Raising Kids to Love the Nations

Raising Kids to Love the Nations

Written by T. Kim |
Sunday, December 31, 2023

Many of God’s people began to love the nations by reading books or missionary stories. Hudson Taylor’s father was “deeply stirred about the spiritual state of China” after reading several books, especially one about the travels of a certain Captain Basil Hall. Start with just one nation (or a few), and teach your kids who they are. Wonder with them over a map. You could try different foods with them until they find ones they like, or give to the work of the gospel and relief efforts in specific nations.

Like most kids her age, our four-year-old has no filter. Several months ago, she closed our front door, sat down, and announced, “I only like English.” We had been living in a new culture for a little over a year at this point. When I asked her what she meant, she made her stance clear: “I only like people who speak English.” Then suddenly checking herself, she asked, “Does God speak English? Or does he speak [the language where we serve]?”

She couldn’t explain why she felt such a strong preference for those who spoke her language. However, as a fellow human wrecked by sin, I understood well the desire to surround myself with those who do not make me feel alien or uncomfortable. As with her, what any of us really thinks or feels about the nations is directly related to what we believe about God.

As Christians, we’re not aiming for the mere flower of common courtesy or appreciation for otherness. We want the fruit of genuine love that comes from God (1 John 4:7). This love does not end in talk, but in deed, caring for both the temporal and eternal good of others (1 John 3:16–18). Raising our kids to love the nations means raising them to obey from the heart God’s command to love their neighbor, including those from other people groups. It’s part of bringing up any child in the Lord’s discipline and instruction (Ephesians 6:4).

So how do we cultivate that kind of love in young children? Parents can begin to draw them into God’s global work in at least five practical ways.

1. Tell them the whole story of Scripture.

Loving the nations begins with seeing the wider story of what God is doing in the world. We can tell our children that God created people, unlike any other creature, in his likeness (Genesis 5:1–2), but sin broke our relationship with God and one another (Romans 5:12). In the beginning, all mankind spoke one language (Genesis 11:1), but in response to humanity’s evil plan at the Tower of Babel, God confused the people’s language and scattered them to live all over the earth (Genesis 11:7–8).

Since the beginning, however, God has been sculpting the history of the nations and determining the boundaries of their dwelling place so “that they should seek God” (Acts 17:26–27). “He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him” — without discrimination — “should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus reconciles us now to God and one another by his blood on the cross (Ephesians 2:16). The nations will be his inheritance (Psalm 2:8), and one day they will stand before him, crying out, “Salvation belongs to our God!” (Revelation 7:9–10).

First, keep this story warm in your own heart (because our kids do learn to love what we love). Then proclaim it to your children. Before they can love the nations, our children must first behold the King of the nations and marvel at his love and salvation for every people. Let his words build their view of the world, brick by brick. Start from a young age and tell them, in terms they can understand, the faithful story.

2. Pray for them and with them.

Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China in the nineteenth century, credited his parents and their prayers when asked about his love for the nations.

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