Parents, you have probably wondered where you begin when it comes to talking to your kids about sex and drugs and choosing friends and why nothing good happens in Taco Bell’s parking lot after 11pm. I know I have. But have you ever wondered how to talk to them about baptism and the Lord’s Supper?
In this post, I want to think through how we can talk to our kids about the sacraments. It’s one thing to explain them as something Jesus told us to do. It’s another to talk about them in a holistic, gospel-centered way so that they are seen as much more than mere memorials. If we can do this well, by God’s grace, they will become what God intended them to be for us and our kids: means of grace that cultivate vibrant, spiritual life.
Let me suggest three emphases to tether ourselves to as we think about and discuss the sacraments with our kids (or anyone for that matter!). There are certainly other things the sacraments emphasize, but these three are most critical in my mind.
- Gospel on Display. When the sacraments are rightly taught, administered, and received, we are dramatizing the gospel. Baptism points to Jesus passing through the waters of death, only to rise again to new life. It is God’s confirmation that we have risen from spiritual death and one day will rise bodily from the grave. The Lord’s supper points to Jesus’ being given up for us and our participation in his life and death and with his people all over the world. Furthermore, in an age that is increasingly visual, our kids may often ask, “Why can’t God give us something to see to prove himself, to prove his love?” The truth is, he has: he has given us water, bread, and wine–three very physical, tangible, visual elements to demonstrate the gospel to us.
- Body and Soul. Because God has given us physical means (water, bread, and wine) to understand spiritual realities, the sacraments teach us that God cares about all of us, body and soul. It reminds us that we will forever be embodied souls. Baptism and the Supper both give physical form to our faith. Since we are embodied souls, we need a way to sacramentalize our faith (i.e. use physical means to point to spiritual reality). The sacraments teach us that God loves our bodies and values materiality–after all, he made everything material! We don’t worship our bodies as god; we don’t reject them as gross; but we rejoice that our bodies are to be stewarded as a gift because of Christ who gave up his own body that our soul and body might be redeemed.
- A New Family. The sacraments are for God’s new covenant people: his sons and daughters who were redeemed by the blood of his Son. When we are baptized, we are initiated into a new family, God’s family. We now have new allegiance. Our first allegiance is no longer to our parents, children, aunts, uncles, or even a spouse. It is to God and his people, the Church. Baptism is therefore for those who are united to Christ and have God as their Father. The Lord’s Table is a family meal and outsiders are not welcomed. This is a visible sign to the world that there are insiders and outsiders. It is a visible sign to our children that only belief in Jesus opens up the door for us to come to this meal. In light of these things, we must model for our children priorities that are in accord with the gospel and our sacramental faith. Where and how are we spending our time, money, energy, words, etc.? If we really are members of a new family, it will show in our lives.
What other things do the sacraments emphasize?