So I decided to give myself an assignment: a blog series on remembering God. My goal: to write on one eternal, historical or experiential truth of God in an effort to deliberately remember.
Maybe like me, you’re a married mom of kids in the launch-out phase of development, working full time and involved in your local church, trying to balance work, rest and play. Or maybe you’re in a completely different demographic. Whatever your lot, if you’re a Christian, intentionally remembering what God has done and promised has got to be good for you, and me.
To prevent this intentional forgetting our brains do, we have to intentionally remember. According to the researchers, “The more often a memory is recalled, the stronger its neural network becomes. Over time, and through consistent recall, the memory becomes encoded in both the hippocampus and the cortex. Eventually, it exists independently in the cortex, where it is put away for long-term storage.”
God knows this about our brains. (Surprise!) And throughout scripture, he tells his people to intentionally remember what he’s done and said. This is one of the functions of the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25:26 ESV)
So, if you find yourself struggling with the day to day of life, or the crisis that has hit you, join me here every weekend to remember some of the eternal, historical and experiential truths of God.
Whether your church calls it family ministry, children’s ministry, kids ministry… whatever it’s called, here are three reasons people often give for why they shouldn’t serve in a ministry that involves children. I propose these three reasons are exactly why you should sign up this Sunday to serve in your church’s ministry to the next generation.
Because You Aren’t a Kid Person
I hear this a lot. As a kids ministry leader at my church, I often hear people say they aren’t kid people. That’s why they don’t serve in kids ministry. And to a point there’s good reasoning there.
Not everyone is suited for holding babies, singing Jesus Loves Me with toddlers, and teaching elementary students to discern Jesus from the Bible lesson. In fact, there are some really good reasons a person should have no contact with kids in church. But just because you don’t feel all warm and fuzzy when kids are around, and you don’t talk to babies like you’re in a cartoon, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t serve in your church’s ministry to the next generation.
In fact, if you are quick to say, “I’m not a kid person,” you should sign up to serve in kids ministry. Let God take that aversion you have to kids and the chaos they may make you feel, and use it to lower yourself and listen to Jesus say, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
If you’re not a kid person, you don’t have to be the lead teacher or the one who guides the toddlers in a game of follow the leader. But get on the ground next to a kid playing with the Noah’s ark play set. Let God use those kids to show you how much he loves and accepts you as you are, and is leading you to grow up to be like Jesus.
Because You Work With Kids All Day Long
A reason many give for not serving in a ministry to children is that they work with kids every day during the week. They don’t want to work with kids at church too.
Teachers, daycare workers, preschool aides… you all are the pros! Your church’s kids ministry needs you to help them learn how to manage a classroom. We need your skills!
In Exodus 35, when Moses called the people of Israel to build the tabernacle as God instructed, he called for people with different skills to use their abilities not just for their own homes, but for the house God was having them build.
“Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded… All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair… ‘See the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Juday; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship…” Exodus 35:10, 26, 30-31
Jesus is building his church. And one way he does that is by calling people with different abilities in the church to serve one another using those skills. There’s an ability needed to guide a group of kids to listen and learn together. If you have that skill, sign up this Sunday to serve in your church’s ministry to the next generation. Build Jesus’ kingdom with your classroom management talents.
Towards the end of his message, Piper responds to Paul’s desire to go to Jerusalem in Acts 20:22, as a fictional American trying to talk some sense into the elderly apostle:
But Paul, you’re getting old. How ’bout a little cottage on the Aegean Sea? You’ve already done more in your ministry than most people could do in five lifetimes. It’s time to rest. Let the last twenty years of your life be travel and golf, shuffleboard and putzing around the garage and digging in the garden. Let Timothy have a chance. He’s young. Don’t go to Jerusalem. Agabus the prophet has told you, they are going to bind your hands and feet and hand you over to the Gentiles (Acts 21:11). And whatever you do, don’t go to Rome. And get out of your head the crazy plan of going to Spain at your age. You could get yourself killed. It isn’t American! It’s not the American Dream of ‘the sunset years.
