Once there were two Jewish boys. Their vigorously religious culture had rules for every part of life. Society respected God, and children were taught the scriptures from a young age. Attendance at Sabbath services and Holy Days was a given. Two boys, raised in the same circumstances. One was our Savior himself. The other was the one who would betray Him.
Jesus and Judas. Has there ever been a bigger contrast of character? Of course, Jesus was God’s son, in human form. But Judas was one of the 12 disciples. He, for a time, appeared to be “with the program.” He followed Christ for several years. Perhaps he started his journey as a disciple with positive intentions. What was his downfall? How did a child raised with the best expectations, in a moral culture, become the most famous betrayer of history?
It was purely greed, some might say. In Matthew 26:15 Judas goes to the chief priests and asks them what he would be given if he were to turn Jesus over to them. The answer was 30 silver coins, equal to almost half a year’s salary at the time. But consider: If someone offered you even $50,000 dollars today to turn from your faith, would you? I believe Judas’ problem had a deeper root. He had no love for Christ. And without love, his only motivation for following Christ was a selfish one.
We can raise children who do all the right things but never learn to really love and serve Christ with every fiber of their being.
Why is love for Christ so important? In Revelation 2, Christ has stunning words for the Ephesian church: “If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place.” What was their sin? Adultery? Murder? No, it was simply forsaking their first love. In spite of all their good deeds: hard work, perseverance, not tolerating sin, not growing weary, Christ was willing to take away their salvation because of a lack of love for Him! Why? Without love, all their good deeds could be selfishly motivated. Hard work and good results are not only pleasing to God, they are impressive to people, too. Christ was looking at the Ephesians’ hearts and he could see that they no longer loved Him and wanted to spend time with Him. They were doing a good work, but they had no relationship with Him.
As a parent we want our children to be Christians--to follow Christ--but I believe that as a parent it is possible to raise a child who appears to be a Christ follower, but in reality is following in the footsteps of Judas. We can raise children who do all the right things but never learn to really love and serve Christ with every fiber of their being. They may stay “in the Church” in order to be respected, or to “not rock the boat.” As adults, they may know all the right things to do and to say in order to appear religious, but they do not have a personal relationship with God. When tested, these children may follow Judas’ ultimate end and also betray Christ by leaving the faith.
It is our job as parents to lead our children to their first love of Christ. We need to teach them to walk as Christ walked.
It is our job as parents to lead our children to their first love of Christ. We need to teach them to walk as Christ walked. I believe the only place they can learn this is in the home. All the Sabbath school classes and Sabbath services in the world will not counteract our personal examples and teaching.
Teach them to ask God for help to love people who hurt them. Set an example of this. Teach them to look for ways to serve all people, not just at church. Set an example of this. Tell your children about your personal relationship with God and what Christ’s sacrifice means to you. Tell them why you love Christ and how you need God’s forgiveness and love. This is not an area to be embarrassed to talk about. Pray regularly with your children and model repentance and thanksgiving to God for his Son. Let them see that you love Christ more than anything (Matthew 10:37). Always emphasize the beauty of a selfless life. Make sure that there is no trace of “keeping up appearances” in your parenting. The child who is punished more for disobeying at Sabbath services than for disobeying at home will perceive that the way one acts at Sabbath services should be a show for others. Our standards for our children should be the same at home and at Sabbath services.
Most of all, consider your own example. Are you like one of the Ephesians, doing many good things, but without a real connection to and love for God? Your children will eventually sense this. Take time to make a plan today to get your spiritual “love life” in order. Prioritize your relationship with God and ask him to help you to teach your children to lead a selfless life of love, walking in the footsteps of Christ.