We pegged the speedometer precisely at the speed limit, maybe a bit under. The car in my rearview was coming up fast; fast, but no lights. He stayed behind me for what felt like entirely too long, just pacing us. I drove, two hands on the wheel, dead silence in the car—I had told my 6-year-old not to talk, fearing that any distraction would make me swerve just enough to trigger the lights to flash behind me.
Eventually the officer pulled around and sped away. With a deeper than necessary sigh, I thanked my son for being quiet.
“Daddy, why did that policeman make you nervous?” I explained that if I was doing something wrong, the officer could pull me over and give me a ticket and that tickets cost money.
“Oh, so they are kind of like the boss?” Sort of. They do enforce the laws.
“But Jesus is the real boss, right?” Right. After a few moments of quiet, a follow-up came from the back seat. “I’m okay with that.”
“With Jesus being the boss?”
“Yes. I’m okay with that.”
It was so honest and so frank that all I could muster was, “That’s good, buddy. Me too.”
That’s a story that I don’t think I’ll forget. Not because it was a proud moment as a father who loves Jesus and wants his children to become disciples and followers of Jesus. Rather, I’m plagued by the idea that it may have been a missed opportunity.
As a dad and a disciple of Jesus, one of my greatest goals (and greatest anxieties) is raising my kids to follow Jesus too. Maybe you can relate.
I’m not going to use your precious time to tell you to do things that you likely are already doing or know you should do.
Being a Disciple
Think about Peter, James, John, Matthew, all of the 12 disciples. They were disciples as soon as they left their father and their nets or the tax booth and followed Jesus. Well before they understood who he was or before he did any of the things he was going to do, they made the choice to follow Jesus and they were disciples from that point on.
What does that mean for our children? They are disciples when they choose to follow Jesus. Being a disciple isn’t just crossing some line, being a disciple is about following Jesus, about becoming more like him. We want our kids not to just say that they accepted Jesus one time, but to live as his followers; how do we help them do that?
Clearing the Way to Jesus
Remember the story about the children coming to Jesus and the disciples stopping them? Jesus scolds his disciples and tells them not to hinder the little children from coming; the kingdom of God belongs to “such as these” (Luke 18:15-17).
Jesus’s rebuke is for standing in the way of the children coming to him. I chuckle to imagine that James and John were standing in front of shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip with arms crossed—an ancient secret service. While Peter and Simon scoop up the kids taking them back behind the imaginary safety line.
I think this may be one of the times Jesus got a bit riled; his response to the disciples probably wasn’t meek and mild. The disciples were stopping people from coming to Jesus. Think about that for a moment—they were doing the opposite of what they should have been doing. Instead of blocking the path, they should have been clearing the way, making it easier for the kids to get to Jesus.
We should be striving to create an atmosphere where that is what our kids want to do; make your home and your life a place that makes following Jesus normal, and not just normal, but enticing. Through the things you do with your family, show your children that being a disciple of Jesus is the best life we can have.
Including your children in the practices of your own discipleship shows them what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It means you doing what you can to act, sound, think, and be more like him, and all of that requires that you yourself know Jesus more and more.
You can help your children choose to be disciples of Jesus by living a life for Jesus, by making Jesus part of everyday and every activity you can, not just the things listed above (although, again, those are great ways to do it).
Clear Their Path by Showing Them Yours
If I could offer one piece of advice: be honest with them, age-appropriate honesty of course, but honest. Tell them about the hard times as well as the good, about the questions you have or had and how you struggle with understanding some of the Bible.
Tell your kids why you are a disciple of Jesus and when you chose to follow him. Talk with them about why you do and have the family do the things you do: your own daily devotions, the family devotions and family worship, praying together. Take time with this thought, make it more than just “because we’re supposed to.”
If you don’t already do some family spiritual growth activities, pick one to start this week. Start the habit of praying together, maybe before bed. Nothing big or fancy, just something to clear the way to Jesus. If you are already doing some of these things, great!
What can you add this week? Maybe start talking to them about how they can show they love Jesus (or their neighbors) at school. Being a disciple isn’t something we do, it’s who we are, and the things we do come from that. Maybe start some family worship habits, or reading the Bible together.
Wanting your kids to follow Jesus and helping them be disciples once they choose to is deep and compelling for every dad who loves Jesus. Take heart, be patient, Jesus loves your kids too, and he invites the children to come to him. Your job is to smooth the way.