By Not Known

Many of our adult members are the first generation in their families to be Christian. An increasing number of our rising generation were born into a Christian family. They were taught the faith at home and have grown through our various Christian education ministries for infants, children and youth.

It’s a wonderful privilege to be raised in a Christian home. However it raises some questions. These were well-put in a question at our recent youth camp: Many of us were baptised as infants and raised as Christians. At what point do we become Christians and how do we know if we are Christian?

The Old Testament helps us. Jacob was Abraham’s grandson. We can assume that he was circumcised in infancy (the old equivalent to infant baptism – Gen 17:9-14) and raised within the faith of the Lord. However, his behaviour in lying to his father and cheating his brother suggests that the faith was not yet his own (Gen 27). Jacob went on a journey to find a wife but the Lord had another journey in mind (Gen 28). The Lord met him in a dream, introduced himself as the God of his grandfather and father and promised big blessings. Jacob awoke from his spiritual slumber and promised that: the Lord will be my God (Gen 28:21).

This is a familiar pattern. We have our children baptised as a mark of their belonging to the Lord and should help them to know and do God’s will (Deut 6:4-9). We should also pray that they will grow in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. This was the pattern of Jesus’ childhood (Lke 2:52) and can be considered as the norm for children of Christian parents.

However, our children need to make Jacob’s journey. The faith of their parents needs to become their faith and their parents’ God needs to become ‘my God’ (Gen 28:21). Some may follow Jacob and be reconnected to God after a period of rebellion. Others may have a quieter and constant process which is barely noticed. What matters here is not the process but the outcome: that, one way or another, our children confirm the Lord as ‘my God’ and live it out.

This presents a challenge to parents and the church. One of our roles is to help children know the difference between going along with their parents’ faith and following the Lord for themselves. It’s unhelpful if they and we simply assume that children are Christians because they are raised in Christian homes and have grown through the Christian education ministries of the church.

Let’s help our children to know this difference and to make Jacob’s journey.