How can we talk to our children and teens about injustice?

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3 Jun 2020
God has placed us as parents in the lives of our children to help them learn how to see the world and how to navigate within it.

So it is important that we empower our children and teens to understand God’s heart for justice and equality. We also need to equip them to act for themselves and for others when facing such injustice. We at Parenting for Faith wanted to make our contribution to this discussion by helping families of all experiences, shapes and ethnicities explore what God says through scripture about injustice, whether it’s racial, ethnic, social, gender or any other.  

We hope this will help you to continue to wade boldly into this topic as you wrestle together, thinking about who God is in a broken world, and how we can partner with him to bring his justice to our communities. May we all continue to be transformed every day, and give our all to bring transformation to the world around us. 

Here we've gathered suggestions for different ways you might want to explore social and racial injustice with your children and teens, thinking about it under five headings. Click on them to jump down to that section.

God's heart: what does God think about justice and injustice

God's command to us to bring justice: how he wants us to partner with him

Power in the middle: we have power and can speak truth and challenge injustice

Putting ourselves at risk: God calls us to lay down our lives for each other

The humble beauty of together: being part of the beautiful one body of Christ

Some of these suggestions will work for you and your family and some won't, and that's fine. We have included Bible stories and references to explore, some curious questions (questions that don't necessarily have a 'right' answer) to start a good conversation, and ways to use the Parenting for Faith Key Tools. Feel free to use just what you need.

 

God’s heart  

All justice flows from God. He does not sit back and wait for humans to bring justice. It is at the heart of who he is.  

Read some scripture 

As a family read some of the verses that explore God bringing justice. You may want to read only one or several. Examples include Psalm 11:7, Psalm 89:14, Psalm 103:6, Isaiah 51:4-5, and Isaiah 42:1-4 (which we see quoted in Matthew 12:18-21 about Jesus). If you have older children you might want to explore Isaiah 59:9-17. 

Ask some curious questions about the scriptures and discuss together

Feel free to not get a particular answer. This is about sharing and wrestling with ideas rather than finding the 'right' answer. 

  • What does 'justice' mean? 
  • In these and other verses, God talks about bringing his justice to us himself.  What does that look like?  
  • Why is justice so important to God? 
  • What would it be like to live in a world where all justice was God’s justice?  
  • If God’s heart is for justice, then why doesn’t he just take over and make sure nothing unjust ever happens in this world? 

Create some windows into your experience and others about this subject  

Share stories of your life, or utilise other’s stories that you know.  Include in your stories where God was in your experiences, thinking about if you've ever experienced injustice and felt God intervene? Or times when you've experienced injustice and feel like you are still waiting? How do you wait for God’s justice to come? How do you pray?

Chat and Catch

If you want to connect with God and pray about this subject you might want to chat and catch by: 

  • Telling God a situation that you feel has been unjust in your life or in the news.
  • Telling him how you feel about that situation.
  • Telling him what you want him to do.
  • Asking him what he is already doing. 
  • Thanking him for what we know he is doing according to the bible (comforting people, healing, bringing peace, etc…) 
  • Asking him to share with you his heart for justice, and wait 30 seconds for him to share it with you.

 

God’s command to us to seek justice

When we understand God’s heart for injustice, we can see our place in partnering with it. Because God is a God of justice, he commands us to love justice, and work and live to bring his justice to earth. 

Read some scripture

As a family read some of the verses that explore God’s commands to us to love and bring justice. You may want to read only one or several. You might want to try Isaiah 1:17, Proverbs 31:8-9, or Micah 6:8, or if you have older children you might want to explore Zechariah 7:8-12. 

Ask some curious questions about the scriptures and discuss together

Feel free to not get a particular answer. This is about sharing and wrestling with ideas rather than finding the 'right' answer. 

  • There are some big issues going on in the world right now. What do you see that needs justice? Why? 
  • What stops justice from happening? Why is justice so hard to have? 
  • Look back at the verses. Can you make a big list of all the things God tells us to do to seek justice in these verses? What do those things mean? What does it mean to defend the oppressed or speak for those who can’t speak for themselves?
  • Justice isn’t just about big events. It is needed in little everyday interactions. Have you ever felt that I or someone else in this family was unjust to you? Or at school or work, or in our community? How did that feel? How could that have been different if someone else brought justice into it?
  • Loving justice and ensuring those around us get justice isn’t a suggestion from God, but a command. It’s important to him. But we have to train our eyes to notice people and situations that need his justice, otherwise we can be tricked into thinking everything is okay around us. Our role is to always be looking for the ones who are stepped on or stepped over and lift them up. For example, how can you tell that someone is feeling not heard or listened to, or not seen as valuable? When someone in your class or work keeps getting picked on and you feel that something unfair and wrong is happening, what could you do? How can you tell that someone is feeling excluded or left out? When you see someone use their power to hurt others, what could you do? 

