I lead a seventh grade boys’ small group at my church and I was recently amazed by what I heard. The agenda in our meeting was to share our stories with each other, specifically about how we first decided to follow Jesus. After laughing, talking about the latest movies, laughing, making fart noises, and some kids actually farting, then laughing more…we got down to business. As one student shared his story, he also shared a mind-blowing question. The question itself wasn’t extremely difficult to answer, but it was mind-blowing that a 13 year-old who had been raised in church didn’t know the answer.
Then I thought about it some more. I shouldn’t begrudge my students for not knowing the answers. They’re coming to a place where their faith is becoming their own, a place where they don’t want to ask their parents the answers all of the time, and when they do they want to question and challenge the answer to their very last breath! Middle school is the perfect place to begin wrestling with these questions that I’m willing to bet we’ve all had from time to time.
In this recurring series, I intend to touch on the questions that the students who were raised going to church (“church kids”) ask in my Life Group or in other forums. I’ll share how I respond to these questions and even give some ideas for how families can follow up on these questions at home.
Here is the question: “What is the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian?”
Really interesting question and an interesting way to word it. What’s sad is that the difference is not intuitive. Those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers should lead lives of marked difference from others who have not made a commitment to Jesus. However, I totally understand why he asked this question.
I responded by asking the question back to the group. Some said, “Christians are nice.” I told them that I’ve met some pretty nice non-Christians, and they said they have too. Some said, “Christians are going to heaven.” My response was, “why?” That opened up a whole different can of worms…I’ll address it in a different post. We kept talking about differences we see between Christians and non-Christians, and almost all of their answers revolved around something superficial, like music, clothing, and speech. I said the answer goes deeper.
It’s not about doing nice things, though Christians do nice things. It’s not about using nice words, although Christians do use nice words. It’s not about modest clothing, clean music, or “I don’t drink, I don’t chew, and I don’t go with girls that do.” It’s about the heart behind such things. Christians are motivated by a heartfelt trust in Jesus. The way we listen to music, engage people in conversation, wear clothes, eat food, etc. are all bound up in a deep trust in Jesus. That ends up looking quite different person to person and church to church, but that at least is in common. We trust Jesus.
This could spark a lot of discussions at home about what it means to “trust Jesus.” Younger kids could learn trust through doing “trust falls”, that frightening exercise wherein a person closes their eyes and falls backward from a standing position into the arms of a trusted loved one who is (hopefully) waiting to catch them. Dinner table questions for older students may include:
- Who are people that you trust? Why?
- Who are people that you do not trust? Why?
- What do we believe that Jesus can do with us, for us, and for those outside of us
- Is trusting Jesus different than believing that He is real? How?
- If Jesus told you that the next thing you prayed for He would grant you unconditionally, what would you pray for? (“infinite wishes” is cheating!)
- If Jesus answered all of the prayers you prayed in the last week, how would the world be different?
- If we trusted Jesus with everything (our house, our money, our Xbox, our school work), what would change?
This is just a starting-off point. Comment below about what you think is the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian or how you would teach these spiritual truths to children and students. Peace and grace!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6