Are you a World Christian?
Are you praying for Christians in Iraq, Syria, and throughout the world who are facing persecution?
A few years ago, I wrote an article about ways to help our children become “World Christians” because when our children were very young Noel Piper’s words impacted my heart:
“A world Christian sees beyond his neighborhood friends, his school, his everyday life and experiences. He’ll be fascinated by the variety of people and customs next door and all over God’s wide world. He yearns for the Manika of Guinea and the Sukuma of Tanzania to be his brothers and sisters just as he desires spiritual oneness with his best friend. But those things will happen only if he’s exposed to a broader world than what he finds naturally. Of course our most basic prayer for our children is that God will move them toward himself. That they will be his people. That they will be men and women of God. And then our prayer is that, as they focus on God, they will be aware of the world that needs him too.” ~Noel Piper
Going beyond an awareness and appreciation and love for Christians around the world, my husband and I also want our family to “weep with” those who are facing persecution because of their faith.
As Paul exhorts, we want to “remember (their) chains” (Colossians 4:18) and pray that God will give them boldness, courage, relief, and comfort.
But let’s be honest…
It feels scary and confusing sometimes to know when or how to discuss such horrible atrocities.
How much should we tell our children?
How specific should we be?
How will we answer the questions raised by these real life stories of horror?
What is appropriate for each child will vary by their age, their ability to understand, and even their own design. We have a wide variance within our own children (from teen down to age five).
But, the best place to start is with prayer.
Start by praying that God will give you wisdom when talking about the persecution of Christians with your children.
And then begin praying yourself.
Get the facts.
If you’re like me, you may need to read through a few basic timelines to get the history behind some of the most current scenarios where persecution is occurring:
—Persecution of Christians in Iraq
—AP Iraq Timeline: Key Events Since 2003
—Timeline of US Involvement in Iraq
—BBC Timeline of Iraq Profile
—CNN Iraq Fast Facts
—Associated Press releases
–Maps to explain the crisis in Iraq
—Video explaining the Situation in Iraq in under 5 min.
With your children, find a map and locate the areas/countries where the persecution is taking place.
In as much or as little detail as is appropriate for your child’s age, explain why and how Christians are currently being persecuted.
You may need to start with the basics, such as defining words/labels like: persecution, the Nun symbol, ISIS and different religions.
For a young child, the explanation should be very basic:
“Christians in these countries are being hurt by people who don’t want them to follow Jesus. As you can see on the map, these countries are far away from where we live, but because we are all part of God’s family, it is important that we know what is happening to them and we want to pray for them. We can ask God to protect them and encourage them and give them courage when they are scared. We can also thank God that we live in a country where we are still free to pray to God and worship Him and read our Bibles.”
For an older child, the explanation might be very specific with examples of the kind of persecution currently being faced. With our older children we have been open about some of the horrors being committed because we want them to understand the depth of the evil that Christians are facing.
Take time to share with your children what the Bible says about persecution, with an emphasis on Heaven and eternity.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” ~Romans 8:35
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” ~Psalm 116:15
“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~2 Cor. 12:1
“Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.” ~2 Thessalonians 1:4
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” ~Matthew 5:10
“Remember (their) chains”… “(Be not) ashamed of (their) chains” ~Col. 4:18 and 2 Tim. 1:16
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” ~ Matthew 10:28-31
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” ~Psalm 34:18
It may also be helpful to utilize a variety of resources that can help attach personal stories to what is happening in the lives of Christians around the world.
Be prepared for (and make time for) difficult questions.
My new friend Jessica Thompson has an excellent book that just released– Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions.
The last chapter has a whole section on war and also on terrorism.
In it she gives specific examples of what a parent could share with their child, broken down into three age groups (preschool, 5-10, and 11+).
And I love how she ends with a refocus on the gospel…the good news.
“We are not alone. God is here. He is holy and he is loving. In fact, he’s so loving he was willing to sacrifice what he loved most in order to bring us to himself…” ~Jessica Thompson
Make time to actually pray together and look for practical ways to give or help.
End with a welcoming of future discussions and/or questions and reassure your children of God’s love for them.
“Reassure your children that God knows the future and nothing can happen to them that won’t end up being for their good and his glory…remind them of these words from the Psalms: ‘When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?’ (Psalm 56:3-4).” ~Jessica Thompson
And Father, I do pray that you will give us wisdom as we help our children develop hearts of compassion and love for Christians around the world who are suffering and facing persecution.
I also pray for those being persecuted– please give them hope and strengthen them, let them know the depth of your love for them, provide for their practical needs, remind them of Heaven, and allow them to share the good news of your Son who came to die for our sins to that we can be forgiven and welcomed into relationship with you as your adopted sons and daughters.