The Passion, Children and the Cross
- Friday, March 12, 2004
Each spring we appreciate the beauty of the brown grass turning to green, the appearance of blossoms and color on the trees, and the rebirth of flowers with their fragrant offerings. Spring reminds us that God in His wisdom has planned for new life, growth and an opportunity to "begin again." This spring, "The Passion of the Christ" has sparked widespread conversation about the very passion that made possible our spiritual rebirth and a vibrant relationship with the living God.
I am grateful that Mel Gibson followed his convictions and his dream to present to the world a graphic reminder of God's love for us and the sacrificial death of His Son, the Christ. Because of the graphic nature of the movie and its "R" rating, most parents are choosing not to take their children under the age of 13 to view this film.
With this decision, though, comes the reminder that we as parents and grandparents have an awesome responsibility to pass along the heritage of our faith to our children. It has always been and will always be God's plan for caring adults to help children learn about God's faithful love for all mankind.
So how do we, as "molders" of our children's faith, do that?
Older preschoolers need to hear simple truths like "Jesus died on the cross to show His love for us. But, Jesus did not stay dead. He is alive and cares about us very much."
As your children grow in understanding, show them specific verses and stories in the Bible that teach us the reason Jesus died on the cross. Let them hear your family talk about God and Jesus and what a difference Jesus has made in your lives.
Remember that from the moment of your child's birth, God desires to use your parental leadership to create an environment where God's Spirit can draw each child into a personal relationship with Himself.
Develop your "child-friendly" conversation skills when talking about the cross and Christian conversion. Look for books and articles that teach about children and faith development. You'll discover the importance of interpreting "churchy" words into phrases and thoughts that are age suitable.
Give simple answers when your child asks questions about Jesus and why He died on the cross. By asking questions that can't be answered with a simple "yes" or "no," you can help your child verbalize why he's asking questions and what he does or doesn't understand. Avoid giving your child more information than they need. Instead, follow God's leading and teach "precept upon precept" to help children grasp the truths about what Jesus did.
Make a constant effort to help your child understand that the Easter bunny and candy are not the most important aspects of Easter. Celebrating that Jesus is alive is most important, and that God sent Jesus to show us how much He loves us.
It's difficult for children to believe and trust in God and Jesus whom they cannot see. That's why God trusts us as parents, grandparents and teachers to be dependable examples and teachers of God's love.
Our job is to "introduce" boys and girls to Jesus. We are to plant seeds in their lives that God's Spirit can nurture and develop into a vibrant relationship. We are to travel "alongside" our children as their spiritual journeys progress. We are to be available and prepared to share our own experiences of God's love and care. Wow! What a job description!
Jerry Vogel is director of childhood ministry publications at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and has more than 20 years of experience in children's ministry.
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