“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:5-9
This passage has had a profound impact on my life as a parent. I often wonder, what did it mean to the Israelites? Did it simply mean that they recounted the stories of Abraham, Moses and Joshua to their children at bedtime? Did they use those stories as moralistic lessons of what character qualities to emulate and which ones to avoid?
When the Israelites taught their children about scripture, they were teaching them about God’s faithfulness. That was the purpose behind the celebrations and feasts–to remember all that God had done for them. The stories they told their children weren’t merely stories with a good moral, they were reminders of God’s active role in their lives. The stories recalled God’s salvation, providence and goodness.
This passage weigh’s heavy on my own heart. I want my children to know Him as I know Him. I want them to be in awe of His holiness and blown away by His grace. Yet my first instinct comes from the depths of my Pharisaical heart. I automatically lean toward moralism–do this, don’t do that and remember the courage of David? If that’s the God I teach them, they will never know the God of grace and faithfulness.
When I teach Jesus to my children, I need to point them to God and His goodness. I need to teach them the story of a God who created people to love and glorify Him. But the first man sinned, bringing sin into the world. From that point on, God began implementing his rescue plan, a plan to restore His beloved people to Himself. Showing them how God used their favorite characters in scripture to carry out His rescue plan is good and necessary but it doesn’t end there. I need to point them to the cross and God’s plan to rescue us through His Son Jesus. I need to point them to the grace of God. And as the verse says, I need to do it all the time, everywhere and in every situation.
I need to saturate them in scripture through reading, memorization, and creative activities that help them understand and retain what they have learned. As a parent, I need to be grace filled in my interactions with them, extending the same grace to them as God has given me. It’s also important that I am always in tune to teaching moments that arise. Whether it be during play, during discipline or in casual conversation, when an opportunity arises to teach them about Jesus, I need to be ready. When they stumble in sin, I must point them to the cross and to His forgiveness. They need me to pray with them, asking God to help them conquer sin. And when I stumble myself, I need to humbly ask them for their forgiveness.
Teaching Jesus to our children is more than reading bible stories, though certainly that is part of it. It stems from a life lived in the gospel of grace and it pours out the love and grace of Jesus into every activity and situation. We teach our children Jesus by showing them God’s faithfulness, goodness, salvation and grace in every situation, in all circumstances, all the time and everywhere.