Love Is Loyalty
As parents and caregivers, we want our children to know the God revealed in the Bible and come to love his word deeply, just as we have. But while there is little doubt—either anecdotally or through psychological research—that parents and caregivers impact the desires of their children, the production process is not perfect. Parents are not computer programmers filling their programs with all the right data so that everything runs as it should. Children are little humans—little image bearers of God—and this includes all the complexity that such a reality entails. Science has taught us many things about shaping the behaviors of animals and people, but how do you shape the heart of a person? How do you help someone learn to love anything?
It is important to highlight at the beginning that the Bible’s notion of love toward God and our cultural associations with love are quite different. The title of this article might send readers immediately into thinking about how their kids feel about the Bible. While this is important and is somewhat in view, to love God’s word—in a biblical sense—means much more than feeling a certain way about it. Psalm 119 reveals that loving God’s word is obeying it (Ps. 119:1–2), storing it up (Ps. 119:11), longing for it (Ps. 119:20), delighting in it (Ps. 119:24), and choosing it (Ps. 119:30). As we can see in these verses, the Bible’s description of loving God’s word is not anti-emotional, but it is certainly more than emotion. Love is loyalty. Like a husband is loyal to his wife. Like a faithful citizen is loyal to a leader. We feel love and we live love. So, how do we help our children grow in this loyalty-love for the word of God?
Do You Love the Bible?
One of the most challenging things about parenting is coming to the realization that you actually never stop parenting. We perhaps like to think that we put on and take off the “dad hat” or “mom hat” at various moments throughout the day. But the truth is that we are always on duty. Our children are not just learning individual tasks or receiving specific instructions on how to be a functioning, mature person; they are learning a life. And the question we must answer is, How does God’s word function in our lives as parents?
Examining both passions and priorities, how would you evaluate the Scriptures in your life compared to things like work, screens, hobbies, perpetual worries, to-do lists, and so on? None of us have arrived, and such questions tend to exacerbate feelings of inadequacy. But that’s not the point. The heart of the issue here is whether we are wanting something for our children that we ourselves may or may not have. Cultivating a Psalm 119 love for the word of God as a parent or caregiver is fundamental to helping our little ones see how God’s word shapes a whole life, and it is foundational to every other aspect of encouraging our children in the Scriptures.
Biblical Rhythms in the House
Every family has its own culture, its own way of doing things, and its own schedule. These variables are shaped by parental work constraints, family personalities, geographical location, and a myriad of other factors. The point is, we all have the same task: integrate the word of God into our own unique lives. The focus here is the goal, not the method. Love does; it doesn’t make excuses about failed methods. In our house, one child wakes up with the sun and is encouraged to read through a devotional book before heading outside to play. The teenagers reach over to the nightstand and grab their daily Bible study when they finally settle down in the evenings. One struggling reader in our midst works diligently through a single verse in the Psalms at tuck-in with a parent’s finger pointing out each word. And the oldest will only talk theology after 11pm! We cherish holidays, like Christmas and Easter, and capture the days leading up to them to guide our kids through daily reading calendars, Bible readings, seasonal devotionals, and other forms of family worship. The rhythms of our homes do far more to shape the loves and desires of our children than we often realize, and this absolutely applies to the Bible.
Beyond just establishing times for Bible study, building love for the Bible into our lives also means that we talk about it. Most homes that I know that have children are filled with words—ours certainly is. We talk about friends at school, what people are going to be when they grow up, when the birthday party is happening (for the fifteenth time!), and what we are learning from God’s word. As we appropriately bring the Bible into discussions about everyday life, we are teaching our children to understand, value, and apply the Scriptures.
Wisely Stewarding Our Resources
I vividly remember sitting around the dining room table with my wife and our then two-year-old and eight-month-old daughters, trying to execute a family worship time that connected with my two-year-old and also spiritually encouraged me and my wife. While such memories now lead me to laugh, at the time I was very discouraged at what seemed like an exercise in futility. Years later, we have learned that healthy families grow and change. What worked (or in our case didn’t work) at one stage may likely not be helpful at another. Mix in an increasing age gap, and things get even more interesting. How should parents navigate such challenging scenarios? Wisdom.
Every Christian parenting guide out there (this one included) is simply another brother or sister seeking to steer their family toward the same goals, just a little further down the path. Some strategies work and some don’t. Your family is not broken if your favorite author’s plan does not seem to accomplish the desired goal in your family. Try something else. God has given you to your children. You—the parent—are the greatest gift of wisdom and insight into your children, and you should leverage this. Don’t outsource it to the professionals. Wisdom listens, tries, changes, adapts, builds, and does it all in humility (Prov. 3:7). Instead of viewing the host of Christian parenting resources available as an overwhelming cacophony of voices telling you what to do, think about these resources as a host of tools at your disposal to help encourage your little ones.
The rhythms of our homes do far more to shape the loves and desires of our children than we often realize, and this absolutely applies to the Bible.
When I walk into a massive home improvement store, I am usually overwhelmed by the numerous options available. Go check out the aisle of screws sometime if you want your mind blown! But, to the trained builder, each of these options represents a nuanced scenario where one drill bit is more effective than another. But any professional builder would tell you that they have their go-to tools that get it done day in and day out. As parents, we want to become wise and skilled in the work of teaching our kids the Bible. Connect with someone in your church or Christian community that you trust and that has raised kids. Ask them what some of the resources were that helped them. Look to trusted publishers and ministries for resources targeting specific ages. Our home is filled with all kinds of books. While our children have all watched their share of Christian cartoons, the Bible is a book, and it will be read as a book throughout their lives. We want them to begin engaging the Scriptures through the written word as soon as possible.
The very same Scriptures we want our children to cherish remind us as parents that God rules over the hearts of our kids. As we evaluate our own love for the Bible, seek to incorporate the Bible into the rhythms of our homes, and wisely steward the resources available, let us pray that God would spiritually transform our children’s hearts so that with the psalmist they may say, “My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly” (Ps. 119:167).
William R. Osborne is the author of God, You Are: 20 Promises from the Psalms for Kids.
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