The point of Piper’s message is old age in Jesus’ church isn’t a reason for sitting back and relaxing while younger folks do the work of the ministry. And it isn’t just John Piper preaching this message. In the Bible the psalmist pleads with God to give him a ministry even when he’s old, “So even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” (Psalm 71:18)
And in Joshua 14:6-15, when 85 year old Caleb finally enters the land God promised Israel, he tells Joshua, “And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.”
Not every person of retirement age can get down on the ground with toddlers, but if you’re a retiree and you can enter a church building, this Sunday you should sign up to serve the next generation of parents and children in your church.
Ok, that’s four, and it’s not a reason people give for not wanting to serve in a ministry to children. But I think it’s a reason many of us serious folks might unconsciously use as a reason we avoid kids ministry.
I tend to be too serious. In fact, it’s a prayer of mine this year that I will laugh more. I know that’s pathetic, but its true. Serving in kids ministry has caused me to laugh and have fun even while the hard things of life happen around us.
Proverbs 31 speaks of the woman who is clothed with strength and dignity. She opens her mouth and teaches others with kindness and wisdom. And she laughs at the time to come.
When you lower yourself to sit criss-cross and sing Jesus Loves Me with toddlers; when you learn to teach Jesus to a child, you will grow in strength and dignity and you’ll find yourself having the best kind of fun. You’ll laugh with a pure heart and it will be good!
I pray this stirs your heart. I pray if you’re not a kid person, and if you’re a teacher person or a retired person, you will turn your reasons for not serving the children and parents in your church into the reasons you sign up to serve them on Sunday.
I didn’t keep a journal during this pandemic. I wish I had. I find myself scrolling back through my iPhone calendar trying to figure out how many days we’ve been like this. Arizona “reopened” on May 15th. We’re eight days into gyms, restaurants and many retail stores being open for business. But life is by no means business as usual.
For me, as a nurse working in a hospital during this crisis, I have not experienced the shelter-in-place like so many have. The big changes in my family’s life has been having our two high school boys doing school at home via online learning and my husband being mandated to work from home until May 1st. The 2019-2020 school year officially ended yesterday. Not being able to hug my friends, pick up their kids, sit on the floor with elementary students and talk about Jesus and sing loud with them all on Sundays is by far the biggest area I’ve felt the impact of Covid-19.
I’ve been doing my shopping weekly for groceries and feed for my animals. People are shopping, some with mask, others without. To me it seems about a 50/50 split. I can now find toilet paper at Walmart and the pasta isle at Fry’s is almost back to being fully stocked. No one has harassed me for wearing my homemade mask. People have been polite and I’ve been thankful for the efforts of grocery clerks and cart runners who continue to serve me with a smile I can’t see. I may not see the smile, but the way their eyes sparkle as they nod makes me think the smile is there.
We aren’t big out-to-eat-ers so we haven’t tested the reopening of restaurants.
All in all, life feels fairly normal for my family. The strangeness is in the buzz on social media and news stations. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are tattered with anger, accusations, suspicion, conspiracy theory, blame and divisive politicizing. All those people I miss from church, see at the store, work with in the hospital, drive by running errands… they all have feelings and thoughts about all that has happened in the pandemic. A handful of them I’ve spoken to personally. And of those there’s a handful of differing opinions about what went wrong, who’s to blame, what we should do, what we shouldn’t do, and where we go from here.
I’ve been listening to the audio version of the ESV translation of Ecclesiastes lately. I’m drawn to this long meditation on, “What’s the point of life?” This global pandemic has brought me face to face with my utter lack of control over life. As a Christian, I believe my God is good. Jesus showed me that. And if he’s God, and he’s good, I can just ride the wave of this pandemic and trust he’ll make everything right in the end. But it’s not that simple.
