Can I Tell My Child That Jesus Loves Them?
Is it right to tell my child that Jesus loves them?
Yes, no, no and yes. First, we rightly affirm that there is a form of love that God has for each and every living human. We all bear His image and that is sufficient to elicit His love in a certain sense. Sometimes called His love of benevolence, the Bible teaches that God has a general good will toward men, such as was announced to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:14).
This does not mean, however, that we ought to embrace a bland universal brotherhood of man and universal fatherhood of God perspective. This love of benevolence, while real, does not undo the reality of the wrath of God on those who sin against Him. That, we should understand, includes our own children. The love of benevolence does not keep the judgment of God from descending on His creatures, including the very young. So while we can safely affirm that God loves them benevolently, this doesn’t mean by itself that our children are safe from His just wrath. Their youth does not shield them from the wrath of God for their sins (Psalm 51).
Which brings us to our second “no.” Though I would argue and will momentarily, that God looks at the children of believers and the children of unbelievers differently, this does not mean that all children of all believers are safe from the wrath of God. Though one could argue that later in life he came to saving faith, Esau was the child of believers, toward whom the Bible clearly says God felt hatred (Romans 9: 13). Having a true believer in one’s family tree is not a ticket out of the wrath of God. Neither is my faith as a parent sufficient to gain the work of Christ on behalf of my children. My Baptist friends are absolutely right when they affirm that God has no grandchildren.
When, however, I encourage my children to rest in the love that Jesus has for them I do so not merely because of His love of benevolence. Neither am I denying the “no’s” listed above. Instead I encourage my children to believe that Jesus loves them because of what theologians call the judgment of charity. I treat as believers those that I have some reason to believe believe. Some of them, of course, are tares. That could even be the case about my own children. When we speak of the promises of God, however, we rightly affirm that they are for those who have trusted in the finished work of Christ alone. What we don’t do is look skeptically at those God says are His own. His promise is to be a God to me and to my children, and the only way that can happen is when me and my children trust in Him alone.
There is, of course, an opposite danger. I certainly don’t want my children to be given a false sense of assurance. I don’t either want that for any sheep, young or old, under my care. That is why, while we rejoice in worshipping together over God’s good promises, we in turn call one another to faith and repentance. We do not say to those that we credibly believe believe, as far as we can tell, “Turn from your evil ways and enter into the kingdom.” We do, however, tell the assembled congregation, “Repent and believe” for repenting and believing is not something we do only once. It is something both wheat and tares are called to do, the former always, the latter for the first time. And henceforth always. And so I do warn my children, and my wife, and myself against presuming upon God’s grace. We are to make our calling and election sure (II Peter 2:10). We also, on the other hand, all of us, rejoice to proclaim, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God (I John 3:1).
Remember that we cannot know for certain the state of anyone else’s soul. We are not required to see perfectly into the souls of others. We do, however, have to treat believers one way and unbelievers another. A judgment of charity has its dangers, but so does a judgment lacking in charity.