My dad was a silent tour guide through life. He took us to church, to the orchestra, ballet, the space observatory, museums, baseball games, national parks and monuments, to visit family – all sorts of stuff. Yet through it all he never told us what it all meant, or why it was important. In the end, my dad taught us how to experience life, but not how to interpret it. He left the discovery of life’s meaning up to us. He wanted to show us what the world was like, and the good it had to offer. He educated us to the cultured, dynamic world which lay beyond our little low-income apartment complex, our schools, and the office he took us to when he worked weekends. It was invaluable, and I wouldn’t trade if for anything. But he never did explain to us why things were the way they were – beautiful or otherwise. I think he wanted us to discover life’s meaning on our own.
Our kids need our guidance
I know where he was coming from because we shared a similar personality – he did not like directing people what to think. He knew the value in self-discovery, and had a high view of people’s intelligence. I can respect that. Heck, I share that attitude. On the other hand, I did not actually have the capacity to figure that stuff out until I was older. In the meantime, I relied on my father to teach me life’s meaning, and he never did! Therefore I never really knew why our family believed in God, why we went to church, sang songs together, or prayed at bedtime. And I needed to know. After all, there is no area of knowledge and experience more important than who God is and why we follow him. Once I hit Junior High, I started drifting from obedience and faith. I understood that I shouldn’t walk away from God, but I didn’t understand why I shouldn’t. God knows this about children: we are prone to wander away. We need to understand why we follow him, not only that we should. Because of this, after God deliberately instructs the Israelites to teach their children the commands of God, he just as specifically tells them to teach why we obey them. It’s all in Deuteronomy 6. Check it out:
When your son asks in time to come, “What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statues and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?” then you shall say to your son, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt, and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statues, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are to this day. And it will be righteousness to us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before our God, as he commanded us” (Deuteronomy 6:20-25 ESV).
What does the Exodus have to do with my kids?
Okay, so we know the Israelites were supposed to teach the Old Testament to their kids. But. We were never slaves in Egypt, we were never delivered from Pharaoh, and we were never taken out into the Sinai desert to witness great and terrible things. Our stories are not the same. Obviously we have to be careful how we apply this passage, but that doesn’t mean it is irrelevant. It has implications for us today because it’s part of a progressive salvation history that leads to Jesus. Whereas their salvation was from slavery to Egypt, our salvation is from slavery to sin, and the death it brings. Now this may sound like Exodus is allegorical – that it really stands for Jesus’ salvation on the cross, but it’s not. It is a lesser kind of salvation that points to a future, more complete salvation, i.e., the New Testament salvation we have in Jesus. I made a comparison graphic so you can see what I mean.
Keeping salvation central to our story
The situations are different, but there are four overarching themes of salvation which do not change from Deuteronomy to the Gospels, or from Genesis to Revelation for that matter. These are the reasons why we love our God, why we follow Him, why we trust Him:
- Salvation is based on God’s grace
- Salvation is based in community
- Obedience is a matter of life and death
- Righteousness is received by faith
Therefore, as we seek to apply this passage, we are seeking to convey these four things through our faith story. And it is our faith story. One of the main points of a parent teaching their children is the personal nature of it. I hope you can recognize that these four are directly in line with the Gospel, and therefore show the unity of the Scriptures. These four themes we want to hit on again and again, no matter what the particular situation surrounding our salvation may have been. We don’t want to ignore the story of when we finally decided to follow Jesus – quite the opposite. Rather, our testimony is a springboard for revealing the core of the Gospel message. When it comes to our children, it’s not enough for our lives to exemplify the Gospel. We must help them understand why we obey the Gospel.
How to build your faith story around God’s salvation
There are many ways in which we can tell our story, but whichever way we do, we should really record it for our children. Not only because they’ll never memorize it, but because when they are older, it will be a cherished and treasured gift for them. There are a few good mediums that can be stored in your home, or on the internet, making them very diverse mediums for your story. For myself, despite my age-defying good looks, I don’t have much practice in front of a camera, and my speaking abilities are good. My writing, however, is great. That being the case, I’m going to write it. An added benefit of writing is it usually opens up new insights for me, which will translate into a more engaging story for my children. Writing isn’t the only medium though. An audio or video podcast will allow the possibility of your children being able to listen to or watch it wherever they are. Of course, with a video, that will attract the attention of anyone around them (“What are you watching?”), which can be an excellent witness in itself. Whichever medium you choose, just make sure you plan out your story, record it, and that those four salvation themes are obvious by the end of it.