Family Life

When Kids have Friends of Different Beliefs

If your children go to school or even anywhere outside of your home and church, there is a good chance that they will interact with people who don’t live the same lives as them. There is such diversity today when it comes to families, and one thing in particular is difference in religion. Whether it’s a whole other religion or somebody who doesn’t believe in anything, your kids are bound to have conversations with people from a plethora of backgrounds. It is possible that some of these backgrounds may align opposite of your Christian beliefs. When it comes to this, a lot of parents feel worried that their children will be influenced negatively. Though a valid concern, parents should instead look at this as a teaching opportunity. 

Most importantly, you shouldn’t teach your children to not interact with others because of some differences. As a matter of fact, throughout the Gospels, you see Jesus constantly interacting with people you wouldn’t expect the son of God to interact with. He dined with tax collectors for example, who at the time had a very negative reputation. He even called out Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector in Jericho, out from a crowd and stayed at his house. The chief tax collector who had wrongly swindled many people out of a lot of money and was certainly no saint, Jesus chose to stay at his dwelling. If you continue reading, you see how this interaction redeemed Zaccaeus. He gave half of his possessions to the poor and paid back anyone he cheated four times the amount he took. In the end of this, Jesus states, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:9-10). 

If we teach our children to look at unbelievers as “less than” and “bad people” and to avoid interactions with them, are we any better than the Pharisees that mocked and ridiculed Jesus for his interactions with Zacchaeus? They scoffed at him in disbelief that he would go and be the guest of a sinner. We should be teaching our children how to actually handle these interactions in a firm yet loving manner in order to stay true to their beliefs. They must also act in a way that shares the truths and beauty of following Jesus without being forceful or coming off as rude and arrogant. Taking the time to learn about other religions and viewpoints oftentimes serve as great ways to build your faith even further. Encourage conversations, not arguments, and teach your children to pray for these individuals just like they would pray for their own church family. 

As parents, you can’t simply tell your children this. You must lead by example. Take the initiative to interact with the parents of your children’s friends and put all of these words into action. 

This article was originally published in March 2023.

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