Why we do what we do …
The story of Daniel is one of my favourite in the Bible.
Living as an exile in a foreign land, he was able to discern what it meant for him to be an Israelite even whilst uprooted from his homeland. We often think about his refusal to stop praying to God and his encounter with some furry friends, but his resistance to fully adopt to the new culture actually begins in Daniel 1 when he refuses to eat food from the king’s table.
What’s interesting is that Daniel grew up in Israel. He grew up in the time of a mini-revival under Josiah as king. I wonder how impactful his childhood had been in shaping how he navigated the challenges of living in exile in Babylon?
Our kids will grow up to inhabit a world that will have a very different worldview. Some commentators compare it to Daniel living in exile. How do we help our children navigate being followers of Jesus in what can be a challenging context?
As a family, we try to have regular times reading the Bible together. It doesn’t always go to plan, but they have varied in the seasons of life from bed time stories from the Jesus Storybook Bible, through to re-enacting the feeding of the 5,000 with every soft toy in the house. More recently we have made Monday mornings “Miracle Mondays” (their name not ours!) when we listen to 24-7 Prayer’s Lectio for Families over pastries and talk through the questions.
Whatever we are reading from scripture and however we do it, a really important question to ask is ‘what does today’s reading mean for us?’
We can easily fill our children with head knowledge about Bible stories but we need to help them work out how what they are discovering can be applied to everyday life.
What does trusting God look like when you enter year one? What does standing up for what is right cost you when your friends might tease you? What does God’s heart for justice look like at home?
Asking the question ‘what does today’s reading mean for us?’ and modelling how we wrestle through it helps our children see both the value we give scripture and the challenge we might have in applying it practically.
Not only do we think about how the Bible can be applied, but in the everyday of life we can also show how the decisions we make are impacted by scripture. For example, when we go out of our way to support a neighbour, we can draw on Jesus’ reaching to love your neighbour as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). As we talk about Jesus with a family friend, we can share about how Peter encourages us to always share a reason for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15).
Daniel did some quite peculiar things in Babylon. He had his name changed, wore Babylonian clothing and learnt all about their culture. But Daniel also knew when to be different and when to stand up for what he believed was right. His ability to do this meant that God used him powerfully to influence the place he now called home.
As we nurture faith in the home, we have no idea what the culture our children live in will end up looking like. What is vital is that we help them see how scripture gives us an understanding of who God is and how we are called to live. It’s not just a history book, it’s a tool that helps us navigate how to follow God in an ever changing world.
by Andy Frost, Director of Share Jesus International
If you want to think more about reading the Bible with your children, check out our Talking Faith interview with Andrew Ollerton from the Bible Society.
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