Continued from Part 1
So here is an extract from the chapter in the book which is called “This is Christian Education?” This is Jake asking John a question:
“What you are saying, then, is that using approval to reward Sherri is not only hurtful to Benji, but harmful to Sherri too?” He punched the air with his index finger as if to tap an imaginary button.
“Bingo! Do you know that more than ninety percent of children who grow up in Sunday school leave the congregation when they leave their parents’ home?”
“I have heard that. We blame that on the public schools that disaffect children from their faith.” John raised his eyebrows incredulously. “Really? That’s convenient.”
“Well, we are doing our part,” I said defensively.
“In more ways that you have seen so far.”
“So you are saying everything bad I learned about God I learned in Sunday school.” I could hear the mockery and frustration in my own voice.
“Well, not quite. I didn’t say it was all bad.”
“How could it be? We teach the kids about God and the Bible, and how to be good Christians.” My voice faded out as it dawned on me that learning about God and what it means to be a good Christian was not the same as learning to walk with him.
“What I want you to see is that laced through the wonderful things you have here is a system of religious obligation that distorts it all. Until you see that, you’ll never know what it means to walk with Father.”
“Why is that?”
“He’s done too much to free you from it, to reward it. Certainly everything else in your life might be based on performance, but not relationship with Him. It’s not based on what we do, but what He’s done.”
“So I’ve been trying too hard, is that what you’re saying? Is that why my efforts aren’t working? Don’t we have to do our part?” I looked back at John.
“Not exactly,” said John with a slight chuckle under his breath. “But you are getting close. It’s that you’re trying to earn a relationship you’ll never earn. Men and women might give you acclaim for memorizing Scriptures or attending services, but those are never going to be enough to earn a relationship. Besides, you’re pursuing them not because you want to know God, but because you want people to think that you’re spiritual. And you know what? That is what you’re getting out of it.”
“So that’s what Jesus meant when he said the Pharisees were doing things to be seen by others and they were getting their reward. But that’s not what I really want.”
“Good. Can’t you see that the trail you are on doesn’t go where you’ve been told it goes? It will make you a good Christian in the eyes of others, but it will not let you know Him.”
The discussion between John and Jake continues and it goes deeper and deeper. If you do not have this book, it is well worth a read, and re-read. But we warned, it may open a Pandora’s box which you won’t be able to ever close again. Personally, I think is the most honest Christian book I have ever read, and in today’s Christian climate that is saying something.
So the stuff discussed in that chapter was most definitely confirmation that indeed spiritually I was on the right track having some concerns and raising those particular issues with the Sunday School leaders.
However, week after week of my children not joining their groups and sitting throughout the Sunday service next to us continues to raise a few eyebrows, particularly when the children are being called out of the main hall to go into their respective rooms, and my two stay where they are. Last Sunday I could feel the weight of others’ condemnation and disapproval stronger than ever before, to the point that I nearly got up and left. I felt sick to the stomach. And then right in the midst of my fear, doubt and feelings of utter restriction in the very place where one should experience grace and total freedom, my son experienced something amazing which yet again gave me the confirmation my heart so desperately needed. When the service was finished, as we walked back home, my son said to me: “I think the angel Gabriel spoke to me during the service and told me to stop swearing”. Now, there was a time years ago when I would have been extremely incredulous and cynical of a statement like that, specially coming from a 10 year old, but over these last few years I have witnessed my children gain an awareness about spiritual matters which has astonished me; I have witnessed wonderful growth in their faith and trust in God, and I have also seen them battling with issues of temptation, and real fear of evil. They have had some amazing dreams. I have learnt to pay attention over the years. Jesus clearly said that the Kingdom of God belongs to those with child-like faith: raw, pure, spontaneous, unadulterated, faith with the heart on a sleeve, so it would be foolish of us to dismiss what a child says, no matter how ridiculous it may sound at the time.
“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10: 13-16
As soon as my son shared this with me, in my heart I knew straightaway that God has got them right on the palm of His hand, that no religious obligation or confined institution will ever bring them the freedom they can only find in a personal relationship with Christ, and it is that relationship and that alone that I hope and pray my children will grow to love, depend on, cherish and nurture as they grow up, and not a bunch of rules established by men which drown out the Spirit of the living God in the hearts of his children.
Lord Jesus, I praise you and thank you for showing yourself to my family in this wonderful manner, for showing your grace and kindness to me by giving me wonderful glimpses of your grace, of the life you bring in the Spirit. Please continue to uphold my family on the palm of your hand Heavenly Father, and do not let the schemes of men take captive my children’s ability to love you in Truth and Spirit. May they do everything they do as onto YOU and YOU alone. Thank you so much Lord that they can already discern the freedom and forgiveness that you lovingly gave them through your sacrifice on the cross. May they never forget you have already payed the ransom, and nothing they ever do will make You love them more than you already do. Glory to God.