Teaching Preschoolers About the Crucifixion?

image courtesy of scazon via flickr
Next in our list of parenting questions that we've been working through was from a single mom.  She has two children who she has been teaching them about Jesus being crucified.  This has led to her 4-year-old talking more about death and being with Jesus one day.  Also, the child expressed how she doesn't like the Roman soldiers (the "bad guys") who killed Jesus.  The ex-husband doesn't like the child talking about "being excited to be with Jesus," and this mom was wondering if Jesus' crucifixion is an age-appropriate topic for preschoolers. 

I told her that I absolutely think that the crucifixion is an age-appropriate topic for young children, even toddlers.  (Of course, the specific terminology that is used can make a difference, and needs to be age-appropriate.)  The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the foundations of our faith.  Nothing else matters outside of the context of these topics.

I would say that these conversations need to be part of the regular and continual dialogue that we have with our children.  Here are some basic principles that should be incorporated into these dialogues:
  • God created us and loves us.
  • We are all sinners who do not deserve to be near God.
  • God cannot be near sin, so our sin needs to be dealt with if we want to be with God.
  • We can never be good enough or work hard enough to deal with our sin.
  • God sent Jesus, who was fully God and fully man.
  • Jesus died on the cross, to take the punishment for our sins.
  • After 3 days, Jesus rose from the dead, proving His power over sin and death.
  • Through faith in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, we can have eternal life with God.

As far as the child expressing dislike for the "bad guys", we need to remember that our call is to love everyone.  Even more, we are ALL the same as those "bad guys."  It's because of our sin that Jesus died on the cross; we are just as guilty, if not more so, than those soldiers or anyone else.

Bernard and I (Nairobi, Dec 2007)
What a great opportunity to talk to our children about life and death!  We should be excited about being with Jesus.  I am reminded of the sermon by our partner in Kenya, Bernard Kabaru, who taught at our church last fall.  With all the suffering that Bernard sees day by day, part of him can't wait for Jesus to return, to put and end to suffering and death.  But part of him wants Jesus to wait, so that there is more time for people to come to faith in Jesus.

So, until God calls us to be with Him, our role now is to know Him more and to tell others about Him, so they can have the opportunity to be with Him, too.  You can use this topic of conversation to be stirred to action.  Talk about this with your child:
  • How can we share the love of Jesus with others with our actions?
  • How can we share the love of Jesus with our words?
  • Who can we tell about God's great plan of redemption?
  • Who can we pray for to believe in Jesus?

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