I can’t just ride the wave. People all around me are getting knocked out by the wave. Ecclesiastes reminds me that death comes to us all. Whether by Covid-19 or a car accident, cancer or coronary artery disease. Pick your reaper, either way, he’s coming. And you don’t even get to pick your reaper. So what am I to do with this life? It sometimes feels like all my concern for my neighbor, my desire to share Jesus with my friends, my heart-work to become more emotionally intelligent and aware of the logs in my eye, the work of loving a husband and raising men is for nothing.
Listening to Ecclesiastes I’m reminded that life is painful and sometimes seems fruitless. The point of it all is found in the God who made it and rules over it. Even there I find Ecclesiastes telling me to stop trying to figure out what God is doing, and do my work, be a good friend, be thankful, love my neighbor, enjoy my glass of wine, go outside, take in a sunset and laugh when the dog chases his tail.
Tonight I’m sitting on my back porch listening to a bird sing in one of our sissoo trees. The sky is a faint peach and grey, the aftermath of a blazing fiery orange sunset that was a few minutes ago. Tonight one of my friends is sick with Covid-19. His wife is scared. Tomorrow the sun will rise, and I pray my friend gets up feeling much better. Life with Covid-19 will go on. At least until the One who makes the sun rise says it’s all over.
When you shake a cup, what comes out reveals what’s been in there all along. The global corona virus pandemic has brought out the suspicion, anger and conspiracy theories in many.
I’ve been thinking about why so many of us are given to believing or promoting conspiracy theories. Folks who do so seem to be self-proclaimed prophets with their memes and YouTube videos. Their practice is name-calling, blame-shifting, complaining and crying “corruption” at every news story or government decision. Their gospel seems to be, “Repent of being dumb sheep who listen to science and news. Turn and become suspicious! Watch this enlightened person on YouTube or take this alternative supplement or treatment, or follow the politician I approve of.” They peddle their own sources and accuse those who don’t agree with them of being gullible or worse.
Many of these folks call themselves Christians. And I’m not say they aren’t. My question is, how should the Christian approach news, disease, government and disaster? With suspicion? Anger? Blame-shifting? Slander? Pride? Arguing? These kinds of responses are not fruits of the Spirit. They aren’t Christ-like. They aren’t spiritual gifts. Those given to these practices should turn from them for the sake of love, for the gospel and for Christ’s name sake.
I have to begin by confessing my personality type would rather ignore all bad news and hide myself away in a convent somewhere, where I wouldn’t have to deal with people’s problems. My tendency to be passive and avoid conflict isn’t a fruit of the Spirit either. I am not here to say that evil should be ignored, or that justice should not be called for. I am not saying wisdom should not be sought or that conflict should be avoided. What I am saying is that scripture, Jesus and the saints who have suffered much worse than we, point us to a godly way of responding to news, government, disease and disaster. And it’s not passivity, nor is it to spread suspicion or promote a conspiracy theory. Ed Stetzer is right, spreading conspiracy theories is hurting our witness and is foolish. So when suspicions arise, when bad news comes, when you find yourself angry about what the government is doing, what should the Christian do?
Check your eye for logs. I’ve found that the things I’m most upset about, whether in my personal relationships, or in relation to the public or government about social issues or moral issues, usually are the result of my own idols, my own faulty way of seeing the world and my own attempts to self-preserve. When Jesus taught us how to deal with people we see error in, he told us to first examine ourselves. When the corona-virus pandemic began to impact your own personal way of doing life, your bank account, your health, etc., was your response anger, blame-shifting, suspicion? Did you turn to YouTube? Did you use God’s word to scratch your itch? Ask yourself why? Why are you angry? Is it because you feel your freedom has been taken away? Do you fear being out of control? When the news is bad, or the government makes a decision that imposes on your way of life, don’t examine the news, or the government first. Examine yourself. Take scripture, look at Jesus, look at other Christians who’ve suffered well throughout history and hold it up to your own life first.
