Some, like the thief on the cross, have a quick and dramatic conversion. Death is before them and the immediacy of eternity demands it. Some may have grown up Muslim or in another religion and country and their conversion story is dramatic and clear, filled with danger.
An ex-Hindu we know sought to end his despairing life by jumping before a coming train, but was wonderfully converted. Early Christians faced martyrdom, and so their testimonies may have been sealed with their blood.
But what about the child of Christian parents? Nurtured in a culture and home where there is peace, and all the advantages that come with great privilege? Perhaps they went to a safe Christian school, or were even home schooled. Their family attended the meetings of the Assembly/Church, and they heard over and over the true gospel. For them there are two dangers…
- the danger of the child assuming they are Christians because they have “always believed.”
- the danger of the child assuming they are not Christians because they have “always believed.”
This may appear to be a dichotomy and a contradiction but it is a real problem, and this is written for those who may struggle with #2.
My testimony isn’t that great
It is a common experience, and for some a real struggle. One may hear the testimonies of others – about how they used to drink and live a wild life of paganism and immorality. How these became Christians and their lives were altered dramatically.
The child brought up in the privilege of a Christian home may compare this to themselves and they find they have a difficulty pinpointing when they first actually believed and were converted. A comparison and struggle may ensue to search for the reality since they had no such outward drama.
Demanding a conversion experience
Some Christian circles can compound the problem and demand a clear conversion experience (apart from wisdom) and these young people can be left groping for “experiences” that lead them into darkness. We do believe there is an experience involved in conversion, but I would caution against unscriptural requirements we impose upon the tender hearts of those struggling in this area.
Of course, it can be true that there has been no conversion and the struggle is a needed one. Yet for others, there is present an honest love for Christ, for other believers, for the church, and for that which is righteous in God’s sight – which are real evidences of the presence of eternal life within.
For others, there is an embedded legalism that creeps in, a pressure (from within – self generated) to meet the self-imposed expectations that come with a false conception of “acceptance” before God.
Here are some snares
- Perfectionism – the high performer will make the best grades, be a model child of obedience in the home, a server in the local church, and quick to apologize. Good traits, mind you…but not a resting place.
- Introspection– this one may analyze him/herself to the nth degree, to seek evidences within of conversion and reality. This one often becomes sadly disappointed due to the presence of the sinful nature within that exhibits such a contradiction.
- Reputational – here a person may unknowingly seek the approval of others, and by devotion, attendance, and adherence to the expected behaviors, seek a peace by hearing the affirming term “brother” or “sister” used towards them, or by being given responsibilities.
- Service– this includes similar behaviors to Reputational, but may go beyond to official service and position in Christian circles, obtaining a Christian assurance by the positions, services, and devotion undertaken.
- Sacramental– this one is very dangerous in that a person here ensures they have gone through the required steps in their circles – like baptism, communion, and the like. I may look at all I have done, ensure I have done it according to the pattern, yet lack the peace so desired.
- Experiential – some will seek out other avenues of religious experience. This is the lure of the charismatic and messianic groups. There are popular draws of religious experience, emotionally charged “praise and worship”, or the use of obscure diets or even a return to Hebrew roots terminology. There is an understandable reality desired, but this too can lead to a long bypath that ends in disappointment and disillusionment, even wasted years.
- Self righteous– This can be associated with the experiential, where one holds to certain identity markers such as the avoidance of the holidays of Christendom, the refusal to eat pork and other dietary quirks. It may include certain dress codes and other legal tendencies of what is righteous – usually things on my “list” that I can measure up to.
In our next article we will look at practical tips to help children who might be struggling with this situation in their lives.