Parents, You're Not "Forcing Religion" on Your Kids When You Teach Them the Faith

Sometimes parents of a child will say that they will not force their religion on their children. This is said sometimes even by Christian parents. It’s one thing for unbelieving parents to say that they will not force any religion on their children. This should come as no surprise; if religion plays no role in their lives, why would they think it would play a role in their children’s lives?

It is another thing, however, to hear this statement come from Christian parents. To those who are Christians and champion their child’s rights to “freedom of thought” and “choice in religion,” it can only be said that they are not following the Scriptures either by their words or by their actions.

In the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy we read the following from Moses, who was commanded by God to teach the Israelites all that they needed to do to walk obediently before God:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

"You SHALL teach them to your children.” (Emphasis mine.) This is not an option for the people of God; it is a command. God says that these things must be taught and instilled in the minds and hearts of the children for knowledge, obedience, preservation, and continuity. Though we are not living in Old Testament times, this command is just as much for Christian parents today. The Christian Faith must be instilled in the hearts and minds of our children today for the same reasons.

Parents don't seem to have a problem sending their children to school, where all sorts of information are being “forced” (using their word) on them. As children grow they are forced to learn the rules of the road and get a driver’s license to drive. For some reason, when it comes to religion or the Christian faith, in particular, the same standard is not held. They seem to believe that discussions about faith should be kept private, yet discussions about other things should not.

God says that the Israelites were to teach their children to know God and to love him with all of their hearts, minds, and strength. They are to know God, and they are to know what God requires of them. To know God with all of one's heart, mind and strength is all-inclusive: it means we are to love and obey him with our entire being.

As Christians, we should talk about Christ, our faith, and the importance of loving him and obeying him, especially in the home. God says that talking about him, the faith, the Law, etc. is to be done when you sit in your house. This could be during a meal, but it is not restricted to this time; perhaps there should be a time set aside each day to talk about Christ after a meal or before bedtime. Before bedtime is appropriate since he says we are to do so “when you lie down and when you rise.”

God says we are to talk about him when we walk by the way, so if you walk (or drive) your child to school, this is an opportunity to give them something substantial to keep them through the day. Public schools can be very hostile toward the Christian faith, so what better time to talk about the things of God than right before you send your child into hostile territory?

Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). God is a Father to us, and we are his children; he desires that we know him and love him, yet here is a great danger in forgetting God. We are by nature prone to do so. God’s goodness in the Gospel of salvation in Christ must be recalled to our minds often.

Children do not know this naturally. It is vital that this Good News be taught to our children diligently, so that they too may grow to be complete and equipped for every good work.

Photo of Neil Edlin

Neil Edlin

Neil Edlin is the rector of St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Catholic Church in Orange, California.

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