Our kids naturally gravitate toward the things we love and celebrate in our families. Their loyalties are often pledged to whichever sports team Mom and Dad cheer for long before they understand the rules of the game. Why is this? I think the answer is found in understanding that we all want to be part of a team - we want to belong to a group - and our families become the first and most natural team for us to join. There can even be a sense of pride in saying things like, "This is the James' family way!" or "This is how we roll" and there is nothing wrong with having traditions and loves and loyalties as long as these align with the bigger, more important team - team Jesus.
It is possible that some things that have been passed down in your family do not align with the message of Jesus. If this is the case, I would urge you to pray that God would change your heart so that you would not pass down any "family traditions" that miss the mark. This is not easy - deep change requires a supernatural work - but this is a work that God can and will do.
In addition to not passing on legacies of sin or hate, how can we be proactive in passing along family values that reflect God's heart? With all of the turmoil and racial tension playing out in our nation right now, these are the questions I have been asking the Lord: How should the church respond? How should I respond? How do I teach my children in and through this situation?
I feel ill-equipped to answer these questions and have been trying to listen and learn from others. I do, however, see an opportunity to continue a conversation we have been having over the years with our young children that offers a natural tie-in to current events. In case you too are looking for a starting point in this multi-faceted conversation, allow me to share a few thoughts on Imago-Dei.
Imago-Dei, the latin translation of the phrase "the image of God" is originally found in Genesis 1:27 which says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." This belief that humans are created in the image of God is foundational to the Christian faith. If each person is created by God, for God, in the image of God then every individual has inherent value that comes directly from God Himself. That value is not earned by behavior or appearance or intelligence or productivity - human value is built into the human life by the Creator God. I like the way the Jesus Storybook Bible says this in it's opening chapter: "God loved them with all of his heart. And they were lovely because he loved them."
Imago-Dei. This is why black lives matter. This is why unborn babies matter. This is why illegal immigrants matter. This is why poor people matter. This is why elderly people matter. This is why people with disabilities matter. This is why I matter. This is why you matter. Humans matter because the eternal, sovereign, good, Creator God made us in His image and commands us to recognize and honor the family resemblance in one another.
This can not be the end of the conversation. The Bible has much to say about justice and mercy and being instruments of peace. But with young children, Imago-Dei is a good place to begin. Next time you are gathered around a table for a meal, take a few minutes to explain this foundational belief and make sure your kids understand that your family is part of a larger family - team Jesus - and your loves and loyalties are forever aligned with His. That's how we roll.