How to Teach Your Child He Isn’t God
No Matter What the Culture Says to the Contrary
They wouldn’t say it this way themselves, but they think they’re gods. I’m not talking about pagans or Wiccans or New Age devotees of overblown books like Rhonda Byrnes’ The Secret. I’m talking about almost every American. And the younger they are, the more likely it is to be true. There’s a very good chance I’m talking about your children, who are spiritually at risk on account of this pervasive error.
They wouldn’t even say it to themselves that way, but it’s still the “expressive individualism” rampant in Western culture today. As I wrote on Saturday, society is saturated with the view that “I am my own. I define myself. I alone determine what’s right for me.”
Do your children see the world that way? Last time here I offered four questions to help you discover what they’re thinking. So then, what if you find out they’ve bought into this god/self error?
It really is wrong. You can hardly name a Christian teaching closer to the core than this: There is a God. You are not He. You and I do not define ourselves. We can determine whether what we think is right, but if it’s not what God says, our “right” is wrong, with consequences attached.
Our Very Un-Democratic God
For those who are in Christ, “You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). For those not in Christ, the confusion can only be greater. God is not keen on competition for the glory only He deserves.
And for some the gut reaction to that will go like this: “Well, that’s awfully un-democratic of Him. What’s wrong with Him? It’s almost as if He thinks He’s God or something.”
Yes, He does, and we’d better hurry up and recognize Him for who and what He is. With reverence. And awe. And submission. And worship. And obedience. And grateful love.
I would even go so far as to say that if you’ve got any question about what the phrase “the fear of God” means, you probably don’t even know what the word “God” means.
Defining “God” is Nothing Like Knowing Him
And I wish there were a shortcut to that clear understanding. The definition is easy, on one level. God is the infinitely holy, good, loving, wise, powerful, knowledgeable Creator. He made us in His image, and rules over us in love.
He reveals Himself through the glory and greatness of His creation; He reveals Himself through His image in us; and He has particularly revealed Himself in Scripture, and supremely in His Son, Jesus Christ. He does it in love toward us, for the expression of His glory.
What God declares as true is indeed true, because He is the one ultimate Source of all truth. The same goes for what God declares as good. We can disagree, but He prevails every time. He will always prevail, for there can be no truth or goodness contrary to His.
God’s Unimaginable Greatness
All this is true of God, and not of us. It’s true, but it’s hardly adequate for the need. Don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying God is inadequate! I’m saying that it’s not enough to “know” about God on just this level of verbal definition. It’s too clinical, whereas God is personal. And even with words like “infinite” included, the truth could come across as too accessible. What I mean is this: That our youth need to know God loves them, there’s no denying that. But they can’t understand that God loves them unless they really learn that God is God, and what that means.
I’ve spent hours trying to wrap my head around what God is really like. The full truth of His infinite reality remains far out of reach, but those hours of study, prayer, and meditation have done wonders for my worship. I’ve collapsed some of it down to a fourteen minutes of creative reflection that works better through hearing than reading; find it here on my Thinking Christian podcast.
I expect you’re still wondering how to communicate this to your child, and when. The “when” answer is now, though be very sure that you know whereof you speak. Be sure you have your own grip on who God is, and especially that you’ve got a clear sense of His sovereign Kingship. If you don’t know it, you can’t teach it.
How to Communicate This to Your Children
The “how” depends on how old your child is. For a very young child, the best you can do is read him Bible stories, pray together, and demonstrate your own living awareness that God is God, that He alone is King, and that you love and serve Him.
For older teens, Bible stories will morph into Bible conversations, talking some, listening much, and sharing where you are in your own journey of discovery. Communicate known truth as known truth; to do less would be to communicate it falsely. Do not be tentative about what you know to be certain. But be free to share what you’re also still in the process of discovering. And still demonstrate your living awareness that God is God, that He alone is King, and that you love and serve Him.
The experience of many, many parents has been that, while there are no guarantees, the more you live out your faith, the more your children will follow you in it.
This matter of “expressive individualism” is complex, though. You will certainly want to teach the truth, but you’ll probably also need to do some very intentional “un-teaching” of error. I’ll be back with more on that.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the recently released Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.