Once we can see these things, then God tells us to join him in doing something about it. Talk about, when you see injustice, what does your heart want to do?  What stops you? 

Surf the waves

As your discussion happens, feel free to surf the wave of people's passion and interest. You may find yourself after a while in a deep discussion about how unjust it is that there is only one girl puppy in Paw Patrol versus four boys, or looking at apartheid laws in recent history in South Africa. Don’t feel you need to control where this conversation goes. Let this be the one of many wide ranging discussions about injustice that happen in your home. 

Chat and catch

If you want to connect with God and pray about this subject you might want to chat and catch by:

  • Telling God what makes you feel afraid about seeking justice in our personal lives, communities and the world. 
  • Telling God one thing that makes your heart heavy about the injustices you talked about seeing.
  • Asking God to pop in your mind one thing he wants you to do next to be on his team seeking justice today.

 

Power in the middle 

We always have power, even in the middle of suffering injustice. God’s heart is turned towards us, and he sees.  When we rise up to speak truth and challenge the injustice, he is there declaring truth with us. 

Read some scripture

As a family read this story from the bible.  It is the story of five Israeli women, Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah.  When their father died, they weren’t allowed to have any of their father’s wealth, land or belongings because they were women.  The law said so.  They felt that it was unjust.  Read their story in Numbers 27: 1-11.  

Ask some curious questions about the scriptures and discuss together

Feel free to not get to a particular answer. This is about sharing and wrestling with ideas rather than finding the 'right' answer. 

  • These women were not allowed to receive what their father had because they were women. No one was stepping up for them. No one else was intervening. So they stood up and challenged the law themselves. They had to stand in front of Moses and a huge gathering of very important people to do it. What do you think they were feeling and thinking?  What thoughts may have stopped them from being brave enough to go and do that? 
  • Moses took their request to God and listened to what God had to say about it. And God himself stood up for them. But not all leaders listen to God like Moses did. What could we do in that situation? 
  • Why didn’t anyone else speak up and say, “Hey we should do something about this law?” Why didn’t the people in power think, “Wait a minute, what about women?”  Why didn’t anyone else walk up with them? If we are called to seek justice, then one of our jobs is to watch out for people who need justice and join them and support them. How can we do that in our homes, churches and communities? Who do you see who we are called to stand beside and support as we all call for justice?

Frame for your children your stories and stories of your national history 

In the UK, we come from many different nations and experiences.  By framing for your children stories of heroes and justice battles from the UK and your nations you help them to understand what happened and why. Ways to do this could include:

  • Watch documentaries online or on Netflix.  From the history of getting rights for those with additional needs, to racial and gender equality, to the struggles of reconciliation and understanding, the world is full of inspiring stories of people standing up for justice in the midst of pain and suffering.  
  • You may have personal stories from your life, of teachers or bosses abusing power, the subtle discrimination of society around you, or of a bully on the road. Enable your children to share stories of their experience as well. Frame for each other where God was in those battles, and what he was doing in the middle of them. Talk about the allies that played a part and impact they made. 

Chat and catch

If you want to connect with God and pray about this subject you might want to chat and catch by:

  • Talking to him about a particular conflict that inspires you as people stand up for the truth in the face of injustice. Chat to God about what you feel and ask him to give them what you think they need from him. 
  • Asking God who is currently, like Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah, standing up against injustice that they are experiencing. Who is he is asking you to stand with? Who does he want you to support and join and how? 

 

Putting ourselves at risk 

Working against injustice can sometimes cost us. It can be a risk. God calls us to be bold and lay down our lives for each other, just as Jesus did.  He held nothing back to see us free.

Read some scripture

As a family, read the story of Esther. You may want to read the whole book of the bible, use a storybook bible, watch a movie or video that tells the biblical story. 

Ask some curious questions about the scriptures and discuss together

Feel free to not get a particular answer. This is about sharing and wrestling with ideas rather than finding the 'right' answer. 

