At the end of Matthew, as Jesus is giving his Great Commission, he gives a promise, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b, ESV) Jesus promises that we will never be alone. As a parent, I know the desire to promise the same to our children, but unlike Jesus who can truly keep that promise all of us will eventually leave this mortal coil. That is a hard reality for all of us. So many children walk without knowledge of this promise from God or believing that it doesn’t matter.
That is why we do things like Sunday School and VBS. We do this because it is important that children be taught. Ultimately, this responsibility is meant to be placed upon the parents, but these programs do step in the gap to some extent. As we dip our toes back into the water with VBS, my hope is that we reach a portion of families that don’t have a church home. The hope is that we can become the church family to those that don’t fully know the promise. Not so that they attend, but that we can raise up parents that will be the spiritual leaders in the home. This role was not meant to be the role of the church. As a congregation, our calling is to prepare families, particularly parents, to be the spiritual heads. Ultimately, God desires for the fathers to be that spiritual head in the home teaching about the faith and showing how our God loves us first through the love and respect that is in the marriage relationship and then in the relationship between parent and child.
Now I know how difficult this is as a father of six children born close in age and, currently, young. I am a passionate person that does not always express myself as I intend. I relate to Paul when he says, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19, ESV) That old Adam keeps creeping up and out, and I react in the ways that I had known from my past. I get it, but that does not excuse it. I know I am forgiven, but it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t strive to be different. That is the way God desires us to be as parents and as followers of Christ. Not to be defined by our shortcomings, but by Jesus Christ and prayerfully let that be reflected out. That is why we all need a congregational home, a church family, to support us in our struggles and also to be reminded constantly of the promises of redemption given to us through Christ Jesus. A place where we can come and be loved warts and all. This is not always the case in some congregations but can be had through intentionality. This is not the norm of our the world and, unfortunately, not the norm of most families. I know it wasn’t in my home, and I know many other people that are similar, but God can change hearts and minds. We are not a perfect people, but a forgiven people, and when we admit our own shortcomings others can find hope in their own situations, also.
As we seek to be a light let our hearts be more like our Lord, Jesus, when he declared he desired to be like a hen gathering her brood under her wings (Luke 13:34). Let our reactions not be dictated by the actions of others, but in the love of Christ by responding not with contempt but compassion. As one who was wounded as a child, I know the blessing of ones who treated me with kindness and compassion instead of responding to the negative things that I would do out of pain, and I pray that I can do the same (this I fail at and repent of my failures daily). We do VBS and all our education to reach out to those wounded and broken within our community. Those that have not known or fully known the healing hand of our Lord Jesus Christ can come to know him in how we treat one another as Jesus reminds us, “Because of your love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Ultimately, we live by faith and trust in Christ’s love for us, and our salvation is not dependent upon the Law, but in Christ and Christ alone. It is our witness that is damaged when we do not abide, and the fruit of our spirit is not reflective of what the Holy Spirit is moving when we act like those that do not know Jesus Christ. As we are called to carry the message to the ends of the earth, we can’t be overwhelmed by the size because, as with everything in life, it all begins with that first step.