How to Answer Your Child's Faith Questions, Part 1
Here are some answers to questions your child may ask about God.
Q: How Do We Know Jesus Is Really God's Son?
Your children will face those who say that Jesus never really lived or that He wasn't really God. You can help prepare them for this by making sure their faith in Him is solidly grounded.
For biblical testimonies from eyewitnesses, see passages like Acts 2:22, 24, 32, 36 and 2 Peter 1:16. But can you "prove" to your children that Jesus really lived? Perhaps not. Still, you can offer convincing evidence. If you like, read the following to them or share it in your own words.
- Eyewitness accounts: The Bible is our main source for information about Jesus. Is the Bible accurate? It's been shown to tell the truth about so much else that you can be confident it tells the truth about Jesus. Those who wrote the Gospels were convinced that what they'd seen and heard was real. Their books were written when others who'd been there were still alive. If the Gospel writers had been telling lies, these others would certainly have exposed them — but they didn't.
- Extra-biblical sources: The Bible isn't the only book that mentions Jesus. Others who wrote not long after He lived show that He was a real, historical person. Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived around A.D. 70, mentioned Jesus, saying that He was condemned to death by Pilate and then appeared alive again on the third day. Josephus also mentioned Jesus when he told how James, Jesus' brother, was killed. Then there's a letter from a leading Roman, Tacitus (around A.D. 112), mentioning that Jesus was put to death under Pilate. And some Jewish teachers of the time referred to Jesus or Yeshua.
- Jesus claimed He was God. As C. S. Lewis wrote, there are only three things you can believe about Jesus' claim: He is who He says He is (God and Lord); He was a liar who knew He was lying; or He just thought He was telling the truth when He wasn't (in other words, He was a lunatic). Lots of people would agree that Jesus was a great teacher of right and wrong. If He was, He couldn't be a liar. Was He crazy? None of His other words or actions suggest that He was. The only possibility left is that He's who He claims to be — Lord.
- Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus died, yet three days later He was alive again. What happened? The Romans made sure Jesus was dead. His body was wrapped in cloths with spices, which made the grave clothes stick to the body — very difficult to remove. He was placed in a burial chamber cut into solid rock, its one exit covered by a huge stone that took several people to move. Soldiers guarded the tomb; they knew that sleeping on the job brought a death penalty.
- Three days later, the tomb was empty. The huge stone had been moved away from the tomb; the grave clothes were empty as if Jesus' body had passed right through them. The soldiers were bribed to say they'd fallen asleep, yet they were not punished for it. More than 500 people saw Jesus alive after His death. And the disciples were never the same, changing from scared people hiding from the authorities to bold people who were willing to suffer beatings and even death. Knowing Jesus rose from the dead helped them to be bold.
- How do we know Jesus is the Messiah? One way is through the predictions that Jesus fulfilled — 60 major Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah! For instance, Micah 5:2 predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem; Genesis 49:10 foresaw that He would be from the tribe of Judah; Psalm 16:10 hinted that He would be raised from the dead.
Q: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
Most younger children can grasp a very basic explanation. It might be expressed this way:
"Everyone, even you, does some wrong things. These wrong things are sin and make God sad. But God loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus. Jesus died for us so that we could be forgiven and could be God's children. Just as you need to tell me you're sorry when you've done something wrong, you need to tell God you're sorry for doing wrong things and ask Him to forgive you because of what Jesus did. He will. From then on, you are God's child. And if you do anything wrong after that, you can ask God to forgive you and help you do better — and He will."
If your older child wonders why the sacrifice of Jesus was necessary, you may want to share the following:
- "Why did Jesus have to die? He didn't have to. He chose to, out of love.
- "God loves the world. He wants to have with everyone the kind of close relationship He had with Adam and Eve in the very beginning. The only way to do that was to take care of the sin problem.
- "God made people and chose to be their Father. He chose to be responsible for them. Parents pay for what their children break. If parents don't pay, who will? The child usually can't. In a similar way, God made Himself responsible to pay for the thing His children "broke" — their relationship with Him. He did this knowing what it would cost, because He was a loving Father. If He didn't pay for it, who could? No one.
- "The punishment for sin is death. Since everyone sins, everyone would have to pay the death penalty. Only someone who was not born sinful could die for others. Everyone else could die only for himself or herself. The only perfect Person is Jesus. He defeated Satan and sin when He died and rose again. This is why Jesus is the only way to God."
To further help your child understand this, try the following:
- Younger children may be baffled by the idea that Jesus "died on the cross," especially if they don't understand what death is. If you sense that a discussion of death would scare your preschooler, rather than inform, concentrate on talking about the love and actions of Jesus, especially the fact that He came to rescue us. When your child is ready to understand what it meant for Jesus to give His life, explain that part of the salvation story.
- Do you use time-outs, spankings, or lost privileges to discipline your child? Try mentioning these as you explain the concept of sin and how Jesus paid the price for ours. Children will understand how wrong acts displease God because they know how you respond when they disobey. Explain that wrong actions put a wide space between your children and God — one they can't cross alone. That's why Jesus came — to make a way for them to cross back to God and be forgiven. If your children have already accepted Jesus, emphasize that they can go to God anytime, about anything, and ask Him to forgive them when they've done something wrong.
Adapted from Rick Osborne, K. Christie Bowler, and John Duckworth, Parents' Guide to the Spiritual Growth of Children (Wheaton, Ill.: Focus on the Family/Tyndale House Publishers, 2000), pp. 277-384. John Trent, Rick Osborne, and Kurt Bruner, eds.