The pictures have gone viral; twenty-one brothers in Christ with hands tied behind their backs, marched onto a beach by twenty-one members of the Islamic State, made to kneel down before their executioners, who at some point shoved the martyrs onto the sand chest down, knelt on their backs, pulled back their heads with one hand and cut off their heads with the other. The waves of the Mediterranean Sea lapped up on the sand, collecting the blood of the martyrs.
This is reality in the world in which our children our growing up. How should Christian parents disciple their children in light of this? I can share with you what Nicole and I are doing.
1. Parents need wisdom from the Holy Spirit to discern how to talk to their children about these matters. Not all children are in the same place in their readiness to discuss these things. A wise parent does not give their children more than they are ready for. If you have not already been bringing your children along in reality and you have been shielding them from knowing of the evil in the world, this might not be the current event with which to begin. Before you read further, you should know that we talk regularly with our children about evil in this world; we did not begin with this particular current event.
2. We discussed this over supper with our four children together. In the culture of our home, supper is the setting for meaningful family discussion.
3. I told our four children what happened. I did not give them more than they are ready for. They are already well aware of ISIS as we have discussed the group many times. I told our kids that twenty-one members of ISIS marched twenty-one of our brothers onto a beach and beheaded them simply for being Christians. Then, I used an iPad to show them two images: the one of our brothers in orange jumpsuits being marched onto the beach by Muslims dressed in black and the one of our brothers kneeling down in front of their executioners while the one man in camo addressed the camera.
4. Then, here are the talking points we are working through with them (not all in one sitting):
The Lord told us it would be this way, so do not panic: Matthew 10:16-25.
The Lord told us not to fear those who can kill the body but not the soul: Matthew 10:26-33.
These brothers are martyrs of the faith and daddy and mommy admire them so much: they refused to be disloyal to Christ in order to save their own lives. They loved Christ more than their own life: Luke 14:26. They are heroes: Hebrews 11:38, Revelation 6:9-11.
Daddy and mommy pray ISIS is brought to justice for these ongoing murders: Romans 13:1-7.
Daddy and mommy do not hate the members of ISIS or we are hypocrites. Instead, we pray for the members of ISIS to become Christians and be in heaven with all of us one day: Matthew 5:43-48. You see, daddy and mommy are redeemed by Christ for committing mass murder and are still learning by the grace of God to stop being serial killers: Matthew 5:21-22.
What happened on Sunday in Libya is what happened to Steven in Acts 6:8-7:60. ISIS is stoning and beheading Christians; Steven was stoned for being a Christian. Most of the disciples were martyred for the faith.
The greatest martyr was Christ Himself. Our Lord was crucified for the Christian faith. If that is what happened to Him, what should we expect will happen to us if we follow Him and His teaching? Matthew 10:24-25.
It is a detriment to the development of my children to grow up oblivious to the reality of the world.
It is very important that Christian parents in luxurious American safety raise our children with an understanding of the reality of the world. It is an extreme luxury that my small children have never heard a bomb explode, seen or heard a real gunfight, or seen a house in our neighborhood burned down as an act of vengeance. In many countries around the world, my ten year old son would already have to be an expert rifleman in order to protect our family and home. It is unhealthy and in my opinion, a detriment to the development of my children to grow up oblivious to the reality of the world. My children are in the next generation of the church responsible for reaching this world with the gospel. They need to understand the world they are charged to reach. We as parents only have 18-20 years to train them to think like Christ; that is, to train them to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5).