“You shall have no other gods before me” Exodus 20:3-6.
What kind of Jesus are you sharing with your children?
Most likely your personal conception of Him. Your intellectual beliefs and experiential realities inform your view of Jesus. The Jesus you share with your children is the Jesus you know through your theology, personal encounters, culture, denomination, church, or family.
Identify your image of Jesus.
To share the true Jesus with children, we must recognize we’re all disposed to create false images of Him. None of us have a 100% accurate view of God. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, we tend to reshape the Jesus described in the Bible into our domesticated images of Him. It comes easily to us. We live, after all, in image-driven cultures, so forming our love around our perceptions of Jesus and what we say about Him happens all the time.To share the true Jesus with children, we must recognize we’re all disposed to create false images of Him. Click To Tweet
For centuries, we’ve conceptualized Jesus. What’s your construct of Him? Social Justice Jesus. Fundamentalist Jesus. Evangelical Jesus. Pentecostal Jesus. Liberation Theology Jesus. Middle-Class Jesus. Prosperity Gospel Jesus. Orthodox Jesus. Catholic Jesus. Protestant Jesus. Social Action Jesus. American/African/Asian/European Jesus. We could add more. There’s no end to the images we have of Jesus.
An interesting verse concludes John’s first epistle: “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” 1 John 5:21. Is this a warning not to worship statues? Perhaps. Yet, it’s more likely that it’s telling us to be on guard against all ingenious replicas of Jesus. In essence, it’s saying, “Children, avoid false images of Jesus and embrace the true Jesus.”
Eradicate false images of Jesus.
Most of us probably need to dismantle false images of Jesus. Unless we deal with every deception about ourselves, God’s Word is not having its way with us. To share the true Jesus with children, we must eliminate every facsimile. This happens when we ask God to destroy our false ideas about Jesus and reduce them to ruins. Our notions about Jesus may seem real in our own minds, but with our tendency to be reductionists and deconstructionists, they may not be godly notions. We must replace our false ideas about Jesus with the Jesus we encounter in the Gospels and meet by faith.
Link children to the real Jesus.
Children need the dangerous, unpredictable, challenging, mysterious, bewildering, breathe easier Jesus, not someone similar or different. Theologian and Bible scholar N. T. Wright says, “Jesus – the Jesus we might discover if we really looked! – is larger, more disturbing, more urgent than we – than the church! – had ever imagined.”
The Jesus we share with children must be the Jesus illuminated in the Bible and affirmed by the apostles. Equating Jesus with Superman, a moral teacher, or a nice man should be anathema. Analogies create false images. We must recognize Jesus for who He is. He is a unique cosmic reality and transcendent being who, when we embrace Him by faith, sweeps us into a personal encounter and mystical union through His divine force. So, use the names of Jesus found in the Bible to describe Him because His names are a crucial part of His identity, and every one of the +190 names and titles for Jesus reveals aspects of His character.The Jesus we share with children must be the Jesus illuminated in the Bible and affirmed by the apostles. Click To Tweet
Soak children in the Gospels.
Sharing Jesus with children happens best when we share the stories of Jesus with them. Immerse children in the first four books of the New Testament. If you’re ministering in a local church, your curriculum or syllabus should mostly focus on Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If you’re a parent, your go-to readings for family devotions should mainly be the Gospels. As you share the stories about Jesus, invite children to enter in, find their part in the Story, and meet the Author.
[Note: The intent isn’t to prioritize the Gospels over the rest of the Scriptures. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16. The motivation for the recommendation is methodological. Younger children should major in the Gospels because it’s where they will see Jesus most clearly. As they grow older they should engage with the whole Bible, recognizing as they do, that Jesus is the theme of the Bible from the beginning to the end].
Let Jesus speak for Himself.
Sometimes in local church settings, our creative themes get in the way, or our hype and hoopla drown out His voice. Sometimes in family settings, our preoccupation with clubs and extramural activities for our children doesn’t allow Him a word in edgeways. Sharing Jesus with children happens best when there’s a light touch. More children would connect with Jesus if we made room for Jesus to move into the center while we slipped off to the sidelines. Like John the Baptist, make it your maxim that “He must become greater; I must become less” John 3:30.More children would connect with Jesus if we made room for Jesus to move into the center while we slipped off to the sidelines. Click To Tweet
Connect children with Jesus through prayer.
Teaching children about Jesus without giving them opportunities to pray produces a false image of Jesus. Prayer (including listening to Jesus) is another way for children to meet the real Jesus – to know Him three-dimensionally and encounter His presence. Prayer (specifically Scripture-focused and Scripture-directed prayer) also helps children close the gap between their false and real images of Jesus and cast off their wrong ideas about Him.
© Scripture Union, 2022