My Son, the Jesus Freak
My eldest son (“Harry”) who is nearly 9 years old has been on a Jesus kick of late. He wants to know of everyone he meets, “Are you a follower of Jesus?” In the past two weeks, he has asked at least eight people this question (one newcomer to our church; three Little League coaches; three fellow baseball team members, one exterminator). This past year, he befriended a fellow 3rd grader who moved onto our block this summer, and it wasn’t long before Harry was asking theological questions: “Do you go to church? Do you believe in God? Do you know Jesus?”
I have to confess that I have mixed feelings about his directness on the topic of Jesus. On one hand, I’m so utterly thrilled that Harry is concerned about the spiritual welfare and destiny of all those he meets. I’m so glad that he does not feel any sense of hesitation to speak the name of Jesus. I wish I had the same sort of boldness in my own life!
At the same time, I don’t want for him to be alienating people by asking questions that might close doors to a relationship. I want for my kids to be salt and light in the world, but I also want for them to be building relationships with people and demonstrating the love of Christ to others, so that they earn the right to share about Jesus. Five minutes or five days or even five months after meeting someone may be way too soon to start probing into another person’s spiritual status.
I also fear that he is using the “Are you a Christian?” question as some sort of litmus test, and that if you answer in the affirmative, you have made it “in” some sort of private club in his mind. After all, how often do we do this ourselves as adults? We feel a sense of comfort if we are around those who express or demonstrate a faith journey congruent to our own. We start to build mental categories in which those who we label as “Christian” are those around whom we feel most comfortable and spend the most time with. This strikes me as the exact opposite of what being “missional” is all about.
So here is what I have told my son, and I would love to hear what others think about this approach:
“I’m so glad that you have a heart to ask people about their spiritual lives, and to see if they know Jesus. I hope you never lose that willingness to talk about Jesus! But for some people, the topic of Jesus is challenging, either because they do not know him, or because they do not yet believe what we believe, or because they have already chosen to reject him. So when you first meet someone, if you start the relationship by asking them if they are a Christian or if they know Jesus, they might put up a wall that makes it difficult for you to really get to know them.
Instead, I’d like for you to take the time to build a friendship or relationship with others, and let them see Jesus in you by how you act, speak, and treat them and others. Let them see that you have an eternal source of joy, hope, and peace inside you. Let them see what it means to act as a light in a world that can often be a dark place. Let them see you love and accept them wholeheartedly, as God loves them. And then when the time is right, you can share more about who Jesus is in your life, and what he means to you. In the end, it doesn’t matter if someone answers whether they are a Christian or not; only God can know for certain a person’s heart, and we are called to love others around us regardless of whether they are a Christ-follower or not.”
What would you add to this? Or would you take a different approach? I’m eager to hear your thoughts as always!