It’s inevitable. One day your young child as he or she developmentally matures will have their eyes opened to fact that people are different. People come in many shapes, sizes, portions, abilities, tones, traits, and trappings, and up to a certain age, your little one will innocently be blind to all of this. But that will change. One day they’ll begin to notice differences among people.
I’ll hope to never forget the moment when my little Zachariah, who was nearing four-years-old at the time, commented in 2009 while watching President Obama on TV, “Barack Obama has a brown face.” He was just making observations, but it was at that moment when I knew that a switch had been flipped in him because his comment was born out of the reality that Obama’s skin tone was different from Zachariah and his family’s. He was beginning to see differences.
As you well know from both giving and receiving, sinful humanity often sees differences and then makes these differences an opportunity to make fun or oppress. Just watch a school playground during recess for while to see what I’m talking about. Really, it’s a depraved coping mechanism we run to when faced with something not like ourselves. In order to make ourselves feel superior, we verbally, physically, or systematically attack those who are different. So much strife and hurt have been produced from this sort of action.
But that’s how those who live in the flesh respond. We as Christians are not to be ruled by our flesh but by the Spirit of God. Therefore, when we see differences, love is our response instead of ridicule. However, given the natural gravity of our depravity, love has to be learned. Parents must teach their children to love those who are different from them.
It’s for that reason that I appreciate so much John Piper’s sermon from January 17, 2010. His aim is to equip parents to train children to love those who are different. He provides eight ways for you to do this:
1) Help the children believe in God’s sovereign wisdom and goodness in creating them with the body that they have.
2) Help the children believe in God’s sovereign wisdom and goodness in making other people with the body that they have.
3) Help the children believe that they and all other children and adults are made in God’s image.
4) Teach the children that God tells us to do to others as we would like others to do to us.
5) Teach the children and model for them that their own sin is uglier than anybody they think is physically unattractive.
6) Teach the children that God loves them in spite of the ugliness of their sin and that he proved this by sending his Son to die for our sins and give forgiveness to all who would trust him.
7) Teach the children that because Jesus died for them and rose again, he becomes for them an all-satisfying Friend and Treasure.
8) Teach the children to love others who are different from them, not in order to be accepted by God, but because they already are accepted by God because of Jesus.
I would strongly encourage you to read the manuscript or watch the video of this message to get the full teaching behind these eight ways. It’s really good stuff!
I pray that God by the power of the Holy Spirit will work mightily in our own hearts love for those who are different. Then, may we pass this Christlike trait onto our little ones so that they’ll be encouraged to honor God in the midst of a glorious variety of people. Love those who are different in spite of their differences because God has loved you in spite of your sin!