A few weeks ago I got an email from a concerned parent about how to raise their children in a culture that has rejected God’s created order and Jesus, the One sent to restore that order. I just so happened to have been teaching the last hour on the Beatitudes from Matthew 5. The answer was obvious. Jesus knew what it was like to live in the world and not of the world and he was telling us all about it in the Beatitudes. He lived it and stands as our example. As his children, we watch and learn as Jesus models cross-cultural living for us so that we can model it for our children.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
It all starts by acknowledging who we really are. We are broken sinful creatures in total need for God’s grace for life and salvation. That’s what it means to be poor in spirit. Do we indoctrinate our kids with the “gospel” of self-esteem and self-reliance, or the truth that they are poor miserable sinners totally dependent upon God’s grace for everything? How do we model repentance and grace for them on a daily basis?
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Jesus then calls us to mourn deeply for the sinful brokenness of the world. Do we talk with our kids about the evils of the world and express how sad it makes us? Do we pray for those who suffer and those who cause the suffering? I know the temptation here is to shelter our children and hope they learn these things when they are more “mature.” But if we do, we might also miss a crucial time when the tender heart of a child could grieve deeply for a hurting, disillusioned world.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Jesus is very clear that his followers are to live a thoroughly humble life. It’s the proper disposition of anyone who is truly poor in spirit and has been saved by the grace of Jesus. Do our children see us putting others above ourselves? Do our children realize how often we put them above us? Do we encourage our children toward pride or humility? When we pray, do we thank God for more than our food and a bed to sleep in
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
Our mourning turns into passion as we hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness in our broken world. We long for God’s creation to cease its sinful hemorrhaging and function the way it should. Do our children see our dissatisfaction for the sin in the world? When we explain the tragedies of life, do we point them toward the way God originally designed the world to function? Do we pray with them that God’s perfect kingdom would come and do away with all the carnage?
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
Hunger and thirst translate into action when we are merciful. Now, this mercy isn’t just helping people who are in physical need, but also those who make poor choices and don’t believe in Jesus. The most merciful thing we can do is bring Jesus to people. That said, other acts of mercy can demonstrate the kind of mercy God has for us. Without concern for ourselves, we can help others with the same selfless love God has for us. He sacrificed himself for us and he saved us from our sins. We sacrifice to help people and hopefully they will also see their sins and believe in their Savior. Do we bring our children along when we do acts of mercy? Do we model to our children how to call others to repentance in love?
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
One temptation is to think that the work of doing mercy will have kickbacks for us. God wishes for us to have pure intentions. It shows when we don’t. So, even after the act of mercy, it never becomes about us. It’s always God’s work through us for the sake of someone else. The moment it becomes about us, sin takes over. Kids can see that. So, be consistent and explain to them your heart as you show mercy to others.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Standing in the midst of conflict is hard, but when it’s not about us we can stand tall! Conflict abounds in life and the household is no exception. Kids can turn on each other in a moment. We need to be the peacemakers who can humbly approach the situation hungering and thirsting for righteousness, showing mercy with a pure heart. Even if it means the peacemaker is taking the brunt of the conflict, we need to model being the peacemaker and valuing God’s righteousness as the peaceful solution. When you are a peacemaker at work or with your friends or family, let your children know what you are doing. If the conflict is a burden, ask your children to pray for you and those in conflict.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
We may be tempted to shelter our children from persecution for being Christian. We never wish persecution on anyone, but if they are blessed to endure the persecution in faith, they may mature far more from persecution than our protection. When we as parents are persecuted, we need to make sure our children see what’s going on and understand the situation based on the foundation Jesus lays down here in the Beatitudes. If we can truly love our enemies and bless those who persecute us, our children will learn how to do the same.
Along the way our children need to know that they are not in the Kingdom of heaven by the things they do. We stand up for truth because it’s true, not because it gets us closer to heaven. Jesus has taken care of our salvation. It’s finished. They always need to know that the Kingdom of heaven is theirs by God’s grace. They will know true comfort when they inherit a new and perfect earth. Their hunger and thirst will forever be satisfied. God has shown mercy to them and they will see him! They are the children of God and it has nothing to do with how good they are. We train them to be good so that others will see the Kingdom of heaven through our children. There is no better legacy than to know that God’s Kingdom lives on through the next generation, especially when it’s cross-cultural – Jesus style.