Christian Living

How to Teach God’s Commands to Children Living in a Hostile Culture

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 02/22/2024

In a society that’s hostile towards Christian morality, how should we go about teaching our children God’s commands so that they’ll desire to follow him rather than the culture surrounding and pressuring them?

Not a God of Blind Faith

The first thing to remember is this: Our God is not a God of blind faith. As our Creator, he knows we are beings who need reasons for what we do, beings who are rational and who love, beings who are motivated by a desire to seek our good and the good of our loved ones. Of course, our sin distorts these qualities, even at the best of times, and we can be deceived about what actually is good for us (see Eve). But at root, our rationality and our desire to pursue what’s good for us are both good aspects of our humanity that God repeatedly appealed to when revealing his commands to his people.

We see a clear example of this approach in Deuteronomy 6:20–25, where God instructs the Israelites as to what they should emphasize when teaching their children his commands:

When your son asks you in time to come, saying, “What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the Lord our God commanded you?” then you shall say to your son, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand. Moreover, the Lord showed great and distressing signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household; He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers. So the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today. It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the Lord our God, just as He commanded us.”

In other words, God tells the Israelites they need to teach his laws within the context of, first, who he is, and second, his desire for their good. (This makes sense since Hebrews 11:6 says, “He who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”)

He’s not asking for blind faith. He’s reminding them of the evidence he’s given them that he is real and powerful. He brought them out of Egypt “with a mighty hand” and “distressing signs and wonders before [their] eyes”! Neither is he asking them to submit merely for submission’s sake. They should obey him because he is good and he desires their good. He rescued them from slavery! He is faithful to his promises, doing exactly what “he had sworn to [their] fathers.” And his commands are “for [their] good always” and for their righteousness.

This is our model. And it can be easily translated to discussions with our children today. Of course, in addition to God’s rescue of the Israelites from slavery, we have something even greater to point to: God’s rescue of us from the slavery of sin.

Morality in Light of the Reality of the Cross

The cross is the event that should frame all of our discussions about God’s moral law. As with the exodus, the cross is proof that God is real and powerful. He moved history in exactly the way he promised (see Isaiah 53). He raised Jesus from the dead! More than that, if he was willing to give his own Son for our good, we can trust that he is for us. He loves us. The objective evidence of his love is right there on the cross, and we can argue for the cross with objective evidence.

Moreover, the cross reveals both God’s justice and grace. He does not leave rebellion against his commands unpunished, which is why Jesus’ death was necessary. But Jesus’ death and resurrection also secured our forgiveness for us, and knowledge of this fact is the only way we can look at the piercing beauty of God’s moral law and not end up in despair, crushed under the weight of his good justice.

In all these ways, we can point to the historical event of the cross to reveal both who God is and his desire for our good. He is real, he is sovereign, he loves us, and therefore his commands are good for us and we should follow them.

It’s not easy to trust in the goodness of God’s moral principles when they seem to go against everything our culture tells us is good. It wasn’t easy for the Israelites, and it isn’t easy for us today. We need to start by learning to trust God himself. As our Creator, he knew we would need objective evidence of his power, authority, justice, love, faithfulness, grace, and desire for our good in order to withstand a hostile culture’s pressure to conform to its morality rather than his. Thankfully, he gave it to us.