Raising a Well-Mannered Non-Believer

Recently I spent time with a man who is very strict in his parenting. He makes sure his children are well-behaved, polite and respectful in almost every way. I will not lie; his children are kind and pleasant to be around.

There is a hard part to that story, his children are far from God. While they occasionally attend Church, there is no other indication of a commitment to the Lord. No Christian service, no attendance at growth events and I would be shocked if there were any Bible study in the home.

My interaction with this person reminded me of something my college professor said one time. He said, “Imagine a group of young men. Their hair is clean-cut, and they are physically fit. They respond to instructions with ‘Yes sir’ and ‘No mam.’ They work hard when assigned a task. They work together well, no matter how hard the job. What would you think about a group of teenage boys like that?”

The class began to respond with approval. Then he said, “Now what if I tell you they were Neo-Nazi’s?” He told us that everything he said was a fitting description of a group of white supremacists. Then he told us, “Remember it is our belief in Jesus that makes us Christian, not just our behavior.”

The truth is hard to swallow. You can raise a child who looks good on the outside, but who is spiritually empty or a total mess.

Here are two ways I have seen people raising well-behaved non-Christians.

1. Focus on Behavior Over Beliefs. Now, I do not want my children to disobey me, but if they do, I want it to be a time for spiritual growth. I would rather them learn some profound spiritual truth as teenagers than have perfect behavior. I want them to understand sin and disobedience alongside the grace of God. I do not just want them to act well, I want them to know God.

2. Prioritize Social Activities Over Christian Service. I firmly believe that activities like sports and clubs at school are essential. They develop teamwork, social skills, and a solid work ethic. Unfortunately, they do not create a Christian heart. Usually, they lead to pride and arrogance more than Christlike behavior. I would rather my child be the last player on the bench with a Godly heart than a starter devoid of Jesus.

These are just a couple of examples of how we can fail our children as Godly parents and grandparents. I would challenge you to ask yourself, “Do I want my child to be a good person or a Godly person?” Those two things are similar, but they are not the same.

I wish my time with this man were unprecedented and no other parents acted the way he does with his children. The sad reality is that I know of a number of Christian parents who are raising a generation of nice people without God. I hope believers will strive for something more.

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