Ehud drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. (Judg. 3:21–22)
Their waggish point was well taken, and it has implications not only for us as adults but also for how we present Scripture to our children. Does softening the Bible equip children to defend the faith or even help them grow in it? After all, the Bible vividly depicts the darkness of sin, even as it presents the contrasting Light that overcomes the darkness.
In a culture that scrapes against the grain of Christian principles, how can parents help children grow into adults who will “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught” (Titus 1:9)? And, Lord willing that our children come to faith in Christ, how can we help them grow into confident defenders of the faith?
Building a Robust Faith
Here are three ways to help children develop a robust faith that embraces and defends truth.
1. Expose children to the entirety of Scripture.
Christian parents and Sunday School curricula tend to swaddle biblical truth in euphemistic bubble wrap. Cute wooden Noah’s ark toys are precious and may have a place in our homes, but they represent only part of the truth of the biblical story. Like countless Bible accounts, the story of Noah is replete with sin that was so offensive to God that he saw fit to wipe out the entire world (Gen. 6:5–7).
The depth of sin in Noah’s time extended even to the “sons of God,” who took any women they found attractive and had children who were giants in the earth (Gen. 6:1–4). You don’t see those characters in your child’s wooden Noah’s ark set, perhaps for good reason. Yet this is God’s story. The story of Noah, in all its nefariousness, is a treasure trove of hard truths. Teaching it through docile and adorable animal couples being tended by a portly and smiling Mr. and Mrs. Noah may be a place to begin with young children, but if that’s the only account of Noah we offer our children even as they age, we’ll have diluted the real message of sin and the dire consequences of grieving a holy God.
2. Expose children to grit.
As Christian parents, we may be rightly vigilant about how much culture we allow our children to consume. However, too often the barometer for the appropriateness of media, for example, is a secular rating system. A G rating on a film may guarantee safety from foul language and graphic content, but it in no way guarantees a safe worldview. A discerning Christian parent will appraise a film’s appropriateness by what it can teach. An R rating alone shouldn’t necessarily discount a film if we can have teachable moments as a result of watching it with our children.
3. Tackle difficult questions head-on.
“Where do babies come from?” will not be the toughest question our children ask. If children are allowed free rein in reading both testaments of the Bible, and if they’re exposed to the grittiness of the world in the safe setting of their home, difficult questions are inevitable. The Bible addresses rape, prostitution, adultery, murder, homosexuality, child sacrifice, and other dark subjects. Our culture will introduce them to abortion, transgenderism, radical feminism, racial violence, and a dogged anti-faith agenda. Shying away from hard subjects does little to prepare children to defend a faith that’s increasingly under attack. Rather, by discussing hard topics with our children in age-appropriate ways, we can show them how to wisely apply Scripture to the difficult questions of our day.
Growing a Beautiful Faith
The world is a gritty place, but thanks be to God that he is the Cleanser of grit. Parents must be discerning when gauging the appropriateness of the content their children consume. Presenting stark biblical truths or raw cultural content will look different for very young children than it does for older kids and teens. But a child will not realize what needs cleansing if he can’t recognize the grit in the first place.
Continually discussing the beauty and hard realities of Scripture will help children love truth and the God who embodies it. And it’ll give them a discerning ear when engaging culture apart from the watchful eye of their parents. We have the opportunity to demonstrate that the Christian faith is rational, understandable, and more beautiful than the culture that will fight hard to persuade our children otherwise.