I am afraid of the pagans... or the heathens... depending on your definition.
Did I really say that out loud?
All my life, I've grown up fairly sheltered, in a Christian home. A good home. A religious, Jesus-loving, Bible-thumping home.
And I sincerely loved Jesus and started talking to Him on my own from the time I was about 3 years old. Feel free to think that I was brainwashed, but I know that I haven't been talking to myself all of these years.
But when I read an article this week, How To Raise A Pagan Kid In A Christian Home, it shook me. And it also resonated with my deep belief that I don't want to shove Christianity down anyone's throats - including my kids' throats. I want it to be real - so real that my kids don't need to be prodded and pushed and forced and coerced - but that they actually WANT to know the same Jesus that I profess to know because they actually SEE IT displayed in my life in an appealing context.
However, I've sheltered my kids. I don't necessarily feel bad about all of it - I mean, it's not like I should turn on a porn channel and say "Hey kids, this is the kind of crap there is in the world, so get used to it!". But I've been careful - really careful.
|My "sheltered" kids climbing on the fence to talk to a neighbor.|
I would let her hang out at our place, but in limited measure. Truth be told, I was nervous... what if she influenced my kids for evil? What if she taught them bad words or told them about "bad" movies that she was allowed to watch? What if she sang non-Christian songs to them... songs written by people like.... Justin Beiber!?! (ha ha... you know I had to throw that in there!)
So when I saw her today, my heart melted a little. I've personally been going through a lot of changes, and have been doing a lot of assesment of my beliefs and behaviors - asking myself questions like "Why do I act this way?.. respond this way?... etc." Basically, I'm trying to figure out if my actions really line up with what I think I believe in my heart and if I'm being honest, it doesn't always translate properly. I'm not exactly who I think I should be according to my beliefs and desires. I've definitely got a ways to go...
Perhaps my present day actions and responses are merely the response to being afflicted with the homeschooled-religiously sheltered mentality that I was given in my growing-up years. But I'm not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I homeschool my kids, yes... but my primary reason is not to "shelter" them and keep them from the big, bad world. I love the freedom it brings us as a family, when we can learn and grow - creatively, unhindered, together. (But that is a subject for another blog.) However, when I was in high-school, I definitely felt that one of the reasons I was homeschooled was to shelter me. (And my parents had their reasons, and I do respect them for all their efforts!)
Yet, when I look at the Jesus we see in scripture, the Jesus of the Gospels, I see someone who unreservedly enjoyed ALL manner of people. Especially heathens. Maybe even pagans (insert winking smiley face here!). He was accused by the religious people of being a winebibber and a glutton (see Matthew 11:19). In today's standards, that might be translated as Jesus being accused of being a party animal and a pot-head! (Or maybe a foodie!)
So I'm left with this thought about my perspective: something is messed up. What is it that I fear? Why couldn't I freely open my home to a (then) 8 year old child who just enjoyed the rowdiness of my full household?! What is it that makes me freeze up when I'm talking to... gasp!... non-believers?!
I know one thing... I don't want to come across as arrogant. I don't want to be self-righteous like the Pharisees whom Jesus called out time and time again for their hard hearts and their blatantly unloving (godless) behavior.
So the answer to that is humility, and love. I'm not on this earth to call out people's wrong-doings. It's just not my job. Christians, the Bible is pretty clear that the only ones who we should be ragging on for bad behavior is the people who actually profess to be believers... the ones who should know better! (See 1 Corinthians 9:5-13)
What else? I'm also afraid of not knowing what to say. I'm afraid of being stumped when someone asks me to defend my faith.
Should that keep me from being engaged in relationship with people who believe differently? No. I hope not. On one hand, I would hope that if I'm speaking with grace and humility, as well as speaking from my personal experience - that I don't have to have every "i" dotted and every "t" crossed. On the other hand, I'm not saying that personal study isn't important... but it would be pretty ridiculous to avoid all conversations of potential contraversy and challenge until you feel that you are fully educated in every area of doctrine, theology, eschatology, ecclesiology, and every other "ology" that there is pertaining to scripture.
Let's bring this full-circle. I stated my fear of heathens. This realization and admittance is embarrassing. I really love some "so-called" heathens and I know the world is full of wonderful, kind, compassionate "heathens". Do I personally believe that they need Jesus? Yes. Do I need to treat them like they have the plague and I should avoid them at all cost? No.
My challenge, (and really I am challenging myself,) is to be REAL everywhere I go, with everyone I meet. I don't need to hide my Christianity, but I also don't need to use my "religious words and sayings" as a battering ram against those who don't believe. If my Christianity is real... it will speak for itself in my actions, deeds, family, lifestyle... and in my love.
To take it another step... and I do so with much trepidation... if my Christianity is real, then my kids don't need to be lectured continually on how "moral" and "Christian" they should act, but they will absorb and ascertain for themselves the truth of a relationship with God, if I am indeed living a life that cries for relationship with a heavenly Father and is not just about following a rulebook. That means I shouldn't be afraid to be kind and loving, and to open my home to all kinds of people.
Now hang on, it doesn't mean I have to allow my neighbor's kid to bring over "The Exorcist" and have a movie night with my children... 3 year old included! For sure there is an element of common sense. But what I recognize in myself (and I could be the only messed-up Christian who feels this way) is an unnatural fear of "badness" seeping into my household. As if my beliefs are that innocuous and tepid that they could be plowed over by a couple swear words and mildly lascivious behavior that might be displayed in my home by a... heathen.
I recognize that this has become a rather long post.. though it still seems incomplete to me. So if you've followed me thus far, my concluding thought would be... liberty. A Christian life is meant to be a free life. Romans 8 talks plenty about being freed from the "law of sin and death". If we are truly free, then what have we to fear? Certainly not our neighbor who just wants to chat about kids and the crazy weather and how their in-laws are coming for Christmas.
In the words of Jesus "Love your neighbor as yourself." Since I don't live in a commune (yet!) my neighbors include a lot of different people... even some heathens. So I'm committing myself to be more open, friendlier and less fearful as I continue this life-long journey.