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So here’s the deal…
I’m not a big fan of what the world thinks a “Christian” looks like these days. If you were to ask a person on the street about the character traits of a Jesus-follower, I’m afraid you would hear words like self-righteous, judgmental, and close-minded. These are ugly words and the furthest thing from the character of Jesus.
This is the world in which we are raising our children. It is more important than ever to teach our kids to be Jesus-followers not just in name, but in everything we do. My character has to speak louder than any label I may claim. And I want the character of my boys to do the same.
When we look at the life of Jesus, there are so many character traits for us to emulate and teach to our kids. I like to narrow down our focus when the kids are little and build upon it as they grow and mature in their faith.
I Will Follow Jesus, a bible storybook by Judah and Chelsea Smith, is a great starting point for sharing these character traits of a Jesus-follower with our young kiddos. Every family should choose their own focus, but here are a few we emphasize from an early age:
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. -1 John 4:18
Jesus loved people. All people. He loved like no one ever has because He is God and God is love. When we look at the two most important commandments given to us by God, they come down to love. Love God. Love people. A Jesus follower is loving.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the great and first commandment.And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” -Matthew 22:36-38
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9
We’ve already talked about the negative view much of the world has of Christians. Living and loving boldly in the name of Jesus takes courage. One day it might look like standing up for a classmate who is getting picked on at recess. Another day it may mean stepping out of your comfort zone to share a bible verse with someone who needs encouragement. We’re not scaling physical mountains, but sharing the love of Jesus in a hostile world most definitely requires bravery. And Jesus is the one who makes us brave!
In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect… -1 Peter 3:15
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. -Philippians 2:5-8
Jesus was the only perfect person to ever walk this earth, yet He was humble, even to the point of death. We live in a world where pride matters and we don’t want our pride hurt. Being a Jesus-follower means leaving our pride at the foot of the cross and walking in humility.
What does humility look like for our kids? Sometimes it means putting others’ needs before our own, which goes hand in hand with loving well. It also means not always having to be “right” all the time. We have some stubborn boys in this house (they might get that from their mama), and they like to be right about things. They also like to correct someone when they are wrong. A humble person knows how to take constructive criticism, as well when to keep their “right” thoughts to themselves. If we as Christians are always pointing out what others are doing wrong, we are exhibiting pride and opening ourselves up to a big fall when someone catches us in sin.
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. -Proverbs 16:18
When we look to Jesus and see His grace and mercy to us even when we were still sinners, we can’t help but be humble.
We can talk about all these characteristics to help our children in their walk of faith, but being a Jesus-follower comes down to one thing. We must be willing to follow what Jesus asks of us – no matter the cost, no matter what we look like.
We look at the life of Jesus, as told so well for kids in I Will Follow Jesus, for how to live, but we must also pray and listen for His voice, calling us to do the work He has just for us here on earth. Invite your kids to live out these characteristics, open their heart to the call of Jesus in their life, and follow Him!
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” -Matthew 16:24
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