How to Use the News to Teach Kids about Eternity
The news these days is surreal: captives being led to slaughter by evil hidden in black masks. Bombs going off. Cars driving into crowds of people. Evil lurks. Christians in the Middle East and around the world are under immense pressure and suffering. The cross still costs.
Here in the United States we see the pictures, but we don’t feel the fire. Not like our brothers and sisters around the world.
A Balancing Act
Those of us who work with kids face the challenge of shepherding them through a bombardment of images and information. It’s a huge temptation to hide the reality of the world from our kids. I protect my own from a lot of ugly. I don’t apologize for guarding their minds and hearts as much as I can. But not all kids’ exposure to media is so limited.
As parents and leaders, our goal should be that our children learn how to guard their own hearts from evil and value what is holy. We don’t want them to wake up from a make-believe world unprepared. But knowing what to expose our children to and what to shield them from feels like a balancing act—one that each parent, teacher, and childcare worker must navigate according to prayerful wisdom and conscience.
Lay It Down
In February 2015, as I looked at pictures of brave Christian men in orange jumpsuits kneeling at the feet of masked killers, I asked myself, When do we tell our children about the sacrifice our brothers and sisters are making around the globe? How can we expect them to understand the sacrifice? Will the truth frighten them?
For centuries, the cross has resisted our natural attempts at whitewashing. It will always be an invitation to death. We who follow Jesus must lay down our earthly lives and desires. Some saints are asked to do so in the rawest way. They make us stand at attention.
When we read the list in Hebrews 11 of the faithful and their legacy, I think it’s our duty to add the names of modern day martyrs to that list. The world isn’t worthy of them, but eternity is.
So how do we help our own children and the children we’re discipling put these things into perspective?
First, we need to help them understand the value of eternity. Human hearts are hungry for meaning and valor. Even little ones. And while it is painful to tell children something they can’t fully understand, something that will make them sad, we want them to understand the eternal nature of their relationship with Jesus. They need to know He’s called them to something far greater than physical comfort and temporal pleasure.
Second, we need to give persecution its proper place. We shouldn’t tell our children that Christian martyrdom is a travesty of justice or teach them to embrace political outrage. These men and women deserve more honor than that. They deserve to be recognized for understanding that faith is eternal and worth infinitely more than what this world offers. We should teach our kids to hold modern-day martyrs up to the standard of Scripture and hear what Jesus says about them.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11–12).
Finally, we should be appropriate. Kids can understand more than we sometimes give them credit for, but they are still kids. Share news with them in age-appropriate ways. Ask questions to find out what they know and understand about current events. Ask them if they have any questions and give them an opportunity to share their concerns. Always bring them back to Scripture and the authority of Jesus.
Childhood is the perfect time to learn that Jesus is in control, that He has a plan, and that we can trust Him for our eternal well-being. Through the news, we can teach kids the appropriate response of lament to life’s pain, intercession, and commitment to the gospel.
We need to set the example of faith not fear, of forgiveness not revenge to our kids. The challenges that Christians face globally aren’t truly political; they’re the birth pangs of redemption. It’s always appropriate to speak up for freedom, protect the innocent, and stand for life—for all mankind.
We should work toward equality and liberty. But we must also recognize the nature of the fight and help the next generation do the same. Evil doesn’t fight by the rules, and the battle reaches beyond what our eyes can see or our minds understand.
As hard as it is, I will tell my own children about the faith of men and women who are persecuted, because I want them to learn to value what God values. I want them to learn to stand in honor of what’s honorable. And through it all I want them to learn to pray that the blood of the martyrs will sow the seeds of the gospel, even among their captors. I want my kids to learn to live with eternal perspective.
It’s important to teach kids to practice their faith muscles. Ultimately, we have a job to do. In the United States, we may not be asked to die for the gospel, but it’s our responsibility to pray for those who are. And it’s our job to frame the news of Christian persecution in the light of eternity for the next generation.