I’ve said before that if you cannot teach something to a child, there’s a good chance you don’t understand it yourself. I’m not talking about the intricacies of things not age-appropriate; you won’t teach a five-year-old calculus, but many important lessons can be taught at a basic level.
Recently one of my children taught me a valuable lesson about how we teach our children Scripture. We take a lot for granted. We assume people know more than they do. I was trying to teach my child the understanding of I John 1:9, and thought I could blow through it with her in about 2 minutes – this was not the case. Two minutes turned into 20, but when she was done, she understood the verse in its entirety, and it impacted her past the time we studied it together.
In this post I am going to share how I walked this child through this one verse. A couple things to understand. While this will look nice and clean in this blog post, there was discussion, and even frustration at times on both sides. I asked questions to make sure that my child understood what I was saying, and several times I needed to reword what I was saying. I also allowed her to ask several questions about the verse we were discussing. Also note, this wasn’t a lecture, it was a loving discussion.
One little tip is writing down what you are explaining. Like I said, when I went through this verse, it took me 20 minutes. That’s a lot of information for anyone, especially a child. Writing it out allowed me not just to tell them, but show them what I was teaching. It also allowed me to point back to things. With a child, you can even draw stick figures or pictures to help them remember.
I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Seems like a short simple verse, but to a child there is a lot going on here. First, when explaining a verse to a child, or anyone who has not yet regularly interacted with Scripture, I like to insert names for the pronouns. So we might say, “If [Billy] confesses [Billy’s] sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive [Billy’s] sins and cleans [Billy] from all [of Billy’s} unrighteousness.” This does not change the context of the verse at all. This helps Billy understand where he is in the verse and where God is in the verse. Perspective assists all of us.
Second, we need to define theological terms or define our terms. What are the big words that they might not understand. In this verse, “confess,” faithful,” “cleanse,” and “unrighteousness” probably need to be explained. Most children who grow up in a Christian home will understand the words “sin” and “forgive” but don’t take these things for granted.
So I explained that confessing means verbally confessing something, and admitting that you have done wrong. Faithful means that something will always be the same. Cleanse, of course, means to clean something, and unrighteousness is another word for sin. Of course these words are much deeper, but this helps a child understand this verse better.
Let’s read the verse with this understanding now. “If Billy verbally admits that he did wrong to God, God will always forgive Billy for doing wrong and clean Billy.” Now questions are still coming up during this time, at least if we allow children to talk and ask questions. At this point my child was wondering why God would give him a bath. Makes sense to a child right, why would God clean me? I then took time to talk about just like our bodies can get dirty, so can our hearts.
I also pointed out the understanding that this is conditional here. The word “if” here says that we have the choice to confess our sins to God. We have to make the decision to confess. I also talked about the idea of how it feels to be forgiven. Children love when other children forgive them, imagine being forgiven by God.
To be honest, when I had this conversation, I didn’t have time to have it. I was buried in work at my church, and needed to get things done. That said, very minute spent in this discussion was worth it. Not only did they learn a valuable lesson, they went from being angry at the beginning to spending the time at the end praying to God confessing their sin. They said they felt great knowing that God had forgiven them.
How do I know that this impacted my child past our time together. Several days later both of my girls were fighting about something and sinned against each other in doing so. I corrected them and asked them to apologize to each other, which they did. I then walked away, and then I heard the child that I had spent all of that time explaining the verse say to the other child, “Let’s pray to God and ask for His forgiveness.”
First, as a father, you have no idea how much this warmed my heart. Knowing that the time that I had spent had impact my child days later felt great. Even better was watching my child make things right with our Heavenly Father. But even better, this child had lead my other child to in the forgiveness and cleansing of our Heavenly Father. They not only were impacted, but already were using this understanding to impact others.
Do you take time to explain the truths of God and Scripture to your child? Remember, children need time. They take time to process things slower than we do. But if we take the time with them, I do believe they will soak in so much more. Often we are spending more time trying to raise our children by redirecting our children a thousand times from something, but maybe if we took the time to explain the why of something to our children, they would better understand why this thing is best for them.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.