Artwork © 2007, Scott Gustafson — see his gallery here and buy this print here
Yesterday I wrote about the Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha, which is the celebration of Abraham’s willingness to obey God by sacrificing Ishmael. Our own Hebrew story is very similar, though the son who is nearly killed is Isaac. Kind of in jest, I wrote the following in asterisk form:
While I do support teaching children the whole of the Bible (over time), I don’t think of this tale – either version — as an especially good “children’s story.” I’d rather not get into this with Baylor’s until she’s old enough to not worry if her God-fearing father is making plans to walk her up Geita hill for anything other than a nature hike.
I didn’t mean a great deal by this, as I’ve honestly not given much thought to the appropriateness of Bible stories for my nearly one-year old daughter, Baylor. But a few of you responded, and one of the shepherds from our sponsoring church asked:
Will you teach your kids about the cross?
Obviously, my answer is “yes.” But new questions arise — like when and what about other stories? On Baylor’s first Easter, Christie and I together told her the story of God, including Jesus being hung on a cross to die. [Not that Baylor understood the story as a 4-month old, but we wanted to do this together as a family.] I realized this morning, however, that I ought to be thinking through the details of when to share what types of stories with my children. Are all Bible stories appropriate for all ages? Should we leave some until the children can understand them better? Or is it better to introduce them to the stories from the very beginning, and let their understanding grow slowly? I’ve now got all kinds of questions — especially for those of you who’ve already made some of these decisions. Here are just a few:
- How do we tell Bible stories to our children without making them sound like just another fairy tale or untrue bedtime story?
- How do we tell stories of death and violence? Do we downplay the gruesome details, or share them from the beginning?
- When do we talk Jesus being murdered on a cross? Do we explain that God wanted it that way even when our children are very young?
- When do we tell the story of Abraham being willing to kill his own son? And our God having told him to do so?
- What about stories of babies heads being dashed on the rocks and entire nations murdered?
- Sex, adultery, and prostitution?
- Do we wait until the children will understand these stories, or do the stories themselves help to develop proper Christian understanding? Or, in other words, do we allow a worldview to develop which will provide a safe place for these stories — or do these stories actually help to bring about said worldview?
Your advice is more than welcome. I have nothing intelligent to say at this point. [Some of you are thinking, “What else is new?”]
Except I do have this one intelligent thing to say: If you have children and you’re not telling them Bible stories, I think you’re missing out on an extremely valuable opportunity to Jesus-shape your children. Time spent with our children is crucial — and parents sharing with their children the stories of God (when lying down and when awake) is meant to be a formative time in the life of young Christians. I kindly encourage you to get on that.