It’s nearly impossible to avoid. The news, gruesome You-Tube videos and daily conversations seem to be revolving around this topic. Since 9-11, the reality of terror has entered our homes, yet the rapid expansion and militant massacres from ISIS have raised the stakes to a whole new level. Fear and uncertainty has reached epidemic proportions like never before. Even children can no longer be shielded in naivety. So what should a Christian parent say to his or her child about this imposing threat?
First, a word of caution: I believe it is important to determine how much your child needs to know. Solomon warns us not to awaken love before its time (Songs 2:7); the same principle also applies to evil. There is a virtue in the innocence of a child. Any parent personally involved in their child’s life is the best person to determine if their child is ready to hear about ISIS and the depth in which the subject needs to be disclosed. Initially begin by finding out how much they already know. Then clarify and inform where needed, but don’t be “disgraceful…to speak of the things which are done by them” (Eph. 5:12) which might at this present time be unnecessary.
The following are some topics you may wish to consider in your conversation.
1. Explain the depravity of man. Since the fall, the hearts of humans are corrupt. “There is none who does good, there is not even one” (Rom. 3:12). Yes, all people do not engage in raping women and killing innocent civilians, but the documented actions of ISIS reveal the degree all people can digress toward evil when their conscience is seared, governmental restraint is lifted and false religion finds a way to justify. ISIS only shows that without Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the human heart gravitates toward evil and is capable of the worst atrocities.
2. Explain the persecuted church. Since they are not going to hear it stressed in the news, teach your child how thousands of Christians are willing to die or lose their possessions rather than renounce their faith in Christ. This models the faith of the early church (Heb. 10:34) and this is the fervent love that our Savior expects for Him as we remain “faithful until death” (Rev. 2:10). May we as pilgrims, like those in the Middle East, be found “seeking the city which is to come” (Heb. 13:14).
3. Explain the difference between radical Islam and Christianity. ISIS terrorists are following the words of the Qur’an literally. There they find their justification to advance the cause of Allah through the blood of the infidels. The demand is simple, “Bow the knee or die.” Converts are won by threats and the sword. On the other hand, Christ teaches us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Mt. 5:44). We seek to make converts too, but it is done through our own suffering (2 Tim. 2:10) and gentle words as we point to the Savior who in the spilling of His own blood demonstrated His incredible love to bring salvation to the world (Heb. 13:20-21).
4. Explain that we must trust God. Nothing can happen in the world without the Lord’s divine approval. God is sovereign over everything and “does whatever He pleases” (Psm. 115:3). God is not endorsing the brutalities, but in His infinite wisdom is permitting them for His divine purposes (Isa. 55:8-9). All evil will be called to account, but in the meantime His plan is unfolding to its detailed perfection even when it appears that things are unraveling at the seams. Fear is cast aside when we remember God is still sitting on His throne.
5. Explain the need to love all people. Jesus said, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Lk. 5:31-32). Pray those in ISIS have their spiritual eyes opened so that they may confess their sins and run to Jesus Christ for forgiveness. Our children need to realize that all people are sinners and all people need Jesus Christ. They need to realize that grace extends even to the vilest of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) and “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20). Hate their actions (Rom. 12:9), but love the people and show it by praying for their salvation. Remember our Savior’s prayer while being nailed to the cross? “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34).
6. Explain the Gospel. Parent, your child needs to know that eternal salvation is not based upon their moral actions, but rather upon the work of Jesus Christ. Sure, your child is not as evil as ISIS, but they must realize that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). If they have not embraced Jesus Christ alone for salvation, remind them that in the eyes of God they too have already committed murder in their heart (Mt. 5:21-22), not to mention other sins that have paved their own road to eternal separation from God. We all need forgiveness and Jesus Christ will receive all who come to Him in faith (Jn. 5:24).
May God bless our awesome responsibilities as parents,