Heidi: Welcome. This podcast episode was recorded before the pandemic started. We hope you all are well.
Hello, everyone. This is Jani Ortlund, with my co host, Heidi Howerton.
Heidi: Hello, everyone. It’s good to be with you today.
Jani: We’re glad to have you listening in.
As you know, unless you’re a first time listener, we’ve been going through the 10 Commandments and seeing how these laws are God’s love letter to us because he’s showing us how life works best. We not only want to live out the 10 Commandments, we want to give them to the children in our lives. We want them to know what it means to follow a loving God and how life will work best for them.
In our last episode, we talked about the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder,” from Exodus 20:13, and we talked about how murder can happen in our thoughts, as well as our actions. Raising a child within our culture of murder and death is a great challenge. How can we help our children to become life-givers rather than life-drainers?
Resolving Conflict Without Violence
You young moms will understand this, that one of the ways is that we teach our own children how to resolve conflict without turning to violence. We teach them to control their angry outbursts. In fact, we insist upon it. You see, emotions are just as much a part of our sin nature as our minds and souls. Proverbs 29:11 says,
“The fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”Proverbs 29:11
Have you ever talked to your children about that?
“But boys can be so aggressive!”
Heidi, I love seeing you interact with your three children and once in a while I’ll see the boys kind of tussle with each other.
Heidi: My boys just love tussling and wrestling and fighting. They can be so aggressive.
Jani: How have you trained them not to take out their anger with hitting and kicking, that kind of violence toward each other?
Heidi: That’s a good question, Jani. It’s something that we’ve worked on since they were little. And it’s something that we still work on. Just today one of them gave the kid a punch in his back and we had to talk about it. But now, where they are, kind-of-toddlers entering elementary school, we always stop and I get down on their level with both of them there and look them in the eyes and just say, “You just hit your brother. I know your brother might have done something wrong, but is it ever okay to hit someone? Is this something that the Howertons do?” We’ve done this since they were little and I always try to emphasize that the Howertons never hit someone.
But then I also talk to that child and ask them what happened and what made them so angry. Let them have room for their emotions, because we all have them. And so the child will often say what made them angry. And I will ask what he could have done instead. We’ve taught our children when they feel angry like that, or when somebody is making them really mad, the best thing, at this age especially, is to go get help. So they always know they should have asked mommy for help, or they should have asked their teacher for help. We try to emphasize that there’s always somebody there to ask and that if they just come and say “Mom, Gideon did this…” that I will be right there to help them and that’s the best way.
And then we have them look at each other and apologize for the one that probably sinned and made the kid angry and for the kid that hit. Sometimes if they hit, I will add, that we do discipline and we do spank. Typically, you get spankings in our house for disobedience and disrespect. And we will say that if you hit someone that’s a form of disrespect.
Jani: I see. Okay, that’s good. That’s really good. No wonder your boys are so perfect when they come to my house! They’re just wonderful.
Acknowledging the Culture We Live In
For those of us who are raising little ones, we struggle with the culture that we’re raising them in. Retired military psychologist Lieutenant Colonel David Grossman is an expert in teaching people to overcome their natural reluctance to kill someone. He has to do this for his military guys that he trains. He was shocked to realize that children who watch TV and play violent video games are subjected to the same methods—the conditioning and desensitization—that the army uses to train soldiers.
So what does that tell us as mothers, grandmothers, babysitters? Let’s monitor the amount of violence our families watch on TV. Let’s limit their exposure to violent video games. Desensitizing our youth to murder is robbing them of life. Let’s teach our children what it means to be made in the image of God. Let your child see in your home and beyond how much you value life. Talk about being a life-giver. Who in your sphere of influence needs more life-giving love? Offer that love with your child. Help your children to see that we all need Jesus, the perfect life-giver to fill us with himself so we can look beyond our own desires and needs.
What a miracle of grace, that angry, hateful gossipers like us, can become life-givers. God can make us into people whose very character fulfills the sixth commandment. He does it by circumcising our hearts, by putting his words into our mouths and our hearts. And by making us into people who not only would not hurt each other, but who positively enrich and energize each other. This is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And we want our kids to not only hear it, but to see it in our lives as we live out the sixth commandment,
Heidi: Even as you talk about that, Jani, I’m thinking to what we just discussed a few minutes ago about what we did with our kids. This is where I struggle, and we do this, but I’d love to grow more in is also ending those conversations with, “Let’s pray and let’s ask Jesus to change our hearts.” Yes, I can tell them the right things, and yes, they can know to ask for help, but ultimately, unless I show my kids Christ, their hearts aren’t going to really be changed. They’re going to know how to obey the law, but their hearts are going to still struggle. So as you talked about that I wanted to mention that, too, because it’s something I want to continue to work on. And it’s something I know our listeners probably have a heart for too, in sharing the gospel with our kids when they struggle with sin.
