The Exchange Zone
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 serves as an amazing foundation for living the Engaged Life as a family.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
This passage is called the “Shema”, because the Hebrew word for “hear” is “Shema”. The context of this passage is that Moses has just given the 10 Commandments to the people of Israel. I have heard many sermons and workshops on this passage that focus on parenting principles. There are excellent principles contained within these verses, but the error in reading or teaching this passage is to jump to the parenting principles. Because you can’t just skip over verse 6. “These commandments I give you today are to be on your hearts.” (emphasis added). It all starts with the parents understanding, owning, and living out these commandments in the context of their family. Parents can’t stand back from afar and flippantly instruct their kids to follow God’s commands. No hypocrites allowed here! As a parent, you know that your kids can smell a fake. A number of recent studies show an increasing percentage of students who stop attending church for at least one year after high school graduation. There are many factors in a student’s choice to stop attending church, but I believe that a vibrant faith modeled and lived out at home will set up our students to make their faith their own. And it all starts with seeing faith lived out at home by their parents.
When I was growing up in a small town in central Illinois, I ran track. My dad was known in our small town as the guy with the beard who ran marathons. For me, however, once around the track was far enough! I specialized in sprints, hurdles, and relays. In the 4×100 relay race, each runner completes a 100-meter portion of the race, and then passes the baton off to the next runner. There is a 20-meter exchange zone for the baton to passed from one runner to the next. I remember many days of track practice where our 4-man team would line up in a single file line and jog around the track or through town, passing the baton from the back of the line to the front, over and over again. Why did our coaches have us spend so much time on this rather than focusing more on strength or speed? Because the exchange matters!
Think of your parenting as a relay race. As a parent, you are carrying things that you want to pass on to your children. A love for the Lord, a set of beliefs and values that you hold dear, certain knowledge or skills that you think they need to possess for success in life. There is a limited amount of time that you have to make the exchange: when they turn 18, they are on their own, and your parenting shifts to a different stage. In the relay race, both the incoming and outbound runners have responsibilities. The inbound runner must shout certain commands and the right time and hold the baton out in a manner in which the next runner can easily take it. Our job as parents is to be clear in how we communicate with our kids, and make clear with our lives what a relationship with Jesus looks like in everyday life. The outbound runner’s job is to follow the commands of the inbound runner, to reach back at the right time, and take the baton from the previous runner. Our coaches instilled in us the concept that the outbound runner was to grab the baton tightly and tear it out of the hand of the inbound runner. You don’t want to drop the baton and be disqualified from the race! The job of our kids is to take the faith and make it their own. That means they will push back against us at times and ask difficult questions. But that’s all a part of spiritual formation. Passing the faith from one generation to the next matters. It’s difficult and messy at times, but essential.
When was the last time you read Matthew chapter one? Its’ the genealogy of Jesus Christ. I’m guessing it’s not of the top of your “must memorize” passages from the Bible. To be honest, it’s not at the top of my list either. It’s just a list of names. But it’s a beautiful list! It’s a record of one generation passing the faith to the next. The list of names includes people who got things right and also people who got things very wrong. But God worked through them all the same. God doesn’t need perfect people, just people who are willing and obedient. It’s amazing that through this list of names, we see the story of God bringing the Messiah to the world. Now through the church, we are living the story of bringing the world to the Messiah. Your parenting isn’t just about getting your kids to obey, it’s about something much, much more. It’s about advancing the Kingdom of God.