Rarely is a phrase spat out the side of the evangelical mouth with more distain than “Christian bubble”. The phrase itself evokes images of fearful parents exerting an ever-increasing tight-fistedness over their children, lest they encounter an idea contrary to the truth of the scriptures. The cloistering off of Christians from the world seems to come not from a foundation of faith, but fear, and is at odds with the idea that Christians should not only live good lives, but live them among the pagans (1 Peter 2:12). So, while it is not biblical, or even possible, for that matter, to live in a hermetically sealed Christian ghetto, I believe there is a kind of “Christian bubble” that God loves. To see this, we need to look at one of the high-points of the Old Testament.

God the teacher

God is a teaching God. He communicates with his creatures and leads them in the paths of wisdom and righteousness. We can learn more about what kind of teacher God is by examining his most famous lesson.

We read in the Old Testament that God gave his people laws. He gave them 613 of them, in fact. Thankfully, as any good teacher would, he simplified these laws into 10 main laws. The 10 commandments are not merely laws among other laws, but a summary of God’s entire law. They, unlike other laws, were written by the very finger of God (Deuteronomy 9:10), and placed within the ark of the covenant (Deuteronomy 10:1). But God, bringing things to an even finer point, summarises his entire law in one of the most famous passages in all of scripture:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [5] You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

Our Lord himself states this is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38). This is the greatest teaching in all of scripture, but it is only half the lesson.

Every lesson can be broken into two components. The first component is obvious: the content. What is the lesson being taught? Here, the content is that we should love God will our whole selves. The second component is the pedagogy, a word educators use to describe how the content is being taught. Effectively, every lesson is comprised of what you’re going to teach and how you’re going to teach it.

If we continue on in Deuteronomy, we see not only the content of the lesson, but also the divinely inspired pedagogy:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. [7] You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. [8] You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. [9] You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

God, the master teacher, has made his pedagogy clear: education through saturation. This lesson, taught to the children of his covenant people, is a lesson that is to permeate the child’s life. Whether it is the crack of dawn, high-noon, or the last light of dusk, class is in session. This most important lesson filters into the most ordinary of places: during meals, leisure, travel, or chores (v7), we are to call our covenant children to love and serve the Lord. In being bound to our hands (v8), this lesson must shape every action we undertake. In being bound to our foreheads (v8), it must shape everything we see. It should so permeate the family culture that the very architecture of the family home is part of the curriculum (v9).

If surrounding your children with godly instruction is putting them in a ‘Christian bubble’, then God loves that kind of Christian bubble.

The shortcomings of the metaphor

Of course, the bubble metaphor, while useful and thought provoking, quickly moves past its point of usefulness. Bubbles are fragile and impenetrable, qualities not befitting God’s covenant community. Those decrying the ‘Christian bubble’ have valid concerns, desiring that children be integrated within their community, not alienated from it. There is often a fear that an overly sheltered child won’t grow the strong roots that the winds of adversity foster, leading to a complete uprooting at university or the workplace.

These are natural concerns, and worthy of a much larger discussion. My aim is not to provide an exhaustive manual, but rather a principial foundation. God wants parents to saturate their child’s life with godly instruction. There will be hard conversations to be had and wise decisions to be made along the way. But while nuance and balance are important, saturating your child with godly instruction is the big E on the eye chart. This is our primary responsibility, our God-given duty. We are to walk wisely in this path and trust God, in his kindness, to bless those who walk in his ways (Psalm 128:1).

– Paul Matthews