Sometimes I think she understands, and I always wonder how amazed she will be when she fully comprehends the depth of the justice and righteousness Jesus brings to our lives, both here and in eternity.
We are on the second round of Frozen frenzy at our house. Our middle child, Maitê, has one outfit these days: an Elsa dress costume. She knows the words to most of the music and the dialogues and makes similar gestures as princess Elsa. I think most of my patience with this stage comes from two things: 1) Jesus gives me a daily dosage of grace, and 2) I know that this, too, shall pass.
Recently, her little brother was trying to climb on the couch to pester his sister when Maitê pushed him down. He bonked his head on the floor. She immediately got reprimanded for it, and while being disciplined, she started to sing, “Don’t let them in. Don’t let them see. Be the good girl you always have to be.” I was not about to miss a great opportunity to debunk one of Disney’s greatest myths and share the gospel of Jesus with her. I looked at her, and the following conversation took place:
“Maitê, did you know this song is not true? Nobody is good.”
“Mom, Elsa is good!”
“No, sweetie. She isn’t. Nobody is good, not even Elsa. Does she always treat her sister kindly?”
“No, she doesn’t.”
“Elsa does not always do good things. Her heart is not always good, and her actions are not always good. Are you a good girl?”
“Yes, I am.”
“No, sweetie. You’re not.”
“Yes, Mom, I am!”
“Maitê, did you just get mad at your brother and push him down off the couch?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Is that a good thing to feel and do?”
“The only person who actually has a good heart and does good things is Jesus. Nobody else in the world is good.”
She just stared at me, moved on, and kept singing her song.
They Need the Gospel
Often, we think children can’t understand the messages around them, and that includes theology and the message of the gospel. Sometimes we try to bring it “down to their level” with arts and crafts and Bible songs, when in reality, all they need is a message that says, “You need a Savior, and Jesus is the only one.”
The world is already teaching our children all sorts of gospels: the gospel of “you deserve,” the gospel of “you need,” and the gospel of “if you behave well and do good things, you are a good person, and life will go well for you.” Children understand concepts of right and wrong and good and bad at an early age.
Their cry tells us they are not happy about something. Their laughter gives us joy, and for a follower of Jesus, the reality that our children understand the gospel of Jesus Christ fills our hearts and brings tears of joy to our eyes. In the journey of discipling our children, I have found a few things that help them understand who this Jesus is in whom Mom and Dad believe. It is our hope and prayer that through these conversations, they will love and discover Jesus for themselves.
Helping Them Understand
1) Keep it simple and short.
I am really good at “preaching” to my kids, especially to my six-year-old. When I get on “three-points” mode, I am pretty sure all she hears is her voice saying, “What do I need to say to make Mom stop talking now?” I have found it is in the short, direct, and simple day-to-day conversations that she has a clearer glimpse of Jesus. If you find yourself “preaching” at your child for more than one minute, you’ve lost their attention.
2) Enter their world and use words they understand.
My oldest admires Rosa Parks, so a lot of our conversations about the gospel involve Rosa Parks, the desire she had to bring justice, and how she stood up for what was right, even when everyone around her was complying to the law of the time. We often talk about how God is a God who loves justice and wants to see broken things made right. Sometimes I think she understands, and I always wonder how amazed she will be when she fully comprehends the depth of the justice and righteousness Jesus brings to our lives, both here and in eternity.
3) Use the Bible.
The Bible is key. It is the Word of God that has the power to transform our lives, and we must use it. The New Living Translation is an “easy read” for older children, and The Jesus Storybook Bible is a great resource for younger minds. We have used multiple stories from The Jesus Storybook Bible in daily conversations with our children, and it has helped bridge the understanding of their current reality and the impact of the gospel in it.
4) Remember that Jesus is present in every moment of your life and of your children’s lives.
I have found that telling my children that Jesus is with them in their daily lives at school, while they are sleeping, while they are playing with their friends, or simply while they are watching a show is comforting in times of fear and distress, and convicting in times of repentance. The Spirit does the work in our lives and in our children’s lives, and more often than we think, their hearts are extremely tender to His voice. Encourage your children to speak to Jesus (without you being the mediator) because He listens.
When I was having the conversation earlier with my daughter, my husband overheard it and later on commented on my directness with Maitê. I have found that speaking to our children about Jesus and speaking to Jesus as if He is in fleshly person in our house helps them and us live our lives with an awareness of His presence and His love for us.
The gospel of Christ is for the little ones. May we always remember that the simple and pure work of God starts in the simple and pure of heart. In the words of Jesus, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!” (Matthew 11:25b–26).