This is a guest post by Trillia J Newbell.
“Mommy, look at her, she’s really tall.”
“Why is he sitting in that chair, Dad?”
“I have freckles. You have freckles. But my skin is darker than yours.”
These are only a tiny fraction of the comments we hear from children as they learn to relate to the world around them. They are curious and often expressive without much regard for what they are saying and whom they are speaking about. There’s sweetness to their curiosity. But with all things, we want to teach and guide them so that they are knowledgeable about the God-given differences seen in others. Like you’d teach them with anything else, it’s essential that we begin to teach our children about creation, specifically the image of God, at an early age. If you want your children to embrace those who are different than them, then you must start with helping them understand that God is the Creator of every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Here are four ways to help kids embrace those who are different than them:
1. Teach the Imago Dei
In the beginning, God created all of mankind in His image, male and female alike (Gen. 1:26). God—the holy one, pure and awesome—created us to reflect aspects of His beauty and character. Have you taken time to share and celebrate this amazing news with your kids? As God’s image-bearers, we are all equal. We are equal in dignity and worth. Of all God’s creation, we are the only ones created in His very image, so we have dominion over the rest (1:28). Why teach this? Because understanding that every person is created by God and made in His image helps to establish the foundational truth that we are all equal and valuable to the Lord and, therefore, we should value all people.
2. Have Others in your home
It has been said that proximity to others changes the way we relate to them. We can love our neighbor as ourselves in a greater and more unique way when we actually know our neighbor. And it speaks volumes to a child when we welcome others into our home.
One practical way to show love to others in your home is simply to invite in other Christians. This can be for lunch, dinner, or parties. This can be with members in your church, or with your neighbors. Find those who are different from you, take an interest in their lives, and invite them over for a meal. Who can you invite into your home? If a visitor comes to church and you notice them, greet them and pursue them. Be inclusive. Then look at your neighborhood and welcome in your neighbors. Learn about them as people and if their culture is an important aspect of their lives, listen and learn. Your kids will recognize, remember and internalize this level of engagement with those who are not like you or them.
3. Celebrate the difference in others
Heaven will be filled with people from Indonesia, Dubai, Zambia, the Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee and the Grand Cayman Islands. And today we can get a foretaste of heaven when we step out of our comfort zones to get to know someone not like us. But even if we don’t have different people right in front of us, we can still find ways to celebrate this reality. As you teach your kids about other people and cultures have fun! Get creative: cook various ethnic meals, go to festivals celebrating different nationalities, have a history lesson with music from various locations, etc.
4. Teach the Gospel
Throughout the New Testament, Christ continually related to people who were different from him, be it tax collectors or Samaritans (who were hated by the Jewish people and vice versa. See John 4:9, John 8:48 and Luke 9:51–56). He was bold to share with them, bold to the point of death on a cross, bold in the face of his own death because of his love for the souls of his image bearers. The gospel has power to bring even the most unlikely of people together for his glory. We want to teach our kids that it is Jesus who ultimately unites people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, and so we proclaim: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
Bottom-line, if you want your children to embrace those who are different than them, you must first, by example and conviction, embrace those who are different than you. Your children are watching and learning from you. They will embrace whom you embrace. It is God who motivates us to step outside ourselves and celebrate the differences around us. God created, he redeems, and it is He who is calling all these different people together in Christ for His glory.
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