In church today we sang (actually it was kind of a kid’s song but the adults joined in)
Heaven is a wonderful place
Filled with glory and grace
I wanna see my Saviour’s face
Heaven is a wonderful place
It’s an old song from some musical starring Psalty. I remember doing it as a kid!
Anyway, I was thinking how that’s essentially the motivation our kids often seem to get for believing: if you believe, you’ll get to go to heaven and be with Jesus.
My three questions:
Is this, in essence, (note that I’m not equating the two) any different from a Muslim family telling their child that blowing themselves up and being a suicide bomber will bring them great reward. They’ll go to “heaven” and spend the afterlife with the righteous ones.
Is this the best, or even, a good motivation for instructing and teaching our children what and why to believe?
If it’s not a good motivation, what exactly should be the motivation we give our children?
These questions are not ivory-tower questions for me. My 12 year old just recently told my wife that she sometimes wondered whether God even existed, etc etc
It’s hard to know how to answer Whether it be a Christian, Muslim or any world-view, people (not just children) fall into the trap of thinking that just *doing *x,y,z is enough to get to go to heaven. In this song it seems even less, i.e. 'I wanna see my Saviour’s face" is enough, although admittedly Heaven is filled will “grace”.
I don’t see this as a bad reason to believe. The motivation of being with Jesus is much better than that of believing so God won’t burn you forever–which I think is more often the motive given.
It’s essentially diff from your Muslim example because that is an example of doing evil for selfish reasons. OTOH the Christian “do” is to repay evil with good, do good to those who hate you, love your enemy, take up your cross and lay down your life to save–not to destroy. It’s essentially opposite. There’s nothing wrong with the idea of rewards for good behavior–if it’s really good. Jesus says that the Father will reward our good works (done in secret–not for show).
The best reason to believe anything is because it is true and good and right–or so good it ought to be true, so we live in hope of finding it so.
God should be inspiring enough to believe in–to be worth trusting and putting faith in. Jesus and the cross should inspire love and wonder–it’s a demonstration of His love for the world He made–“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The stick of hopeless endless punishment for not believing the right thing is a monstrosity that no child should be burdened with. As a child I used to wonder, “Why can’t we just love God without having the fear of Hell hanging over us?” I felt that fear oppressing me and creating a barrier between me and God.
It’s natural to want to know the God who made us, to understand where we came from and what our purpose is–just as a child wants to know his parents and grandparents, and an adopted child with the most loving of parents still wants to meet his real parents… People through the ages have sought to know, and through the ages others have used “superior knowledge” (so called) to intimidate and control.
There is “right” and “wrong” and it’s reasonable to believe in a God who wants us to do what’s right, and won’t let us get away with doing wrong. Most normal humans would agree with that. But Hell is unreasonable–which is why so many don’t really quite believe it (even if they say they do), or they reject Christianity altogether.
Does your child want to live according to truth, or according to a lie. If your daughter is questioning the existence of God, I say that’s probably a good thing that needs to happen. (Scary as it may be for us as parents!) Honest doubt is the springboard to real understanding, and should be encouraged. At some point we all have to question what we’ve been told, and find out what we really believe. I was questioning around that age too. My 15yo was saying things like that a couple of years ago. Not sure if she’s still having doubts–she hasn’t said anything recently, but she is involved with AWANA teen leadership and chooses to go to church sometimes. (She’s an independent one–prefers not to go to church with the family on Saturday nights, but will sometimes go Sunday morning on her own–not often because she prefers to stay up till 2am and sleep till noon! Teenagers! )
We should believe in God because we know Him–not because of another person’s faith. We each have to come into relationship with God by seeking Him ourselves. That is different of course from merely “believing” facts you’ve been taught about God. The motivation can be simply “If there is a God–one who made the world and is intimately involved in it and loves the things He’s made and has specific intentions toward, and expectations of His children–don’t you want to know about it?”
I think the call of the Gospel is best expressed in “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is within reach.” The primary motivation is the present reality of the kingdom of God, a present relationship with God, the present filling of His Spirit. Heaven is something we look forward to, but most people don’t want to go there right now. Heaven is a comforting thought though for those who are sorely pressed by the evil of this present evil age in which we abide.