“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” John 17:16-18 (NIV)
If you have been around church lingo or attended Bible studies, you have probably heard the term “to be in the world but not of the world” based off of John 17 (see above). This is an important concept to teach our kids because as Mamas, we cannot shelter our kids completely from the world, nor did Jesus do this with his disciples. Jesus taught his disciples to be in the world, but to not live as the world lives.
In order to learn from Jesus, let’s look at three ways He taught His disciples to be in the world but not live like the world.
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.” Matthew 4:18-20 (NIV)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)
1. Jesus taught the disciples about their identity as a follower of Christ.
When Jesus called His first two disciples to follow Him, He immediately gave them an identity as “fishers of men” and “followers of Jesus.” Likewise, our kids need to know their identity in Christ. In other words they need to know who Jesus is calling them to be. Knowing how God sees them from His Word (loved, chosen, forgiven, set free, and set apart) will help them know WHO they really are in Christ! We need to speak these qualities over them until they believe them. When others try to tease them or convince them to do something wrong, they can stand firm in who they are as children of God and followers of Jesus.
Jesus told His followers that they would be known as His disciples if they showed love to others. What a great thought! The disciples would be recognized as Jesus’ followers by the way they acted towards others. They were to stand out in a good way! As parents, we can teach our kids about the values that make our family stand out for Jesus as well. Conveying messages like “our family prioritizes God and church” or “our family treats others with respect and kindness” help our children to understand who they are as part of their family. When our kids understand their personal identity in Christ and their family identity in Christ, they will be more secure to stand firm amidst temptation.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” John 15:18-19 (NIV)
2. Jesus taught His disciples that they do not belong to the world.
The disciples knew their identity was not in the world. In fact, they were warned that the world would often hate them. Knowing this BEFORE they faced persecution must have helped them to stand firm when their faith was tested. We, too, must instill this understanding in our children. As followers of Jesus we will not look like or act like the world. Our kids need to understand that we will not use the same language, dress the same way, watch the same movies, read the same books, and attend the same parties. They need to realize that they do not belong to the sinful ways of the world but have been set apart for a higher calling, and they might be made fun of for being different. When our kids understand this concept from an early age, they will be more comfortable looking different from their peers and making decisions that follow Christ and not the world.
“Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” Luke 10:3 (NIV)
3. Jesus equipped His disciples and sent them into the world.
Jesus spent much time equipping His disciples to know how to live in the world but not act like the world. He did this by teaching His followers how to be like Him in a world where people don’t act much like Jesus. He taught them what it looks like to be humble in a world full of pride, love others when surrounded by hate, and serve others rather than waiting to be served. All these lessons, parables, and teachings by example equipped the disciples to follow Jesus when surrounded by those who did not. We, too, can equip our children to live in the world while following Jesus. There will come a time when they will not live under our roof anymore, and we want them to know how to follow the Lord when others around them do not.
By looking at our children’s sin struggles, we can find weak areas that we need to point out, discuss, and train. For example, if we notice that one of our kids gives into peer pressure easily, we can discuss this area of weakness and teach and equip our child to stand firm, pray, and depend on the Lord for help.
When we realize our kids are going to be in environments where they could be tempted, we can talk ahead of time about the situations that may arise and discuss ways to handle these situations before they happen. For example, if your child is invited to a party where the group may be watching a movie which you do not approve of, talk to your child about ways he can respond in that situation. Find a way that will work for your child’s comfort level to have a way out of temptation, even if that means having him call you, so you can give him an excuse to come home. Discussing these types of scenarios is a great way to equip our kids for sticky situations because they will happen.
When our kids have a strong identity in Christ they will not be as bothered when others tease them. If they understand that they are set apart from the world, they will not be discouraged when they feel different from their peers. And when they are equipped to follow the Lord even when they are tempted by their environment, they will be able to stand strong in the faith. What proud Mamas we will be to see our children wholeheartedly following Jesus in a world where most do not.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)