Humble yourself. The book of 1 Peter is addressed to suffering Christians. The Christians Peter wrote to suffered at the hands of a corrupt government because they were Christians. If what’s driving you to conspiracy theories, anger, or withdrawal is your belief that the government or some evil power is corrupt and out to destroy your way of life, look to the folks in 1 Peter. That was their reality. “Even if,” is one of the phrases Peter uses to encourage married women in that tumultuous time to submit themselves to their husbands, even in that culture, even if their husband’s didn’t believe the gospel of Christ. “Even if,” should be our mantra. Even if our government is corrupt (Newsflash- it is. Has there ever been a government without corruption? Are there humans in power? Then there’s corruption in power), even if there is a secret society of power trying to poison us or oppress us, 1 Peter tells us, to submit to those in authority the way his sons and daughters do. We humble ourselves. We are sons and daughters of God. We are heirs with Christ. Nothing we suffer here compares to what God has for us in Christ. So if the government is corrupt and we suffer, let us suffer as little Christs (Christ-ians), not as those promoting suspicion, anger, rebellion, pride or slander. We will not be under corruption forever. The One who rules the powers we cannot even see will, at the proper time, lift us up.
Complain to God. When I find myself getting angry, accusing, becoming cynical or suspicious of those who’ve offended or hurt me I often hear this, “Sheila, your problem isn’t with him. Your problem is with me! Come to me. Bring your complaints to me.” I don’t think we do this enough. At least I don’t. It’s no sign of moral courage to lash out with complaints, gossip, anger or suspicion when we’ve been offended, hurt or feel threatened by another. In fact, we don’t usually even take our complaints directly to the people we’re offended by. Usually we take it to someone else, or social media. It’s my conviction that when I do this, it’s because I’ve lost sight of who can make a difference in this situation. The Bible describes a good and merciful God who is completely sovereign. If our circumstances are such that we suffer, there is freedom and comfort in taking our complaints to the one who rules over our circumstances. He may change our circumstances. He may not. But He will not leave us unchanged. He promises to use every circumstance for our good and his glory. He promises to redeem it all. So we should cry, “How long!” and “Where are you?” and “Don’t you see this evil happening?” and “What are you going to do?” We should take all our complaints to the God of the Bible and throw them his way. There is no conspiracy where God is. He rules. And we will suffer. But if we cast our complaints on him and seek refuge in Him, we can rest.
Seek Wisdom.The thing with conspiracy theories and those who promote suspicion is there’s a claim to wisdom that the general population isn’t privy to. It’s a secret wisdom, that comes from the person claiming the masses are duped. But wisdom in the Bible is never a secret. The personification of wisdom in Proverbs cries out in the streets. She’s on the news. She’s heard. She speaks and points others to the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom is not suspicious, it’s, “…open to reason…” As we seek out what to do in this pandemic, submitting ourselves to earthly authorities, examining our own hearts, running to God with our concerns, we should let the spirit of wisdom guide us. And it will look like this, “wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18)
Fight the Good Fight. 1 Timothy 6 there is a description of a person teaching false teachings when comes to the gospel. It says, “...he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions...” Although I’m sure that when I am given to suspicion, and when folks turn to conspiracy theories we may not be conscious of it, but we are spreading, perpetuating false teaching. If we find in ourselves a “craving for controversy,” it may be that we need to repent of being false teachers and turn to do the good works God created us to do. There is so much good to do. Even right now, with social distancing and in financial hardship, even more right now. The end of that passage in 1 Timothy 6 tells the man or woman of God what to do. “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.Fight the good fight of the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:11) There is a fight the Christian should fight. It is not over 5G, or the origin of the corona virus, or vaccines, or government structure even. Our fight should be to live by faith and in so doing we should be making disciples of Christ, not disciples of our personal beliefs about any controversial thing.
We are being tested. This pandemic has shaken our earthen vessels. And out of us has come stuff we need to clean out of our cup. May God test us, purify us and make us useful for his kingdom, overflowing with joy, even in the midst of sorrow.