At first I was really mad when the man behind the table talked to my son.
It was supposed to be a conversation between adults. But then the man behind the table turned his attention to my son. From that moment on, everything about our conversation changed.
If you drive through my town on a Friday afternoon, the chances are high that you will see a table set up on the courthouse lawn. There will be two people behind it and pamphlets and books all over it. The sign next to the table asks a question in large print.
What does the Bible really say?
A while back this caught my attention so I stopped to find out what the Bible really said. My youngest son was with me. He stood patiently while I talked to the two Jehovah’s Witnesses behind the table about the deity of Christ and the Trinity. As is typically the case, I walked away feeling like I just finished explaining Jesus to a tree. It seemed like nothing was accomplished. But I trusted God with the results.
Weeks later I found myself on that same courthouse lawn. Standing next to the same table. Having pretty much the same conversation. But this time my oldest son was with me. He too stood patiently and quietly. That is, until one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses spoke to him.
In a weird way, I felt like this was a spiritual attack on my son. Maybe it was. All I know is that I didn’t like it. The questions pounded in my head with each beat of my heart.
Why is this guy bringing my little boy into this?
Why doesn’t he talk to me?
But before those angry questions could find their way from my head and heart to my mouth, it was already too late. The man behind the table had already asked his question to my son. And my son had already given his answer.
“Son, do you believe in Santa Claus?”
I knew where he was going with this question. I had been trying to prove that Jesus is eternally God. He disagreed and decided to use my son to prove a point.
Your daddy is lying to you about Santa and he’s lying to you about Jesus too.
That’s why I sort of felt like this was a spiritual attack.
But the boy was ready to answer the question about whether or not he believed in Santa Clause.
The man behind the table was shocked. He was building his whole argument on this one question and it fell apart before it ever really got started. He was floored. There was a nervous grin on his face as he asked his next question. One he never thought he would have to ask.
“Well why not?”
“Because Santa Claus is fake.”
Up until that answer the proudest moment in my life as a dad was the time when we drove by the campus of Georgia Tech and both of my sons started booing and sticking out their tongues. The Georgia Tech incident is now in a distant second place on my list of proud fatherly moments.
From my son’s answer, I took control of the conversation to tell the man behind the table about the real Saint Nicholas. I told them how he was a generous pastor who reportedly attended the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) to defend the deity of Jesus Christ against Arius, the grandfather of the Jehovah’s Witness heresy.
When our conversation was over, it didn’t really feel like anything had changed. More talking to trees. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were still Jehovah’s Witnesses. But I trusted God with the results. And then he reminded me of one of his results. It was standing next to me the whole time.
My son is listening. What I teach him matters. It shapes him. In our house, we don’t treat Santa like Jason from the Friday the 13th movies. We’re not afraid of a man in a costume warping our kids minds. Someone gave us a stuffed Santa ornament. It’s hanging on our tree right now. So we’re not anti-Santa Nazis. But we are committed to the truth. Before our kids were born we decided that it might be confusing for them to find out that we were lying about the nice invisible man from the North Pole but not the nice invisible man from Heaven.
That day on the courthouse lawn my son’s worldview was put to the test. And it will be thousands of times again.
Do you really believe all of the Bible?
If your Jesus is so good, why does so much bad stuff happen?
Why don’t you just play along and bow to the 90 foot statue with all of the rest of us?
It’s my job to prepare my boys for those questions. Sometimes the questions will come from a man behind a table. Sometimes they will rise up from their own mind. Either way, the questions will come. But if they are to have any hope of carefully and faithfully handling those questions, they have to have a solid foundation. A foundation built on truth.
One of the things that makes ministry difficult is the results. At the end of the day there’s no structure or pile of boxes that wasn’t there before you started your work. It’s easy to wonder if you’re really accomplishing anything.
But every so often God lets you see some of the fruit of your labor. He’s never allowed me to play a part in a Jehovah’s Witness abandoning that age old heresy to embrace Jesus Christ as the eternal God. But one Friday afternoon, just before Thanksgiving, he did let me see the results of nearly a decade of pouring truth into a young life.
At first, I was really mad when the man behind the table talked to my son.
But that all changed.
Although it wasn’t his intention, the man behind the table reminded me that truth matters.
Even to a seven-year-old.