While we all teach our children differently, I’m pretty sure I can guess some of the things that almost all of us are trying to get across… That Jesus loves us. That while we were sinners God sent his son, Jesus, to save us. That we have good news to spread to the world. That Jesus came for every single one of us. That Jesus came to show us how to live.
We probably sing songs with our children that help to illustrate some of these points. We sing “This Little Light of Mine” about sharing the good news of Jesus. We sing “I’m in the Lord’s Army” about how we can conquering souls for the Lord. But, is this really what we really teaching our kids? Is this the message we’re giving to the world? Or, are we often saying something completely different?
Verbal communication plays a minimal role in getting a message across. Our actions, the small things we do, say far more than the words that come out of our mouth. Are we aware of what they’re often saying to people around us? I went to an Adventist school for the first 10 years of my schooling. After that, I had to go to a Catholic school. One of the subjects we had was studies of religion, and in my first week at the Catholic school, we had a fascinating discussion. Some of their students were complaining about the Jehovah’s Witnesses who had been harassing them. The conversation quickly turned when somebody said the JW’s are bad, but not nearly as bad as those Seventh-day Adventists. The class then proceeded to share all the horror stories they’d had with Adventists — from neighbours who would get mad at them for doing their yard work on Saturday, to people who would only ever talk to them about Jesus and had no interest in how they were going. From the kids whose parents were shopkeepers who got abused by the Adventists because the sale started on Saturday and all the good things would be gone by the time they could get into the shop…to the ones who weren’t allowed to hang out with the neighbours’ kids in case they were a bad influence on them. I sat back, I listened, and my heart broke. I wish this was an isolated event, but I’ve heard many similar things since.
Adventists are a pretty exclusive group. I understand why. Our beliefs are slightly different to the mainstream Christianity and birds of a feather flock together. Usually, when I meet an Adventist homeschooler, I’ll invite them along to some of the activities that we partake in, and the first question is almost always, “Is it an Adventist group?” Most of them are very reluctant to mix with homeschoolers that are not Adventist. But when we do this, what are we teaching our kids?
When we tell our children that Jesus came for all of us, and that we are here to share his good news with the world, and that God is all powerful, but then we refuse to let our children play with the kids next door because their parents are always fighting and swearing and yelling, and sometimes the children act up also, what are we saying? Could the message they get be that the corrupting power of the world is so much stronger than God’s power that it doesn’t matter how much the other kids need stability and love, it’s more important to make sure they don’t associate with “bad” people?
When we associate exclusively with Adventists, doesn’t that negate the power of us telling our children that the gospel is meant to be spread? Because, how can we make a difference in the world when we separate ourselves from it? We are to be in the world, but not of it, but so often we end up just creating our own little bubble and making little difference to anybody else. We become so detached from the real world, from their struggles, from their life, that when we do go out and try to do something, we are making a poor impression like my classmates were complaining of. I have no doubt that everyone they were complaining about was well-intentioned — but were they unable to shine the light to the world because they weren’t a part of it?
How about instead of having a reputation for being exclusive and closed off, we open our homes to the hurting and the broken? How about, in our street, our home is known as an embassy where the kids who have hurting families can escape and know that, though they can’t get away with bad behaviour, there is going to be grace and love? Sure, our kids may pick up some bad habits from them, people at church might criticise us for hanging with the sinners, but it’s then that we’ll be in the company of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t want us to raise perfectly obedient children who can recite the great commission at the expense of being able to carry it out. If we believe that God can use anyone, we need to be creating those opportunities for our children to make a difference to those around them.
If we tell our children that God loves everyone and that he came to die while we were still sinners, but we refuse to associate with people because we don’t approve of their lifestyle, and we do not show love to those people, what is that we are really teaching our children about grace? If we’re more worried about children learning a few cuss words than we are about how much our neighbours’ kids are hurting, what is that telling our children about love? God can use each and every one of us where we are. As homeschoolers, we have a unique advantage in that there are so many social activities where we as parents can have casual, friendly chats with other parents, where we can actually do life with other families, and if we only associate with our own clan we’re wasting a golden opportunity — both for us to share God’s love, and to show our children how they can let their little light shine.
Let’s not let our home schools become a bushel where we hide the light away from the world. Let’s use our home schools to take that light into places where it’s needed, let’s spend time and break bread with those who have had negative experiences with Christianity and show that we can be people who aren’t just waiting for another world to come before things get better, but are actively trying to make life better for those around us today.