Wanna Raise Your Child to Accept All People? Check Your Credentials
Updated: Jul 19
I was not prepared for what I witnessed during my first trip to Israel recently. I foolishly expected the biblical sites to bear some resemblance to their former glory when Christ walked the streets of Jerusalem. Instead, I found old, untended shops in Nazareth, villages of the Old and New Testament overrun, access to sacred biblical sites restricted by nonbelievers, abandoned biblical ruins, and the narrow, unsightly state of the Jordan River. What was most surprising, however, was the spiritual state of the country, despite its rich biblical history. Some residents were atheists; others practiced Judaism; most were uninterested in sites featuring Jesus of Nazareth. Our tour guide, Steve, was a Messianic Jew, a rarity in the country. Steve had come to believe in Christ after he'd witnessed firsthand the love shown by a Messianic Jew who had befriended him and challenged his beliefs. Steve said he’d been moved to envy as he noticed an undeniable difference among Gentiles and other Messianic Jews who embraced this Jesus whom Judaism had rejected.
As I returned to his story over the course of my trip, I questioned the strength of my own witness. I asked myself, “Did my light shine bright enough to move an unbelieving Jewish person to jealousy? To compel a sinner? To reflect Christ to my own children?”
This last question landed hard when I considered my role as a mom. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (KJV).In light of John 13:34–35—the call to love one another and then to be recognized by this love—what we need to do to train our children becomes clear. It starts when we as parents first take seriously the commandment to love. Only after we reach this critical milestone, can we train our children to do the same.
Ensuring our lives reflect the love of God requires that we become far better than most at loving others. The love that we’re called to embody must comprise the love of all people, including people of different racial and ethnic groups, different tax brackets, and ways of thinking, whether we agree or not. It’s costly. It’s forgiving, caring about, and even preferring every person. How many times do our children overhear us complaining or gossiping about others? How real is our love for the one who hurt us? Stole from us? Would our kids reread our living epistle? Study it? Keep it in their libraries as they grow old? We must acknowledge that each individual is complex, often contradictory creatures made in the image of God and worthy of our attention in prayer. After that, we can guide our children as they see their way clear to forgive the bully, invite the weird kid over to play, and enjoy satisfying relationships with all people from all backgrounds, fueled by the same love and grace we receive from the Lord.
After we humbly and carefully examine our fitness as trainers according to Proverbs 22:6, we can teach our children that we serve God by loving others as we enjoy God’s love daily. Turning our hearts to obey God's directives is a powerful way to compel our children to imitate us as we imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). We can’t expect our children to accept the differences of others, instinctively rejecting racist thoughts and behavior, unless they first see our lives in alignment with God’s command to love and pray for all people. We want them to remember that diversity is one of the many ways that God shows off and reveals Himself as mankind’s creator. It’s when we’ve done that heart work in ourselves that we can hope our example makes our child’s mental filter strong enough to cancel out negative stereotypes and eliminate race as a factor in their assessment of an individual’s character, aptitude, likeability, or intrinsic value.
Parents must come to terms with love and equality as a New Testament mandate while making clear to our families the expectation to meet the challenges of sins such as racism head on, armed with love. To sidestep this teaching in favor of a doctrine steeped in superiority on any basis is to show ourselves unworthy to play the role of trainer, to risk being a hypocrite, or worse, being a sure-footed professor of the doctrine of pride. The result is that our child may be led astray by our own instruction and life. Worse yet, we will have robbed our young one of the only power that can save them, keep them, liberate others, and give their lives meaning.