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What’s the one thing I would never say if my child were to leave Christianity?
Before we get started today, I just like to say thank you to all of you who have been with me for the 25 weeks that this podcast has been in existence. This is our 25th episode today. For those of you who have joined along the way, welcome. I promise, we’re just getting started. If you have started recently, it would probably be helpful for you to go back and listen from the beginning. Most of the information that’s presented here is not timely information. It doesn’t pertain to the news or cultural events, the beginning episodes really start to lay a foundation for how to understand the Christian worldview from truth to the reliability of the bible to the resurrection and much more. It’s quite foundational and it’s evergreen in that sort of way. It’s not going to go out of date or style.
Today, I want to tell you about a conversation I had a while back. It was something that I felt was quite interesting and probably beneficial to share on the podcast. I was having a conversation with a man who’s not a Christian. He came to understand throughout this conversation that I was, as he put it, pretty devout in my faith or religion. He has a question that he likes to ask anyone who’s very devout in their religion. This was the question he posed to me. He said, “Brian, what would you do if one day your child were to come to you and say, ‘Brian, I don’t want to be a Christian anymore or I’m not a Christian anymore.’ What would you say?” Well, I’ve never been asked that question. I sat there for a minute and I thought about it.
Now, the first thing to point out is I don’t have a child currently, so this was very much a hypothetical like it would be probably to any person even who has a child. The first thing I told him was: “Well, that’s an excellent question. I think this is the type of question that everyone should be thinking about regardless of their worldview.” How would you handle it if your child were to come to you and say, “I’m not following in_______ area that you raised me?” The next thing I pointed out was that there was actually a decision that would have had to have been made before that. Just because I have a child, that doesn’t mean that child is going to be a Christian.
Now, maybe he already understood that, but I wanted to make it clear that just because your parents are Christians, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be a Christian. The child would have had to decide to be a Christian at some previous point before this hypothetical conversation we’re having.
Here’s the answer I gave him, and there’s not much to it. I said, “Well, the first thing I would ask is why. Why have you decided not to be a Christ follower anymore?” That’s really it. I went on to say that I would have hoped that by the time this conversation took place that both my wife and I would have fostered an atmosphere of open communication and dialogue with our child where this would be a conversation that we could actually have.
Now, it would most assuredly be a painful conversation and a saddening conversation to say the least, but it would be a conversation that I hope we could have one day if it were ever necessary. That was all I said – I said I would simply ask why. I would want to dialogue about it.
I think that this individual took my reply as me saying, “I didn’t really know what I would say.” Thinking back, I stand firmly behind my answer. Now, this individual was trying to be helpful and so he said, “Well, I’m a father and you would probably say what I would say to my child which is, ‘Well, I just want you to find something that makes you happy and healthy.’” Without a second of hesitation I said, “No, that’s the one thing I would never say.” I think that’s extremely important because this individual had a perspective of religion where we choose the religion that we like or maybe we choose it because of tradition. Maybe our parents were Christians so we just grew up to be Christians or maybe we choose a religion because it gives us peace or provides a crutch that we need to get through life.
I think this was his perspective. If my child were going to leave Christianity, well then I would want them to find something else that made them happy since Christianity no longer made them happy, but that could not be further from the truth. I quickly said, “No, that’s the one thing I would never say.” I said, “Let me back up and explain. You started this conversation by assuming that I was a very devout Christian and you were correct in that.” Because of that, I actually think Christianity is true. I think it’s true in that “gravity exists in a true” sort of way. I think it’s as true as any other feature of reality. If my child came to me one day and said, “Well father, I don’t think gravity exists.” I wouldn’t say, “Okay well, jump off cliffs and all of that, just have fun, be happy.” I wouldn’t say that because one, my child is living in some sort of a delusion. He’s denying some part of reality and that’s exactly what I think about people who say that Christianity is not true.
They are denying the truth of reality because I think Christianity and the fact that God exists and Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect life and died and was resurrected and there was an empty tomb and he paid for our sins, I think all of that is just as true as any other thing that I can touch, taste, smell, see, or feel. It’s just as a part of reality.
