In February, my 10-year-old niece, Samantha, came home from school with a certificate
for exemplifying good Christian character. She was one of only nine kids in
her grade to be selected for the award. Her mother was ecstatic. Sam didn’t
understand what the big deal was.
My sister tried to explain to her what an honor it was to be recognized
for being a good Christian. “That means,” she told Sam, “that you try to live
your life as Jesus did.”
“But it’s not like I got one of the awards for academics or attendance
or best in gym,” Sam rebutted. To her, those were the awards that meant something.
I suspect the majority of kids in Sam’s school would react in a
Celebrating the Important Things in Life
All too often as a society we tend to overlook the importance
of good, Christian character in kids. Grades, athletic abilities, looks, possessions
and other things seem to rank higher in our priorities than what type of character
we’re instilling in our children.
I can remember that when my sisters and I were growing up, whenever
we did or said something hurtful or unkind, my parents wouldn’t say, “That wasn’t
a nice thing to do,” but rather, “That wasn’t a very Christian thing to do.”
It sounds like a simple and honest statement, but the message behind it was
Perhaps nowhere else is our call to live out our Christian faith
clearer than in Chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel. There Jesus preaches that those
who will enter his Father’s kingdom are those who lived out their Christian
faith—“Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for
me” (v. 40).
Helping Form Christian Character
Study after study has shown that kids learn the majority of
their morals and ethics from what they see and hear at home. It makes sense,
therefore, that if we want to raise our children to be good Christians we should
focus on everyday attitudes and choices. Here are some suggestions for ways
to encourage Christian behavior in ourselves and our children:
Set an example. Author and Unitarian minister Robert
Fulghum wrote, “Don’t worry that your children never listen to you; worry that
they are always watching you.” What type of example are you setting for your
children through your own words and actions?
Read the Bible. The Bible is full of examples encouraging
us to act in a Christian way toward our friends—and even our enemies. Read these
stories and then reflect on ways you can exemplify them in your life.
Praise Christian behavior. Just as you would acknowledge
an “A” on a test or a job well done at a recital or sporting event, let your
child know how proud you are if he or she handled a particular situation in
a Christian manner.
Ask God for help. Sometimes it’s a struggle to act in
a Christian way. Perhaps you’re having a bad day, or someone did something to
make you so mad that you just don’t feel like being Christian toward him or
her. Those are very normal and valid reactions. During those times remind yourself
and your family to rely on God for help and guidance.
Provide opportunities for Christian service. As a family,
take part in projects or events to help others. For instance, volunteer at
the local food bank, offer to deliver meals to those who are homebound through
a local program such as Meals on Wheels, or volunteer for a day to work on a
Habitat for Humanity home.
Next Month: World Youth Day 2002