I wrote an article recently on the theology behind the “second” salvation of my youngest daughter. It elicited one of the top ten-percent of the nearly 3k comments I have received on Medium this past year. The author spoke about how young, impressionable, and naive she was (6 years old) to be proselytized by an eight year old neighborhood evangelist. Of course, from my perspective, being witnessed to by a peer, even at the age of six, seemed a blessing, both from the perspective of my appreciation of this evangelist’s parents, and for the sake of my own daughter’s eternal life. And yes, I recognize that my feelings would have been very different had it been a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon roaming the neighborhood.
More importantly, what if I was to suggest that since my daughter did not fully understand what she was saying in her first rendition of the Sinners’ Prayer, she was actually creating roadblocks for a future, true salvation experience? What if she went through her whole life thinking she was going to Heaven when she mouthed a prayer at six, never truly accepting Jesus Christ as BOTH her Savior and Lord (which fortunately she did a few years later)? How many Christian testimonies are based on childhood salvations which do not result in a changed life?
James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? … faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
How many Christian parents and grandparents assume all is eternally well for their kids and grandkids once the pastor and the church seal the deal by a dunk or a sprinkle? How many adults who say they were Christians and are now “deconstructing”, never really demonstrated an initial saving faith, an interest in building a relationship with God, or a desire to follow His truths in the first place?
John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
Children Under Pressure
We know from a recent study by Barna that the most fruitful mission field are kids under the age of 18 (94%). So, for Christians concerned with the Great Commission, it is a siren’s call for pastors, parents, Sunday School teachers, church youth camps, and basically all hands on deck to immerse kids in a culture of Christian “influence” until they “walk the aisle”, talk to the pastor and confirm to everyone they are “saved” by getting baptized. The earlier the child can articulate that they are sinners, Christ loves them and wants to save them, the more pride the parents can express in their (my) Christian cocoon.
I realize the sarcasm above is largely unfair but is intended to make a point that rarely, if ever, gets made. The more we press young impressionable kids to acquiesce to OUR Biblical Christian worldview, rather than their own, the more we risk seeing ourselves reflected back at us rather than the truth, as they grow into teens and young adults. For myself, when I heard my daughter got re-baptized at 16, my first though was not, “what a praise and relief that she is really saved”. Instead, it was, “she was saved at 6, I know it, I saw it, what in the world was she thinking getting baptized again”.
As Christians, reflect on those you know who have said they got “saved” at an early age. Is there spiritual fruit in their lives? Have they been seeking a loving relationship with Jesus? Or, is the Bible just a dusty book, given as a gift by the pastor at the baptism, buried in the closet, unread? Is church the occasional visit rather than a commitment? Is Biblical morality unknown or at least nullified by societal realities?
Matt. 7:21-22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Do those you love not just “love their neighbor” but really demonstrate a love for Jesus Christ
What Happened In My Daughter’s Case
The first time my daughter prayed to “receive Christ”, at six, she did not pray from a contrite (regretful) heart. The second time, at 16, she understood and prayed to God for both His provision for salvation and His position as Lord of our lives.
God does not ignore a genuine prayer. He is a righteous Father who cannot accept sin. God, as well as my daughter, knew that at six, she was making a statement on who God is (our Savior) rather than what our position is juxtaposed against His (our Lord).
Romans 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
My daughter was saved at age 16 through her heart change, not the words she actually mouthed while her eyes were closed.
So, should we stop evangelizing our children? Of course not! Is it acceptable to build a Christian wall around them until they bend to our Biblical Christian worldview? Surprisingly, I would say yes. The truth is that we are not of this world; our citizenship is in Heaven (Phil. 3:20, John 15:19). To abdicate our responsibility as parents and Christian caregivers regarding the eternal status of our youth would be horrific.
What we need to avoid is ignoring our continuing responsibility to help in the sanctification process, once our young charges make a “profession of faith”. And, even more importantly perhaps, be true “fruit checkers” as we look for changes in their behavior, newly minted with the Holy Spirit in their hearts (Cor. 6:19).
Gal. 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Rom. 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…