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Faith: Parents and children

Faith: Parents and Children

Not too long ago, any one of us Christians might have pondered, "How do we confront this diversity of faith that is growing around us?" These words no longer suit the reality of the world in which we live. The word confront is hardly the word we would want to use today. And the diversity of faith is not just growing around us; it is our world.

We Christian families share neighborhoods, schools, grocery stores, dentist offices, and playgrounds -- that is, the communities in which we live and work and rear children and worship -- with families of other faiths and lifestyles. In communities where diversity has been slower to grow, children nevertheless learn about faith diversity through movies, television, and social media.

Parents and worshiping communities who are spending time talking and thinking together about the ways to live faithfully as Christians in the multi-faith world might reflect upon how to teach their children as they grow up amid such diversity. In truth, however, church leaders and families will want first to look to their own hearts and answer the simplest of faith questions all over again: Who am I? Who is the God in whom I believe? The simple answers, of course, are "I am a child of God" and "I believe in the God revealed in Scripture through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit."

A Christian parent or church leader who is confident in his or her own faith will be equipped to teach children how to live as Christians who welcome and love those whose faith and/or lifestyle differ from their own. Here, then, lies a pivotal role for the church -- equipping the parents so that they are confident in guiding their children. A study of other faith traditions that involves all members of a church has potential for bearing good fruit. Discovering how other faith traditions cherish the child and bring the child into the community for faith development is an important step toward deeper understanding of those faith traditions by Christian families and church leaders.

As Christians, we study and search our Scriptures for guidance. Welcoming the stranger is a biblical tradition woven into the story of God's interacting with the human world. The life and ministry of Jesus models for his followers the acceptance of those who are different -- those shunned by others, pushed to the margins, considered unclean, or despised for their ethnic or faith traditions. In Jesus Christ, we Christians know a Savior who leads by becoming a servant; a Savior who reminds us not to set ourselves up as better than others; a Savior who teaches love, joy, compassion, and forgiveness.

When Christian families and church leaders truly seek to follow Christ's way of love with Christ at the center of their life in the world, they offer Christ's way to their children. Tenderly taught, children will follow, seeking to love God and neighbor as Jesus teaches. They will be strong in their faith but will be comfortable in making room in their lives for those whose beliefs and lifestyles are different. And they will learn from those friendships and engagements. In fact, it is urgent today that Christians meet and greet those of different faiths: to find God's image even in those whose lifestyle or faith makes us uncomfortable.

Faith frees us to find ourselves in "the other," to take new measure of ourselves, as we are always seeking ways to show forth Christ in fruit that will last into new generations.

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