In my last blog (‘My little girl’), I reflected on whether I’ve shared my world views with my own daughter in a gracious and effective way, thereby allowing her to decide for herself what she believes and values. Of course, people who profess to be Christians (like me) have a moral imperative to ‘pass on’ their values and beliefs. Christians talk about the great commission given by Jesus where he claimed to have ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’, and instructed his followers to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’.
Of course, such obligations are not limited to Christianity. The Jews were instructed by Moses that ‘these commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 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.’ And those of no faith also feel obligated to argue their own values and beliefs, not least in sometimes castigating Muslims, Christians and others for ‘imposing’ their dogmas on the world.
So, given that the two greatest commandments are to ‘love God’ and ‘to love others as you love yourself’, how do Christians balance this duty to pass on their faith with the need to be loving and gracious too? Well, speaking for myself (certainly), and for many other Christians (probably), I’d suggest we don’t do it very well. Clearly, there have been times through history when we’ve got it horrendously wrong (I’m thinking crusades and inquisitions, for example), but I hope and believe that we’ve mostly learned that lesson. Today, we’re more likely to be dogged by not speaking out enough, for fear of being shouted down or ensnared in a moral minefield. But it’s worth remembering that absolutely everyone (whether they profess any type of faith or no faith) has a set of values and beliefs that they pass on to those they can influence. Some do it with grace and love, and some do it more forcefully.
One thing’s for certain: Christians are going to keep mustering the courage to share their faith because they think they’re ‘passing on’ great news for everyone. It’s taken them two millennia (so far), and you can rest assured that they’re going to stick at it… until God knows when.