Jani: Yeah, that’s so good, Heidi. We all need to be reminded that we need Jesus because Christianity is not behavior management. It is miracle. And we could, in most cases, force a child to behave in a certain way. But only God can circumcise their heart. So that’s good, to end it with prayer and point them to Jesus.
Ideas for Teaching the 6th Commandment
Well, let’s talk for just a few minutes about how you can teach this to your children around your dinner table. We’ve mentioned before buying a piece of big red tag board and making a red heart…
Heidi: …and I wanted to mention if any of you are doing this with your kids, would you take a picture and tag us on Instagram? Our Instagram handle is @herestoresmysoulpodcast. We would just love to see your big red cardboard hearts.
Jani: Won’t that be fun?
Gather your Supplies
Well, hopefully, you have a big red heart that your kids are working on. If not, you can start here in the sixth commandment. Around your table you’ll need that and your Bible, a marker, and a photograph of your family or your child. And you’ll also need your family calendar. If you keep it on your phone, just have your phone handy.
Discuss the value of their life
First of all, read together Exodus 20:13. It’s only for short words. Have your kids memorize it, say it together. Then copy it on your big red heart right by the Roman numeral six. Take some time and read over the other five commandments as well and try to review them. See if your kids are learning them. Then turn to Psalm 139:13-16. Heidi I’m going to have you read those right now for us.
“For you formed my inward parts; you needed me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made and secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as of yet there was none of them.”Psalm 139:13-16
Jani: Talk with your children about how they were formed in their mother’s womb. If your child is adopted, that’s fine talk about it as well. If they grew within your own womb, talk about that. Talk about knitting, that’s such an interesting verb, how God knit them together.
And then talk about how God, in verse 16, has a book that he has written every day of your child’s life in. This is such an encouraging passage of scripture. Talk about how God has fearfully and wonderfully made each one sitting around that table in the image of God. Discuss what it means to be made in the image of God, about how when you look at each other, you’re looking at just a tiny bit of what God is like.
Use a Photograph of your family
Then take a photo of your family or your child and let them see it. Hold up that photograph of your family or your child that you have. Talk about it, and then ask how it would feel to see someone take a black marker and come draw ugly marks on that photo or even tear it up. How much more precious is a life? Tape that picture next to commandment six and next to it write these words, “We bear God’s image in us.”
Talk about Hatred
Another thing you’ll want to talk with your children about is hatred. Talk about hatred with your child. Do you allow the word hate to be used in your home? Think about why or why not. It was a word that we did not want to use in our home. We would tell our kids you can tell us you don’t like something, but we don’t use the word hate in our home.
Then you can discuss with your children how this commandment, “You shall not murder” can be broken without even ever touching another person’s body. They might find that hard to believe. So you could look at 1 John 3:15.
“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”1 John 3:15
Jani: Oh my goodness. “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer,” Jesus says. Talk about that with your kids.
Or how about this verse from Proverbs 12:18:
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts.”Proverbs 12:18
You can talk about how words can be as painful as a sword cutting through someone. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:21-22, that if we hate our brother, it’s like murdering him.
Make sure your child understands that this commandment doesn’t just mean taking out a gun and shooting somebody. It’s how we think about another person, how we speak about another person, how we treat another person. You could look at the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10:29, read it together, and then talk about how we can obey the sixth commandment by indifference or neglect. You see there, there were more sinners in this story than the robbers who beat this man and left him for dead. The two men who walked by him and left him, they broke this command as well, because they neglected to do something good.
We’re to be life-givers. Discuss with your child how we should define “neighbor” from this parable of the Good Samaritan and how you could be life-givers to your neighbor.
Be a Life-Giver in real life!
Finally, talk about someone your family knows who needs more life-giving love. Is it the the elderly lady that lives next door? Is it the child across the street who no one will play with? Decide how you can bring life to this person. Write your plan on your calendar together, make a plan to do it and remind your child when you’re going to do it that you’re obeying the sixth commandment.
Oh, we hope these ideas will not only give life to your soul and restore your soul, but they’ll help your little ones see that God loves us in the sixth commandment. It’s not only a “don’t do” but it’s a “we get to.”
May the Lord Jesus restore your soul as you try to give the sixth commandment to those in your world.