My four-year-old daughter, Piper, came running up to me today to show me her shirt. Its a gray shirt with black horizontal stripes. It has a few pink hearts in random spots and has the number 09 on the front. Piper loves her clothes, so I took time to tell her how pretty I thought her shirt was. She looks at me with a big smile and says, “it's my Celtics shirt!” You see being born and raised in New England I am a die-hard Boston Celtics fan. And if I am a Celtics fan, then so are my kids (after all, it is my God-given duty to form the affections of my children). Piper often asks, “is there a game on tonight?” Piper loves to cheer for the Celtics and spend time with me watching them play. So when she said it was her Celtics shirt, I asked her, “what sport do the Celtics play?” To which Piper responded with a big smile and a wily giggle, “I don’t know.” I then asked, "what color do the Celtics wear?” Very proud of herself she responded, “Green!” I then asked her a final question, “do you know any players on the Celtics?” A contemplative expression takes over her face as she thinks with her eyes shifted to the left, and then responds, “Gordon-Conwell?” Trying to think of Gordon Hayward she responds with the name of the seminary where she spent her first two years of life. Piper apparently has very little knowledge of the Celtics. She doesn’t even know what sport they play. She struggles to remember any of the player's names, yet she will proclaim with much confidence that they are her favorite team. She still wants to have a Celtics shirt, and watch the games with her daddy. And why is that? It's not because she has been convinced as to why the Celtics should be her favorite team. It's not because of Brad Stevens brilliant coaching; it's not because of the jaw-dropping handles (dribbling) of Kyrie Irving. The Celtics are her favorite team because I have raised her to be a Celtics fan. And she is a Celtics fan, through and through. She truly loves the Celtics, as much as a four-year-old can love a sports team (which is more than you might think)
About five minutes before this conversation with Piper she told me that she is not afraid to sleep alone in her room. I asked her why she was so brave? She responded, “because Jesus is always with me, so I don’t need to be afraid.” You see, Piper gave me this answer because she also loves Jesus. I mean she really loves Jesus! Piper is four-years-old, she doesn’t know how to read so she can’t study the Bible. She doesn’t understand the difference between the Father, Son and Spirit. She doesn’t understand regeneration, nor does grasp the resurrection or the cross. But she loves Jesus! She loves Jesus because she sees her mom and dad loving Jesus. She loves Jesus because we pray to him and sing to him every night. She loves Jesus because she attends a church that makes much of Jesus. She loves Jesus because we have raised her to love Jesus. Piper is truly a lover of God and a follower of Christ. Piper is a Christian because we have raised her to be a Christian. And contrary to many modern ideas about kids and their relationship with Jesus, Piper loves Jesus because she is being raised in the covenant. And that's the way its supposed to be.
Parents, we must reject the notion that we should raise our kids in such a way as to not push Jesus on them because we want them to decide to follow Jesus on their own, without pressure from the parents. We must not raise our kids as little heathens until they choose on their own to follow Christ. God has called you to make that choice for them. We raise our children from day one as part of the covenant people of God. And when your four-year-old tells you that she is not afraid because Jesus is with her, you can affirm such a powerful declaration with rejoicing and not wonder “does she really understand the gospel”? She may not intellectually understand, but her faith is strong, and her hope is Jesus.