Talking With Your Kids About Racism, Love, and The Gospel

Race dominated the news cycle for several weeks after the tragedy of George Floyd—stealing the headlines and changing the national conversation from Covid-19 to racism. A much-needed conversation, but a difficult one. We can’t avoid it. And we shouldn’t. No matter the news cycle, we need to be talking with our kids about racism, love, and the gospel.

I remember growing up learning that racism was past tense. It was something that happened, something we overcame, and anyone who still focused on skin color as a measure of value existed only on the fringe—they didn’t have a voice, and we didn’t give them one. 

But the issue of race has been thrust back into the present and not just as a part of a minor news cycle, but part of the national conversation. It’s in our places of work, our homes, and in our churches. And we should be grateful. 

However, I admit that I have largely stayed away from the conversation—mostly because I didn’t feel I had anything new to add. That was until my daughters started asking some great questions. They asked about the protests right in our own city, why people were upset, and what would happen next. But what I found most fascinating was their confusion. They could not understand why people would hate each other and treat them differently, just because they had a different skin color. 

Just imagine if we could all think this way. In fact, here is how my nine-year-old said it: 

“If people are created in God’s image, then it makes no sense for everyone to look the same. God is creative, so he needs to use lots of colors.” 

Well said baby girl, well said. 

Her comment really shouldn’t surprise us. It’s completely reflective of her generation’s demand for diversity. It’s normal and expected. But also helped me realize that these are precisely the kind of conversations we ought to be having with our kids. It’s not because it’s part of the most recent news cycle, but because how they see and treat others is central to our efforts to make them into disciples. The heart of any conversation surrounding racism goes deeper than color. It exposes a greater wound and a greater need of humanity—a deep longing for Jesus and the gospel’s power to heal all that is broken and damaged. 

Conversations about racism should be conversations about the gospel—God’s love for humanity and our mandate to reflect that love to the world. 

This is simply a lesson and a disciple-making opportunity we cannot ignore. 

But what do we talk about? 

Talk about not just what you see but how you see.

This is a more simplified truth my daughter was getting to. Treating everyone based on nothing more than what we saw in people—externally—is a terrible judge of character. This is precisely why Jesus teaches us to see beyond the external. It’s about how we see. Are we teaching our kids to see others with a biblical lens—with the eyes of Jesus? 

“If people are created in God’s image, then it makes no sense for everyone to look the same. God is creative, so he needs to use lots of colors.” 

Just watch kids on a playground. I am always amazed at how easily “best friends” are formed. Kids see the potential we often miss. What we see is a bunch of kids playing. They see the potential to make friends, have fun, and love others. So let’s help our kids establish the necessary foundation of Christ’s love that extends beyond the playground and beyond childhood. 

When your kids see or interact with people different than they are, be sure to talk about what they see—different skin color, disability, cultural traditions, etc. But also be sure to talk about how they ought to see. These are people created in God’s image—uniquely and creatively. Loving people the way God does starts with seeing people how God does. 

Talk about listening

Appreciating God’s creativity in other people and loving them the way God requires also means we have to learn to listen. Not just hear them, but really listen. As a white male with white children and an entire family full of white people, I can never fully understand what it’s like to be black. But I can listen, learn, and teach my kids to do the same. 

Listening breeds compassion, humility, and wisdom. Be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19) and incline our hearts to understanding (Proverbs 2:2). I am convinced that so much of the strife we see in our world is from a lack of listening and, therefore, a lack of understanding. 

However, I also think it is important to note that listening does not mean complicit agreement. We can—and should in some cases—disagree. Even when we disagree, listening helps to create the necessary compassion required to walk a mile in another’s shoes. 

Talk about, learning about and appreciate other cultures and races

A big part of our homeschool curriculum is learning about different cultures. We use a book called Window on the World. It takes our kids around the world to dozens of different countries and cultures. It not only teaches them about the different people and cultures, what children like to do, what different people eat, religious traditions, and what school is like; but provides guidance in prayer and helps our kids learn how to reach people around the globe who don’t know Jesus. 

The result has been more than just knowledge and prayer opportunities. Our kids have a deeper appreciation for other cultures and even get excited when they spot those cultures in our own community. It has created an insatiable appetite for learning about people, unlike them. 

My three girls love American Girl dolls. I love watching my kids ask for American Girls’ Gabriella, Melody, Addy, Kaya, and Josefina because they are fascinated with these girls’ stories. They are determined to understand girls from different cultures, different eras, and immensely different circumstances. 

Talk about the origins of hate and God’s solution

Whether it’s my nine year old’s confusion of why racism even exists or a high school senior speaking out on social media or attending a protest, we have to continually remind our kids that racism goes far deeper than just one group fearing or hating another. The roots of racism are found in the same place as any act of evil or hatred. 

The body of Christ, ought to be the best representation of unity and equality.

It’s rooted in sin. Therefore there is no amount of protesting, no amount of legislation, no removal of statues, and no amount of reparations that can mend the wound short of the gospel. The only solution for racism is God’s solution—it’s in the gospel of Jesus. 

Hate forced its way onto humanity in the garden. With it came envy, strife, jealousy, wars, manipulation, dishonesty, and racism. The solution is found at the foot of the cross when the people of God live on mission bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth, living out our purpose and calling. The church, the body of Christ, ought to be the best representation of unity and equality. We simply don’t judge according to appearance and the world’s standards. But by one’s character and the grace of God. 

” There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Racism, in one form or another, will always exist—until Jesus returns. In the meantime, as disciple-makers, we have the responsibility to train our kids to work even harder to see people and treat people the way Jesus did. To love people the way Jesus does. Your conversations with your kids today will no doubt create a ripple effect in their lives and the lives they impact for generations.

Published by stevenmkozak

Steve has been an experienced and dedicated youth ministry and non-profit leader for more than 15 years. Steve has taught in the classroom, local church, and parachurch organizations. Steve holds a masters degree in theology from Moody Theological Seminary and a masters in Christian apologetics from Biola University. He speaks and writes on youth ministry, youth culture and apologetics. He resides in northern Indiana with his wife and four children.

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