Whether you still have some summer days left or school is in full-swing, it’s important to think about who your kids are hanging out with! As our world grows more and more connected through social media and a wide variety of cultures are represented in our cities and states, it is important to teach our children how to love someone who is different from them, especially when it comes to religious differences.
For example, your child has a Muslim friend at school, what do you do? Here are some options (spoiler alert, they’re all wrong):
Obviously, none of these are the right answers.
First things first, never expect your child to be the next Billy Graham– they’re young! Let them be kids. The job of converting anyone to be a believer is never on us as followers of Christ, that is the Holy Spirit’s job.
However, if your child has accepted Christ as their personal Savior, they are naturally becoming a witness to others because of the transformation within their hearts. If you’re raising them up biblically and they are truly seeking to live a Christ-like life, then they are sharing the Gospel through their actions and reactions. You can talk to them and explain that others will notice a difference in how they act and behave and that if someone asks them why they are different, they can courageously and humbly point them to Jesus!
Prepare your child in advance for when their Muslim friend starts asking questions. Make sure your child knows that saying, “I don’t know,” is okay! Make yourself available to them as a resource to come to with questions and help them discover the answer for themselves by pointing them to the Bible and discussing what they find. You can also tell your child to come to you with their Muslim friend and you can all talk together. Again, your child may not be a star evangelist or apologist, but the most impact they can have will come from them being honest with their Muslim friend and speaking from their heart.
It won’t be long before your child begins to notice differences in their Muslim friends, whether it is in the food that they bring for lunch, the headcovering that the girls are wearing, or their fasting during the month of Ramadan. What do you do when your child has questions about Islam and what their friends believe and practice?
Be open with your child when they come to you with questions! If they are really curious about Islam, reading through a resource together and talking about it could be a great way to start deep conversations with them (if they are old enough to understand, of course). Depending on their age, we have resources that would be great for your family to walk through together. If you want a very matter-of-fact, easy to understand book, check out The Simple Truth for a side-by-side brief comparison of 60 topics in Islam and Christianity. If your teen is ready for some in-depth studying of the Bible in comparison to Islam's teachings check out Dare to Explore as a Bible study that you can walk through together!
When we read Matthew 18:1-6, we see Jesus’ perspective on children in the faith and how we should raise our children and protect them from stumbling: When Jesus' disciples asked Him who is the greatest in heaven, Jesus calls a child to Himself and says that those who humble themselves like children are the greatest in heaven, and that welcoming children into their lives is welcoming Jesus. But He also warns of great punishment for those who lead our children astray.
“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:12
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” Psalm 119:9
We can learn things from our children’s ability to be curious about others’ beliefs without prejudice, and we should encourage them to make their relationship with God their own personal relationship by exploring the Truth for themselves (with proper guidance). Never underestimate your child’s ability to be a witness of God’s love, instead encourage them and build them up to be a light of the kingdom!
Make sure to help your child stay well-rounded in their faith. They should still be spending a good majority of their time with their Christian friends who can pour into them from a Biblical, Jesus-focused lifestyle. Talk to them about healthy boundaries and how to guard their heart against things that are not from God before entering into deep conversations with Muslims.
If you want to start helping your child learn how to critically think about faith, but don’t know where to start, try asking them questions like these:
It will be a hard balance, but you need to make sure that your child understands that there is a difference between loving their Muslim friend, which can include telling the truth about God, versus being “accepting” of Islam and supporting their Muslim friend’s faith. We can’t support our Muslim friends’ beliefs, because they believe in a lie. However, we can love them and be good friends to them without feeling like we need to compromise our values. Make sure your child understands this crucial truth before completely letting them go into the world.
And remember, many Muslims who come to know Christ as Savior when they are adults, share in their testimonies there was a seed sown into their lives when they were young through a Christian friend in school or a Christian family who lived down the street!
Dear Lord, thank you for entrusting me with my child. Open my eyes to how I can support them in becoming the person You have made them to be! I pray that they are growing personally with You, and that Your influence in their heart becomes a light for others to come to know you. Amen.