A couple of weeks ago I posted a question for you about reading the Bible with kids - even the hard bits: should we read the gory or sexual bits of the Bible to children? Well, my friend Fiona McLean has taken pity on me and written a response! (You'll also find an interesting discussion in the comments here.) In the first of four posts, Fiona says,
I have some sympathy for this question, because quite a lot of the Bible does seem difficult: boring, irrelevant, confronting, offensive, violent, or sexually explicit. So why am I still convinced that we should not only read all of it ourselves, but also read it to children - our own at home; and other people’s children, in Sunday School, at conferences, and even in Scripture classes at school?
Firstly, if we were to avoid all the “difficult” bits of the Bible, there wouldn’t be much left! This applies to the New Testament as well as the old: think of Jesus, the Warrior King, slaying his enemies (Revelation 19:11-21); or Jesus, at his second coming, “in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God” (2 Thessalonians 1:8); or the servant who is “cast into the outer darkness” where there “will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).
In fact, someone of our favourite and most comfortable Bible passages may be a lot more “difficult” than we realise, especially if you are only familiar with the sanitised version in children’s Bibles. (Children’s Bibles can be very helpful, but they are not the Bible itself: they are always summaries and paraphrases; they are necessarily selective about what they include; and they are an interpretation.) Noah and the Ark is not just about God saving Noah and his family and lots of cute, cuddly animals, but about the great wickedness of mankind, as a result of which God sent a Flood which drowned every other person and animal (Genesis 6-8). We like the story of the boy Samuel being called by God, but we forget that God called him so that he could pass on the terrible news that Eli’s rebellious sons were under sentence of death from God for their blasphemy and iniquity (1 Samuel 3:11-14). When you tell the story of David and Goliath, do you mention that David cut off Goliath’s head (1 Samuel 17:51)? The story of the Good Samaritan includes a violent attack on a man which nearly killed him, and which left him wounded and half-dead in the street (Luke 10:30). The Prodigal Son squandered his money on prostitutes and reckless living (Luke 15:13). Even the sweet Nativity story, unedited, includes the terrible murder of all the baby boys in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16). The Bible is full of “difficult bits”!
Secondly, I wonder what we mean by “difficult bits” anyway? Do we mean parts that are boring or seem irrelevant? Ideas that don’t fit in with our worldview – that seem harsh, that present God as cruel and vindictive or arbitrary? If so, perhaps it is our worldview that needs to change, our understanding of God that needs to grow to fit the reality of the God who has revealed himself to us.
Thirdly, even without the Bible there are “difficult bits” in life. There is much that is sordid and violent and nasty in the world around us: tsunamis, pornography, child abuse, cancer, infertility. Where is God in all this? Is he absent? Capricious? Vindictive? Powerless? Our children (and ourselves) are going to be exposed to these disturbing and difficult issues through the media, billboards, DVDs, newspapers, and television. As believers, let’s see what God’s perspective is on these things, and grapple with these difficult questions within the framework of a biblical worldview.
This is why, instead of just reading nice, comforting, somewhat insipid children’s Bibles, my husband and I read the whole Bible to our children. We believe and trust that the Bible is God’s word to us, and to our children (e.g. Deuteronomy 29:29). We want our view of God and of ourselves and of our world to be shaped more by God’s Word than by the culture around us.
Tune in next week for Fiona's next thoughts.
image is by johnb2008 from flickr