My kids are young.
They are young and impressionable, which is why my husband and I have chosen to start teaching them about the nations as early as 2 years old. Their curiosity actually began well before we pulled out the flags and books about different parts of our world.
I am a black female married to a white man. Even at the age of two, my son would remark about my “chocolate” skin when he noticed that it’s significantly darker than his. Now that curiosity has become an opportunity for lifelong learning, and not just learning for the sake of learning. The reason we learn is to know the God who made us — the God who created all nations (Acts 17:26).
God determined the clans, languages, lands, and nations (Genesis 10–11). And he had a plan of redemption that included them all. So, we don’t study merely to be knowledgeable but to celebrate what God has designed. We glory in God. We stand in awe of his creativity and imagination. The nations don’t point us back to ourselves — they point us to God. And it’s this that motivates us to teach our kids.
In that light, here are a few ways to incorporate learning about the nations in the everyday life of your family:
1. Pull out a map.
God created the world! The creation account is not just for Sunday school classes. It is a glorious truth about the power and supremacy of God. It reminds us of our humanity. Pulling out a map for our kids gives them tangible evidence of God’s creation. They may never smell the arctic air of Greenland or step foot in the dense Amazon rainforest in Brazil, but we can point them to it.
2. Get creative.
Someone once said that his friends were books. Books are truly a gift. They can be great resources when learning about the nations. We can grab a book to learn about the history of a country or a people group. Books enable us to get a sense of what people in various regions experience. They help facilitate conversation about history. Teach your children what you are learning and invite them to learn along with you. One of the ways we do this in our family is through focusing on one country or culture at a time. We will learn about the history, music, culture, and people. I will cook a national dish from that country. We try to enjoy all aspects and learn as much as possible even if we may never step foot in that particular place or meet a person from that nation.
3. Talk to your neighbor.
Most of us live near someone different than us. And I’m not talking about a different region of the United States. We are in a time when we could drive down the street and be surrounded by people from various countries. Communities in larger cities like Chicago and New York have entire neighborhoods developed around a certain ethnicity and heritage. The advancement of technology has almost eliminated the chance that a person won’t meet someone from another country at some point in their lifetime. Go out. Reach out. Teach your children the benefit of knowing their neighbor. Ultimately, show the love of Christ through a genuine interest in someone else.
4. Bring the nations to your table.
It has been said that proximity to others changes the way we relate to them. We can love our neighbor as ourselves in a greater and more unique way when we actually know our neighbor. And it speaks volumes to a child when we welcome others into our home.
One practical way to show love to others in your home is simply to invite them to your dinner table. This can be for lunch, dinner, or parties. This can be with members of your church, or with your neighbors. Find those who are different from you, take an interest in their lives, and invite them over for a meal. Learn about them as people and if their culture is an important aspect of their lives, listen and learn. Your kids will recognize, remember and internalize this level of engagement with those who are not like you or them.
5. Teach the Gospel
Throughout the New Testament, Christ continually related to people who were different from him, be it tax collectors or Samaritans (who were hated by the Jewish people and vice versa. See John 4:9, John 8:48 and Luke 9:51–56). He was bold to share with them, bold to the point of death on a cross, bold in the face of his own death because of his love for the souls of his image bearers. The gospel has the power to bring even the most unlikely of people together for his glory. We want to teach our kids that it is Jesus who ultimately unites people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, and so we proclaim: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
Bottom-line, if you want your children to embrace those who are different than them, you must first, by example and conviction, embrace those who are different than you. Your children are watching and learning from you. They will embrace who you embrace. It is God who motivates us to step outside ourselves and celebrate the differences around us. God created, he redeems, and it is He who is calling all these different people together in Christ for His glory.
Even in a genuine pursuit to get to know others, we never want to confine our attention to the created. We take an interest in man because God takes an interest in man (Psalm 8:4). Our delight in the diversity of this world comes from our delight in God.