I don’t think this individual knew how to respond when I said all of that. I was basically leveraging the fact that yes, I’m very devout. I believe this is as true as anything else that I see in the world. It’s as true as those stars up above our head. Because I think it’s that true, not being a Christian is not going to lead to happiness. It’s not going to lead to health. It’s going to lead to a destructive lifestyle, at the very least in a spiritual sense – in the most important way that matters. It’s going to lead to ultimate separation from God’s glory and goodness. It’s not going to lead to peace. It’s not going to lead to enjoyment. It’s going to lead to everlasting suffering.
I would not tell my child, “Well, just find something else that makes you happy or healthy,” because he’s denying the one thing that brings ultimate life and ultimate joy and ultimate health.
Foster Open Communication
I say all of that to say there are a few takeaways I have from this conversation. One, I think this is the type of question that we should think about as Christians, as parents certainly and I think that we do need to foster an open air of communication in our relationships with our spouses, with our friends, with our children so that we can have difficult conversations like this. It’s hard to, as scripture says, rescue those who are doubting if the people never feel comfortable enough to come to us when they’re doubting. Having been at that place, I did not feel comfortable going to anyone and that is more my fault than anyone else. Nonetheless, I hadn’t built relationships such that from my perspective, I felt comfortable expressing my doubts about Christianity, about reality. That’s the first thing. We need to foster open relationships and lines of communication.
Talk About Christianity Like It’s As True As The Physical Word
The second thing is: I really think we need to talk about Christianity in a way that conveys the truthfulness of it. It’s not “I go to church because well that’s what I do” and “I tithe because I think God expects that”, where we have this blasé attitude about it. I think that communicates to people that it’s just something we do. It’s just a way of life. It’s not true. It’s not a feature of reality. I think that’s important. I wonder if our children really grow up to believe that Christianity is as true as the fact that gravity exists and pulls objects towards other objects. I think we need to talk about it in that way that it’s as real as the chairs we’re sitting in and of infinite more importance. I don’t think the way I always talk about Christianity to other people conveys the strength of conviction and the strength of belief I have in it – that it’s as true as anything else.
I know other people do not always do the same. I think we need to make a commitment to be intentional about how we explain Christian principles and explain the Christian worldview and simply talk about Christianity. I think we need to do it in a way that demonstrates that we think it is true, true in not some type of religious second class sense, but true in the first class sense of the most important things that are a part of life and reality. When I explained this in the conversation I was having, the individual didn’t really know what to say to that. I think it was an unusual reply from his perspective. He wasn’t expecting someone to say that they think Christianity is the best explanation for the way that all of life really is, from morality, to the fact that we’re here, to the fine tuning of the universe, to the fact that truth exists and is knowable. He wasn’t expecting that.
That was helpful because I think a lot of times we get stuck in a rut of the way we talk about things in our “Christianese lingo” that doesn’t communicate to the non-Christian world and we’re stuck talking but we’re not being understood. Sometimes speaking in a fresh way can be helpful there.
That’s all I had to share with you today, but I would really encourage you to think about what would you do one day if your child came to you and said, “I’m not going to be a Christian anymore.” I think we need to think about those difficult things before they happen. The one other example I’ll give that reinforces this principle is an article I was reading about eight things that this individual who wrote the article learned on his way to 40 and one of them was to think how you would respond in hard situations before you got there.
Here’s the example he gives. He hadn’t been married but a short time and he and his wife were on a walk. This ferocious dog charges both of them. Before he knows it, he hears his wife calling out his name and he realizes he’s left her behind. He’s run away and she’s calling out. She has not run and the dog is coming closer to her. He explains this with great shame and regret, but what he learned is that he needs to think about possible real situations that one could find themselves in and how we should respond.
We can’t know how we will respond in those situations, but we can think about and decide how we should respond. I would encourage you to do the same thing. I would also encourage you to speak about your Christian convictions in a way that conveys to both Christian and non-Christian world alike the gravity of the belief you have in those convictions and truths.
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