Sometimes you can just see the wheels turning inside our children’s brains.
That’s the look I got from our youngest son, Ryan, a few days ago as he broke our normal morning routine.
He stood behind me as I checked email. He waited. He wanted to talk.
Forget email. Forget the lunch that needs to be packed.
Time to listen, Mom.
“Did you see that story this morning about a church letting Muslims use their church?” Ryan asked.
“I did, Ryan,” I said. And I bit my tongue as I caught myself wanting to tell him my opinion.
Instead, I simply asked, “What did you think about it?”
He paused, thought a minute, “Well it bothered me and I don’t think it was a good idea.”
“I’m not sure.”
Well, that’s an honest answer for an 11-year-old. And a comforting one for a mom.
He had discernment to realize this was an important issue … so we talked about something far more significant that morning than whether he wanted pretzels or chips in his lunch bag.
The story he heard was about a Christian church that was across the street from a Muslim mosque undergoing repairs or renovation. The Christian church pastor offered to let the Muslim congregation use his church for worship in the meantime, saying it was the neighborly thing to do.
He compared the hospitality of his church to Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan who, though despised by many, showed more compassion than the church leaders who walked by an injured man. That answer didn’t fully satisfy Ryan.
“So is it good to help people, Ryan? Was the pastor right about that?” I asked. Of course, Ryan said, “yes.”
"But is it good for us to help people do something we know is not really good for them?” As I asked that question, I could tell that Ryan realized that’s what had been bothering him.
I explained to him that sometimes people—even pastors—have very good intentions about helping others. And, like in this case, they’ll find an example in the Bible that makes it seem like the right thing to do.
But sometimes “helping” may not really be helping if we look at the situation from a biblical worldview. Would offering a beer to an alcoholic really be helpful? Would giving a cookie to a dieter be the best idea?
So—as a Christian who believes Christ alone offers Salvation—are we really helping someone by aiding in that person’s worship of a false religion?
“Ryan, what if the Muslims wanted to use the church for other things besides worship—would that be OK?” I asked, and then we talked about other ways the Christians could be loving witnesses to their Muslim neighbors.
As we talked, I sensed another important lesson in this story.
“Ryan, what did the pastor say was his reason for sharing his church?” I asked. Ryan remembered he had used the story of the Good Samaritan.
So I asked him to think about other times when God’s Word is used incorrectly in the Bible to justify something that’s wrong.
Ryan thought about it. We talked about the serpent in the Garden of Eden questioning God’s Word. Ryan then remembered Satan’s temptations to Jesus in the desert quoting Scripture. We both concluded it’s wise to not automatically assume something’s right just because someone quotes Scripture.
We need to know Scripture ourselves—and use Scripture to test Scripture… not our own opinions. In this case, verses similar to Luke 17:1 came to mind, when Jesus told his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.” (NIV)
Let’s be clear here. This is not intended to condemn a well-meaning pastor. Or to take a swipe against Muslims.
But this story offers an important reminder to parents, and others entrusted to train our children. We must teach them to listen and think with discernment—and do so ourselves.
We’re promised in the second chapter of Proverbs (verses 3-5) that we if we “cry out for discernment” and ask the Lord for understanding, then we will “find the knowledge of God”—and it will come, first, when we “understand the fear of the Lord.”
So what lessons did this mother and son learn before school that morning?
• Mom learned to listen—and watch for signs when a child wants to talk.
• Mom learned to be quiet—letting her son do the thinking and questioning.
• Both learned caution–not automatically concluding something is “right” just because a position is presented based on Scripture.
Not a bad lesson before the school bell.