This was originally published on the VERGE: Family site on June 12, 2014.
I grew up scared into saying a prayer of salvation. I definitely didn’t want to go to hell, so I accepted an invitation to follow Jesus instead. I mean, who wouldn’t choose that? I was a part of the crowd that listened with trembling fear about what might happen if you were to die in a car wreck tonight on your way home from this event and you hadn’t trusted in Jesus as your Savior. Any sane person would raise their hand in response to that.
I walked down the aisle at the age of ten. But because of my fear, at each youth event I secretly prayed again to receive Jesus as my savior. I mean, what if the first seven times didn’t really work? I was scared of my motives not being real and Jesus not believing me and sending me to hell. It’s a terrifying roller coaster that God never intended for his children to be on. It wasn’t until I was 21 that I truly understood that it wasn’t about my decision to follow Jesus, but that it was God’s calling on my life to change me, mold me, and make me desire to look more like him.
Finding Comfort in God’s Sovereignty
As a parent, I sometimes fall into that trap of scaring my children into salvation. I mean, what Christian parent doesn’t want their children to follow Jesus? We all do, and if we’re honest we would save them if we could. But we can’t. As much as I want to make my children good disciples of Jesus, the truth is that I can’t. Only God can call their names. I can’t get them on the guest list, or have them say enough of the right words, or even have them pray a prayer that will get them salvation. It’s out of my hands.
When I first realized that it brought me so much comfort in my parenting. I do a lot of stuff right with my kids, but I also do a lot of things wrong. The thing is I can’t give them salvation and I can’t take it away. Parents, rest in that today. Let that truth sink in. We are given the role to guide them, share with them, and even show them the right way, but, parents, we can not save our kids.
Let The Holy Spirit Do His Job
A few years ago, our oldest son brought home a Mormon bible that one of his best friends had shared with him. I was immediately impressed with his friend’s thoughtfulness and boldness towards my son. My next thought was, “He can not read that, because it’s not truth.” I then realized that I do want my kids to journey towards their faith, and I don’t want to scare them into anything or scare them away from anything. I believe that God calls his children to him in spite of their parents, their surroundings, their culture, or whatever. He is in charge of their souls.
As my son sat there reading his friend’s bible my husband and I took the time to look at it with him. We encouraged him to get his Bible and see what the differences were. We showed him verses that claim that God’s word is truth (Psalm 19). We showed him verses that declare that Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6). We then asked him open-ended questions that allowed his brain to work and figure things out without us giving him the right answer. Of course we guided him in the right direction, that’s what we are supposed to do. But we didn’t force anything on him. We didn’t forbid him from reading his friend’s Mormon bible, or from being friends with him like I think so many of our parents generation would have done for us. We simply pointed him towards the truth and then let the Holy Spirit do his job, which we are confident he will.
Parents, there is no need to scare your kids into salvation. Give them resources, guide them, parent them to the best of your ability, and allow God to draw them to him. He’s a much better representation of the gospel than we could ever give them. Love them. Share the truth. Leave the rest to God.