WRITTEN BY Jon Dammeyer
What are we teaching our kids?
The other day the Lord put on my heart an interesting thought. Is the phrase “be more like Jesus” misleading our children into a legalistic work-based salvation? This phrase “be more like Jesus” is a common phrase used within Christian circles to encourage a lifestyle of avoiding sin and loving others and I would like to suggest that this is important to strive for but can be very confusing and can even be a huge detriment to your child’s faith.
Before I get to the issues of the phrase, I need to say that this phrase is largely Biblical. The demand to give up your old, sinless lifestyle and begin to follow Christ with a new lifestyle of forgiveness, love, self-sacrifice, and striving for good is clearly established in Romans 6:1 when Paul asks the rhetorical question, “shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” Paul clearly says absolutely not! We must give up that life of sin in order to live a life for Christ. You also see this concept in 1 Cor. 11:1, immediately after Paul tells us about his lifestyle and how he has been glorifying God “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” This is also an idea found in the words of Christ, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23). Both Paul and Jesus are saying that our lifestyles must change for the sake of the gospel. We cannot continue to live our lives chasing after our sinfulness. We must begin to follow our new master: Christ.
So what is the problem with the phrase, “Be more like Jesus?”
It’s obviously largely biblical, in fact, I haven’t even scratched the surface of this concept within the scriptures. To be like Christ is an important thing that all believers should strive to do. However, when this phrase is encouraged by others, it usually becomes the motive of having a good behavior in public or how to be good in the world’s standards, not necessarily by Christ’s standards.
A phrase that does this will inevitably point our children toward a life of legalism and perfectionism. They will be wrongfully thinking that they are saved simply because they live a lifestyle that is accepted by Christian circles. Unfortunately, this is probably why so many children grow up thinking they know who Jesus is but begin to doubt and question because if they have lived a good life, these bad things shouldn’t be happening to them. This phrase can encourage a work-based salvation that is potentially pulling our kids away from Christ when the intention biblically is a response of someone who already knows Christ.
What are we supposed to do about this? I want to suggest that we stop encouraging our kids to “be more like Jesus” and instead encourage them to “know Jesus more.”
Think about it. Salvation comes through believing in Jesus as your Savior, not acting like Him. We need to encourage our kids to strive to know everything they possibly can about who He is, how He loves, and how He forgave and as a result they will naturally strive to be more like Christ. The deeper they grow in knowledge of who our amazing Savior is, the more natural the behavior will be. Too often churches and parents focus on the behavior side of following Christ when this is something that naturally happens when you learn the Gospel fully.
Perhaps we should stop using the phrase “be more like Christ” to teach our kids to follow rules and be nice to their siblings and start teaching our kids to know what Christ did! Besides, how are our kids going to know how to be more like Christ if they aren’t confident first in what He did for them? We are not saved by what we do, but instead what we believe.
“If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. You will be saved.” Romans 10:9
Jon is the Children’s Director at Wallen Baptist Church.