I failed him. His drawing made it clear.
I’d asked the kids to draw pictures of their favorite Bible
stories. Alex drew an open Bible, and inside he wrote, “Be nice. Be
Would I be happier if he’d put, “Be mean. Be bad”? Of course not!
So what was the problem? This child, when choosing one sentence to
represent the Bible, chose rules. Alex believed the main message of
Scripture is “do the right thing.”
Don’t get me wrong! God does want us to do the right thing. We
want the children in our ministries to do the right thing. Parents
bring their kids to church in hopes that their kids will do the
So, again, what’s the problem?
What’s the Problem?
The problem is that none of us does the right thing simply because
we are told to do so. In fact, the Bible teaches just the opposite.
Being told what to do brings out our worst. Romans 7:8 says, “Sin, seizing the opportunity
afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous
We might pass 10 closed doors on a given day and not notice any of
them until a “do not enter” sign appears. Suddenly we want to know
what’s inside. We’re fascinated with the forbidden. It’s in our
How do we resist opening the door? Maybe we resist because we
remember a bad outcome from breaking a similar rule. Maybe we’re
afraid of punishment. Or it might be that we trust the person who
put up the sign.
Whatever the case, knowing a rule doesn’t equip me to follow it.
The rule alone only frustrates me. My ability to follow the rule
comes from something greater than the rule itself.
Alex, the child in my program, knew the rule “Be nice. Be good.”
Without something greater to stand on than just the rule, though,
he will sink under its weight.
What’s the Answer?
Jesus explained this most clearly in John 14:21: “Whoever has my commands and obeys
them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by
my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
Alex, like all of us, can be equipped to obey only through a
relationship with Jesus Christ. Only through knowing Christ does
the law lose its sin-causing power over us. Romans 7:4 says, “You also died to the
law…that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from
the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.”
Sadly, we’re as quick leading kids to the law as to Christ-though
we usually don’t realize it. See if you relate to any of these
“I want kids to apply the Bible, so for each passage I tell them
something they can do.”
“I give kids God’s rules to protect them from the immorality of
“Sin is serious. I want kids to know and fear it.”
The above statements raise valid concerns-each has some truth and
some danger. The effectiveness of our ministries hinges on how well
we keep sight of the goal as we deal with these issues. Let’s take
a closer look.