Faith vs Decisions

I was recently in a conversation with someone I respect immensely. They reported something they heard a pastor say that troubled them. Via the grapevine, it was reported that this pastor taught that his kids didn’t need to be saved because they already were, by virtue of him being a pastor.

I suspect, knowing something of this pastor, it was a slight misunderstanding. I suspect, though I don’t know for sure, that the pastor probably said something like “my kids don’t need to become Christians, they already are,” or “my kids don’t need to ‘make a decision’ for Christ’, they already trust him.”  If that’s what was stated, I agree.

FYI, not a picture of Caleb or any of my sons

Eight to ten years ago my son Caleb went through a “Dig Session” at church. Dig sessions at ECC are designed to help kids prepare to participate in the sacraments of baptism and communion. One of the questions the worksheet guided me to ask Caleb was something like “when did you become a Christian?”  He looked at me with wounded eyes – “Dad, I’ve always been a Christian.”  He was right. He had never been a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Rastafarian or an atheist. He’d always been a Christian.

Oh, but someone will object, “He needs to make a decision to trust Christ!”

But does he? I asked, “are you trusting Christ to forgive your sins and are you committed to following the rest of your life” and he replied, simply and forcefully, “Yes!” Does he need to have a point where he decided to trust Jesus? I’d say no.

Let me use a favorite illustration for us evangelicals to make the point. We often say, correctly, that head knowledge is not the same as faith. You might know, so the illustration goes, that this chair will hold you. But, when you sit in it, you’re exercising faith.

Ok, but in your childhood home did you decide you’d trust the Lazy-Boy. Or, did you just trust it because every day, everyone around you sat in it?  I don’t ever remember deciding to trust a chair, but I do trust them (with the occasional exception of ones in my office I’ve tried repairing, but remain sketchy).  Many who grew up in the church with godly parents were taught of God’s faithfulness, of Christ’s love and kindness. They trust Jesus because they’ve always, as far back as they remember, trusted Jesus. If I had asked Caleb, “When did you decide to trust Jesus?” he would have said, “Dad, don’t be an idiot, I’ve always trusted Jesus!”

Similarly, when did you decide to love your grandma?  Or, have you loved her from before you can remember. She was always in your life. She was always there and kind (I know, not all are, but I’m speaking from my experience).  Loving grandma wasn’t a decision, it was and is just a fact of life from as far back as I remember.  I could have asked Caleb, “When did you start loving Jesus?” and he would have said “Ok Dad, I’m tired of this line of questioning. I have always loved Jesus.”

There are situations when the above isn’t true. Someone who’s never seen a chair before may need to decide to trust a chair. Someone who meets their grandmother for the first time as a teenager may need to decide how they will respond to this new person in their life.  Someone who hasn’t grown up in the faith, or only nominally in the faith, may need to decide to love and trust Jesus and become a Christian (with the irresistible aide of the Holy Spirit – my inner Calvinist can’t write “decide” without due clarification).

But, for those raised in the church and/or a home saturated in faith, trust in Jesus and love for him is part of the air they have breathed from the beginning. “Deciding” isn’t necessarily necessary. Deciding does not equal faith.