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How Knowing God Will Improve Us

When former Nixon hatchet-man Charles W. Colson was in London to receive the prestigious Templeton Prize from Prince Philip in 1993, the Duke asked him, “What could we do about crime among juveniles here in England?”

Colson’s reply was “Oh, that’s easy. Send more young Brits to Sunday School.” Prince Philip laughed as did several others who overheard the exchange. “No, I’m absolutely serious,” insisted Colson who, according to his biographer Jonathon Aitken “launched out on his favourite theme of how lack of moral teaching in youth was causing most criminal behaviour. As he got into explaining what he meant, the Duke of Edinburgh was becoming ever more engaged, asking him questions and saying repeatedly, ‘that’s a really good idea.’”

Only this last week a man who sadly was recounting his family situation wished that ‘children today went to church so they could learn right from wrong’. Whilst it was not the right time then I will speak to him about how knowing Jesus as his Lord and savior is so much better than just getting some morals but I understand where he is coming from.

Colson can speak with the authority of experience. The subtitle of the biography of Charles W. Colson was “A Life Redeemed.” The founder and leader of Prison Fellowship which is having an enormous influence for good in many countries around the world, has sought to reform prisons, reduce drastically re-offending, care for prisoners’ families and help people from offending in the first place. But could he be serious about Sunday school? I for one believe he is on the right track but only if it results in a heart that desires to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

Consider for a moment what Sunday school teaches boys and girls:

  • There is a God who loves us so much that He sent His Son to deal with our sins on the cross. There is nothing in the world that is so affirming of our value than this simple yet profound truth.
  • We are accountable to the God who made us. This provides a powerful personal motivation to do what is right even when nobody else is looking.
  • That the “best book to read is the Bible” is a priceless heritage that all my long-suffering Sunday school teachers taught me by their words and their example.
  • And all in loving relationships. I knew I was loved, even when I mucked up, as I was corrected in love, encouraged patiently and taken seriously.
  • But above all that God wanted me to come to know Him as my loving Heavenly Father. That life is primarily about relationship with God. Not only did this mean He would help me live out my relationships in family, school and later work, but that I need not load expectations on others that only God could fulfil. In other words, in preparing me for Heaven, my Sunday school teachers were preparing me for life.

In neglecting God by filling up our children’s life with sport, music and the rest, we are selling them short. The experience of many is that sport, music and the rest give much greater joy when they are seen as gifts to be enjoyed not the substance of life itself. The evidence of our immense unhappiness certainly supports this view. I suspect Colson’s solution is true.