  • There were many lies floating around about Jews. People were prejudiced against them simply for who they were. Esther kept hidden from others that she was a Jew for a long time. Why would she do that? How do you think she felt? What would she be feeling if she feared she couldn’t hide who she really was?
  • Esther had to risk everything to save her people from death and destruction. But she didn’t have to. No one knew that she was Jewish. In order to speak up for those who couldn’t, and fight the laws that were seeking to destroy her people, she had to risk being killed. She had to risk that the king would kill her for coming to see him, or kill her for being Jewish. Why did she risk all of that? Would you have done that? Why or why not? 
  • There are things happening around us that are big injustices. People being stepped on and stepped over in this world because of what people wrongly think about what they look like or who they are. We may have to risk our comfort or safety to help.  Would you be willing to do that?  Why or why not?  Can you think of a time at work or in the playground when you saw something happen that was wrong, and you didn’t do anything to stop it because you were scared? Or you did do something and it was hard? What about in our nation? What do you think we could do to help stop injustice now, that may cost us something?

Unwinding

We can sometimes forget that God is actively involved in every battle involving injustice. To help unwind this, take a moment as a family to quickly draw a picture of your favourite part of the Esther story, and where God was and what he was doing in that moment. If you want to expand this idea and explore more current topics, take a moment to draw a picture of a modern injustice and draw God into the picture. What is he doing, thinking, or feeling? 

Chat and catch

If you want to connect with God and pray about this subject you might want to chat and catch by:

  • Talking to God about all the people who are currently risking things to be fighting injustice. Ask him to give them what you think they need.  
  • Chatting to God about how you feel about the idea of sacrificing or risking giving up something to help others.  
  • Asking God to fill you with his boldness and courage to fight for others.  

 

The humble beauty of together 

We are to love others as we love ourselves.  When we become Christians, we become part of one body.  We were created to be together, to value and love each other, humbly and well.  We are at our best when we hold and care for each other well. 

Read some scripture

As a family, read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. 

Ask some curious questions about the scriptures and discuss together

Feel free to not get a particular answer. This is about sharing and wrestling with ideas rather than finding the 'right' answer. 

  • Why does God value difference? There is such a variety of people, from how we look and act and think and behave. Why would he do that when he was creating?
  • Bodies are amazing. So many different parts that look different and act differently. Your wrist bone is so different than your stomach! But both are valuable and needed and work together to be part of something amazing. God says that we together are like a body. But sometimes people choose to mostly be around people who are just like them. Why? What happens when people forget to be together with all different kinds of people and instead prefer to be around people just like them? 
  • When our bodies are working well, it’s because all the parts are working together and talking to each other. But if the stomach just said, “Nope I’m not a part of this body” bad things would happen to the whole body. Or if the eyeball refused to talk to the brain because it says, “I don’t need you!”.  There are some people who feel that they are left out, or excluded from being valued by other people, in our schools, communities, and our churches. Have you ever felt excluded? Do you notice when others feel that? Why or why not?
  • The verses say that when one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers with it. If you broke your legs, you would be in a wheelchair and your whole body would have to adjust and cope to move around and support the legs to heal. We as Christians are called to do the same for those in our communities. When others suffer, we are called to listen and hear and help and let our hearts feel the weight of their pain. Is there a situation of injustice happening with those around us that we are keeping our hearts separate from? Where can we listen more so we can understand and use our power and commitment to be with them and help in their suffering? 

Create windows 

It can be really helpful for our children to see the process we go on when it comes to learning from and valuing people who are different from us. By creating windows into what you've learned, on everything from ethnicity to life views, you help your children learn how to value difference. Over the next days, let your children see when you are challenged by a new idea you read on social media, or are moved by someone’s story. Tell a story of when someone who was different from you taught you something, or what you admire in someone else. Let them see you cherish and value those that have different life experiences and cultural expressions.  

Chat and catch

If you want to connect with God and pray about this subject you might want to chat and catch by:

  • Chatting to God as a family about how the body of people your family is a part of is working.   
  • Asking him to bring more different people together and teach us all how to be an amazing body together.  
  • Asking him to open your eyes and heart to more and more of the beauty inside other people, that you can see them the way that God sees them and love them and value them like he does.  

 

If you would like to explore any of this further, here is a set of articles exploring worship and justice at every age written by Rachel Turner.

 

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Image acknowledgements

Image by Bruce Emmerling from Pixabay