April 4, 2017 at 5:08 PM #12413
So I am teaching Living History Threads (Faith Builders) to my Grade 1 and 2 class. Like many other people have experienced, I am sure, the children love it and drink it in. But then when you read, for example, from the book George Washington and it says that as a child George”learned his Bible, and he learned to be good and honest and never tell a lie” (a.k.a. was a Christian) but later “the Americans all agreed that George Washington was the wisest and bravest soldier they had”, there is always at least one child who in all sincerity and sincerity asks, “How can he be a Christian and go out and kill people?!”
How should I respond to this question? I don’t want to damage their sensitive views on moral issues but…
April 6, 2017 at 6:59 PM #12457Jonas SauderModerator@jonas
One thing to note is that one can (and should be) a good, honest, moral person even if he is not a Christian. And being a person of high moral standards alone does not make one a Christian. A Christian specifically believes in Jesus Christ, acknowledges him as Lord, and takes his Christian walk seriously.
So, George may well have been the “wisest, bravest soldier.” But the answer to the final question is that many professing Christians (you might even introduce to them the term “Protestant”) do not interpret the New Testament like we do. They believe that although “killing people” (as in murder) is wrong, they also think that soldiers serving under a government must fight and kill when ordered to do so for a cause that the government says is right.
April 7, 2017 at 4:28 PM #12495Piper Burdge@piperb
I am not sure that I have a perfect, grades 1 & 2 appropriate answer to this question. But I can offer two ideas, similar to what Jonas shared, that shape the way I think about issues like this.
First, people who are not Christians, but who want to live with integrity and moral uprightness, will choose to follow Biblical principles in many areas of their lives. Sometimes this is a response to exposure to the Bible or to societies influenced by the Bible and Christianity, and sometimes it is a response to the “light that lightens every man.”
Second, our belief that Christ’s followers must not fight reflects what we know of Christ’s character. We know that Christ demonstrates and calls us to suffering love/non-resistance. Many sincere Christians do not see that Christ’s teaching and life mandate that his followers turn the other cheek, lay down their lives for others, and refuse to kill another person. This sad blindness does not only mean that they participate in war. It also means that they miss a pertinent and beautiful facet of Christ’s character – his tremendous, consistent love that sacrifices no matter the cost.
I find that recognizing this blindness on the part of fellow Christians calls me to humility. To what parts of Christ’s character am I blinded? What do I not see? I believe that it is from this posture of humility that we best answer student’s most difficult questions.
So on a grades 1 and 2 level, what might an answer look like? I think our answers should be satisfactory, truthful, and brief, and that we should avoid overburdening young students. I don’t think I would get involved in statements about whether George Washington was or was not a Christian. I think I might say something like: “It’s sad when people do not understand that Christ would not want them to kill other people, even in a war.”
I’d love to know how you responded.
April 8, 2017 at 3:38 PM #12519Patrick Heatwole@patnbets
Jonas and Piper have both suggested good ways forward. Below are a few additional thoughts.
- This is a good question, and a reason that history class can be so powerful in shaping children’s interpretation of the world around them. Maybe you should pray for many questions like this one. When they come, I suggest asking that student or others in the class what they think before you answer. You may be surprised by their wisdom and insight.
- After you answer the question with humility acknowledging some of the complexity, summarize the truth clearly. Tell them something like “It is wrong for Christians to kill other people.” You do want them to hear you speaking with clarity.
April 16, 2017 at 6:19 PM #21465
Thank you for your responses so far! It is good to have this insight into the matter. Piper, you said you wanted to know how I responded. Well, I admit it wasn’t a very good response but after stumbling around a little bit I decided to take a take a definitive response that would satisfy a young child’s black and white perspective so I explained that probably Washington wasn’t a Christian. I hoped that as this child grows, he will be able to see beyond the black and white to comprehend a more complex perspective. This was a clear cut answer, but upon further reflection I realize that maybe I should have left it more open and instead gently given a little glimpse into how some Christians view this matter while still affirming his parents/schools/churches teachings and the beauty of interpreting Scripture in the way we do. I trust that next time this question comes up, I will be better prepared with a more satisfying answer!
April 23, 2017 at 8:23 AM #21652
I thought you might be interested to know that I brought up the discussion with my class again, even though it was over a week after the first talk. The boy who asked the question remembered asking it and we had a much more organized and profitable discussion with the whole class. I tried to bring out various points that you suggested and they seemed to grasp onto those ideas. I was pleased to see them thinking/reasoning from different viewpoints while still affirming and holding to the teaching of Sacrificial Love that Jesus taught. Thanks again for your advice!
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