For the Sake of our Children: Looking beyond Heaven
Submitted by Jennifer Power
This past week, I have listened to New Testament Scholar N.T. Wright talk about the cross of Jesus Christ while I have prepped crafts and kid kits for SHiNe Children’s Ministry. I have to say, I used to think the cross was quite simple. After years of reading and studying, and most recently after four hours of lecture from N.T. Wright, I have been learning this is just not the case. I do not even think I can summarize for you what I have been learning. It is too new and too complicated. It involves the entire Bible narrative and complexities surrounding purification, temple, covenant, blood, life, a new heaven and a new earth, our vocation as human beings, idolatry, exile and exodus, and so much more. It is not the case that the cross does not mean what we have always thought it meant but that it means so much more than many of us have ever considered.
What our children and so many of us think the cross is about is summarized in this simple statement:
“Jesus died so we can go to heaven when we die.”
I have heard this echoed from the lips of children time and again. To them, this is what the hope of Jesus Christ is all about. There is not much value to this life outside of helping bring other people to heaven and getting through this life so we can get on to our heavenly home. We downplay the life of Christ and downplay the hope and purpose of our life in the here and now.
When we pay little attention to what Christ’s life, death, and resurrection mean for our life on this earth in the here and now, we teach our children (inadvertently) that the hope of the Gospel has very little to do with our present realities and thus we do not teach them to live in and with Christ but rather to tell other people about Him and look forward to heaven. Please do not get me wrong, we must tell other people about the hope of the Gospel and we can and should look forward to an eternity of being with Him, but this cannot be the only and primary aim of our lives in Christ.
I have a challenge for you today. If you believe the message of the Gospel is primarily about going to heaven when we die, I encourage you to take the time to read straight through the Gospels looking for this emphasis. You will find verses that support this reality, but I believe you will find it is not the primary emphasis. Jesus’ primary emphasis in His life was the Kingdom of God, and when He talked about the Kingdom of God, He was talking primarily about the Kingdom of God come and coming to this present earth.
Our main task as followers of Christ is not simply to go around telling people their sins are forgiven and they can go to heaven, but our main task is to reflect the glory of God – to be His image bearers to the world He has created. As born again by the gift of the Spirit believers in Christ, we are to be transformed into His image to reflect His love to the world. This is a passive act. We do not transform ourselves, but we allow ourselves to be transformed by the Spirit of God working within us. We give consent to His work within us and keep the reality of His presence in the front of our consciousness through spiritual disciplines which position us to receive His grace.
Our primary task is to trust Him and rely on His grace, being obedient to His teaching and leading, and resting in His great love for us. In doing so, we are transformed and are able to naturally and easily reflect His glory and love to the world around us.
“But,” you may ask, “what does this have to do with our kids?”
Research has shown that parents are the primary influence in the lives of their children. If we want our children to be a light and blessing to our broken world, to reflect His image and love to those with hurting and heavy hearts, our best chance of helping them is to show them what this means. If we want our children to have more than just a future hope, if we want our children to fulfill their God-given destiny to be image-bearers of the risen Christ to the world and to find life which is truly life, it is crucial we show them the way. If we want our children to fully surrender to Christ, let us fully surrender our lives to Him first. Let us walk the narrow road of surrender, sacrifice, humility, and of death to our self-will. Let us learn what it means to walk in trust and release to Him our worries and anxieties, knowing He loves us and is more than able to provide in every way.
Let us get down on our knees and cry out to God. Let us beg Him to come and do His work in us and ask for His grace to endure what He gives us to do with grace and beauty. Let us show our children that faith in Christ is about so much more than head knowledge and a distant hope. Let us not show them an empty faith which lacks joy, trust, love, peace, and hope. Let us bask in His love and release ourselves fully to Him – again and again, every day and every moment. For the sake of our children, but more for the sake of our loving God and Lord, let us lay down our idols and everything which has taken a stronghold on our lives. Let us live as crucified lovers of the one who fills us with His life when we lay down ours.
This is the best way I know to give our children a faith which is anything but empty. It is the best starting point I know and the best ending point I can imagine. It is the beginning and the end of what it means to point our children to the God who adores them. Yes, there is more than this which we can do, but if we lack this, I fear all our efforts otherwise will mean very little. Yes, God can still work in and through us if we do not do this, but I believe it to be the best way and the way through which God will produce much fruit in our lives and in our children’s lives.
This way of living in Christ is both the hardest and the easiest way to live, but He does not leave us to walk it alone. If it is your desire to grow in this regard, please do not hesitate to contact me, and I will do what I can to get you connected with people and resources which can help you on this journey.
May God’s love fill your heart and fill your home.
To read the introduction to this new blog series, check it out HERE.
To watch the above-mentioned N.T. Wright Lectures, check out the first one HERE.
The lectures are based on the book “The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion” by N.T. Wright.