My eleven-year-old daughter asked me yesterday, “Is it okay if I learn about other religions?” The question was part of a conversation about how other religions object to Christianity. I had an answer to her question, because my husband and I have thought through this before.
God has given us the mandate to raise up our children according to His word. We are to instruct them in the ways of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ so that they will not depart from them. But their minds are so vulnerable and as parents we have to make decisions on how much to expose to them to and at what age?
Fear sometimes grips us and we want to keep them wrapped in a bubble. When my daughter was a toddler I would desperately begin to run to her whenever she fell and my husband would bear hug me, holding me back and whisper, “It is okay. She is okay.” My little rambunctious, curious child became one of the toughest kids I knew. One time she ran full force straight into a glass table, hitting her forehead head on and falling flat on her back. To the surprise of us all, she stared at the ceiling for a few seconds and then got back up and started running again.
But now we worry about things other than scraped knees or bruised foreheads. We worry about how the world may draw her away from God. I often hear of Christian children, raised in the faith, who later walked away. I have made mental notes of all these stories and one common denominator seems to be that they faced questions to their faith that they could not answer. There are probably many other reasons why they walked away and the parents may have done everything right, but this one reason has always stuck out to me. And honestly, my husband and I don’t want that for our kids. We don’t want our kids to walk away from their faith because they wrestled with questions in adulthood that they could not come to terms with.
We have 18 years with our children before they go off into the world. We have 18 years to help them build a strong faith and that means being able to answer all the hard questions. So when my daughter asked me if she could study about other religions, I said “Absolutely.” If Christianity is the true faith, than it should be able to stand against any other faith, belief, or idea and I believe it can. I don’t want my daughter’s first exposure to other religions to be when she is out of our home. I want her to be exposed while she is at home and we can talk and discuss and wrestle with all those hard questions. I want to raise a little apologist who can confidently answer any objections to Christianity that any one may throw at her.
But I want her to be a lot more than just a good debater. I also want her to see people of different faiths for who they are. They are just people. I want her to be exposed to other cultures and not see people that are different than herself as “the enemy” or to be fearful of them. I want her to know and understand how they came to believe what they believe and I want her to love them whether they agree with her or not. I want her to feel comfortable in their midst all while being fully grounded as a follower of Jesus always responding to their objections with love, grace, and respect.
Parenting is not easy and my husband and I are constantly evaluating, and re-evaluting our parenting strategy. This is where our heart is right now and I do have to say that I am enjoying the conversations I am having with my eleven-yearold. She is curious and insightful and keeps me on my toes. And I just pray that in whatever areas my husband and I may fail, that God will fill in the gaps.