When I read passages in scripture about the Lord calling us to defend the needs of the oppressed, I have a physical reaction. I begin sweating, my heart races, anger boils, passion brews and depending on how much coffee I’ve had, fiery lectures to my children (and husband) are sure to follow. I love to talk about fighting for the underdog. I love teaching my children to care about these things too, but it is tricky. The needs of our world, our political system, our jails, our schools, privilege disparities… the injustices are many and overwhelming.
So how do we nurture a sense of justice in our children? What are ways we can bring them into our real world, while protecting them from age-inappropriate content? How can we instill in our children a deep-rooted trust that God values justice, compassion and kindness, despite what they may see in the world?
1. Start with God.
Remind them of who God is, and what he wants for us. God values justice on earth. God speaks repeatedly in the bible about how we are to act as Christians. “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Justice roars and bellows. Kindness whispers and acts quietly. They need each other.
Because of social media, we can more readily learn of current social injustices. We have a clearer picture of the lives of others. As we reveal the real world to our children, first remind them of our unseen God, who chooses the orphans and widows, the poor and the less fortunate. He highly values them.
2. Teach them history.
Visit monuments, battlefields and read stories of the past. Ask librarians for up-to-date resources about our celebrations and holidays; there are new and more diverse perspectives on our national history than when we were young. Learning history is a great opportunity for our kids to understand others’ points of view, and it’s important for us to dive into the past again as more perspectives become available.
3. Share current events.
The thought of bringing up news feels overwhelming to me, and I’m not necessarily advocating a daily newscast for your children. But there are current events happening that may catch your child’s attention and fan the passion for justice. Are they into animals? Talk about endangered wildlife and environmental care. Are they learning about Native Americans in school? Teach them about problems that many Native American students face in their educational systems. Depending on your child, there are many age-appropriate current events and resources. It’s important to be honest with kids, and also sensitive to their ability (or inability) to emotionally handle great conflict. Be discerning when sharing social justice issues and news events, but don’t shy away.
4. Memorize scripture.
I had to laugh when my son told me he was tired from all the “standing up” he had to do one day at school. I was confused and didn’t understand why (they have chairs!) but he told me he had to “stand up” for three people at recess. He had to “act justly!” Who knows what happened, but I love that he jumped into action to defend friends, perhaps prompted from his memory verse.
5. Love justice, love kindness.
Justice roars and bellows. Kindness whispers and acts quietly. They need each other. Teach your kids to stand up for someone on the playground, but teach them also to find the outcast and kindly invite them in. Justice and kindness go hand-in-hand. We don’t need to be champion fighters to be great advocates for justice. Teach your children about modern heroes who have chosen to fight for justice with a great deal of kindness. Show them people using their talents to make small changes.
I want to raise children who recognize injustices toward others. I want them to know, in light of what they see, that the Lord also cares. I want to raise my sons with confidence to act, knowing God is on their side. Let’s find someone we can stand up for today.