Last week I led my five-year-old through a prayer to become a Christian.
The prayer was simple. I explained to him that it was an “ABC” prayer.
- Admit that he is a sinner who needs God’s forgiveness and grace.
- Believe (trust) that Jesus died for his sins, and was raised from the dead to overcome sin’s power.
- Commit to live for Jesus, serve his kingdom, and grow as a Christian every day.
This moment of prayer/decision hadn’t arisen from out of the blue. For several months Brayden had been asking questions about Jesus/God/faith/Bible, and what it means to be a Christian. Our talks usually occurred in his bed at night while we reflected on our day.
A few Fridays ago, among talk about Star Wars and Christmas, Brayden asked me if he was a Christian.
I told him that he was not.
“But you and mommy are Christians,” he replied, puzzled.
I explained that no one is automatically a Christian, because a Christian is someone who has personally decided to devote their life to Jesus.
He seemed confused.
“But I go to church” he said.
“Yes, you do, but you can go to church and not be devoted to Jesus. Becoming a Christian only happens when we make Jesus our King and decide to live for him instead of ourselves.”
“I want to become a Christian. When can I become a Christian?”
That was/is a good question! Personally and pastorally, I hold the conviction that becoming a Christian is a serious, life-altering decision. Like marriage, it should not be entered into “lightly or hastily.” That’s why, regardless of what age one is considering embracing Christ as King and Saviour, I think it’s appropriate to provide some resistance so that we prevent people from making a rash or impulsive decision. Jesus said “follow me” (Matthew 4:19), but we should do what we can to help people think through what that commitment will mean for them, both now and into the future. As Brayden’s father, I felt it was important for him to wrestle for a while with the potential consequences of becoming a Christian before saying the prayer that could change his life forever. That’s why, for several months I’d consistently pushed the decision (but not the conversation!) off to an undetermined point in the future.
It wasn’t just for Brayden’s sake that I was providing some push-back to his request: I had a lot of questions that I felt needed to be answered before I could be confident that his decision to embrace Christ was legitimate:
- Why did Brayden want to become a Christian?
- Did Brayden know “enough” about what his commitment to Christ would cost him?
- Did his age invariably mean that the decision was born out of complete naiveté? He’s watched his older sisters talk about their Christian faith and grow in it; is it just “monkey see; monkey do” mimicry?
- Is there any depth to his motivation? Does he show a desire for discipleship? When his definition of discipleship is “making good decisions,” does that show a sufficient or insufficient understanding of the foundation of a Christian worldview?
- How much theology does he need to know before he’s ready to make a commitment of this nature? If he can (barely) articulate the Gospel (Manger, Cross, Crown), can he legitimately embrace it?
These were some of the questions I was mulling over during the months I was pushing Brayden to think about becoming a Christian until a later time, when I could better determine if he was ready.
But a few weeks ago, Brayden wouldn’t let it go. I went into my usual, “that’s great, let’s keep talking about it…” mode, but he kept pressing me.
“Why can’t I become a Christian now?”
A Scripture that God had used to rebuke me in the past came to mind once again:
“Who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” Acts 11:17
Brayden had shown a persistent desire to become a Christian for almost half a year. We had talked about Jesus, God, the Bible, salvation, love, grace, and sin, all while snuggling in the warm blue glow of the nightlight beside his bed. For months I had put a (necessary) speed bump in front of him, wanting to make sure any conversion would be from the heart, and not mere mimicry.
And here he was, resolute in the conviction that he was ready to give his life to Jesus.
Was I going to stand in God’s way?
Nope. In that exchange what became very clear was that my little boy genuinely desired to give his life to Jesus.
Did he know “enough”? Well, he knew the gospel. That’s enough, isn’t it?
Did he understand what he was getting into? Did I when I said my own unpolished and imperfect prayer at age 14?
Were his motivations and intentions pure? Can I point to even one decision I’ve made that has been made with pure and right motives—even my decision to embrace Christ?
When God’s grace-filled invitation to new life intersects with a person’s humble and heartfelt response, we may find ourselves harboring lots of questions regarding what is “actually” happening. That’s ok. We’re entitled to our questions. Those questions and hesitations are important and often valid and should be identified and addressed.
But, we must be careful to never allow our questions and hesitations to stand in God’s way. None of us (however well intended) have the right to delay another’s response to the gospel until we’ve figured things out and are sure they “get it.”
Besides, you can never really “get” grace anyways. That’s kind of why it’s grace. It can’t be grasped. It can only be received.
That night, Brayden didn’t fully understand God’s grace, but he “got” it. Or more precisely, God’s grace “got” him. He may not have grasped it in its totality, but it grasped him.
Can a five year old become a Christian? Yes, a five year old can.
And that night, my five year old did. By God’s grace and for His glory.
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