Rape, incest, homosexuality, murder, polygamy. How should your children learn about the Bible regarding those challenging Bible passages? What are they trying to tell us? What is moral? And what does God do?

You know, especially those horror stories we can easily imagine in some sensationalist tabloid. “A hero returning from war vows to sacrifice the first man he meets. And through the door steps – his daughter” (Judges 11)! “The king takes his soldier’s wife as his wife. Let the soldier be killed first” (2 Samuel 11). “The jealous brothers sell the youngest as a slave, and they tell the father that wild beasts have eaten him” (Genesis 37).

The Story of the Human Need for a Savior

The Bible is not a list of rules or perfect heroes. That’s why we must teach children how to read God’s word and create a bigger picture from individual stories. The Old Testament, in particular, is not a collection of fables to inspire us to become better people. It is more of a realistic description of human nature. Although he also talks about heroes, heroes are primarily people with weaknesses and flaws who don’t precisely get recognition for their perfection!

Humanity knows many terrible stories, which the Bible does not ignore, but clings to, claims as its own, and gives us a Savior who puts things in their place.

We can explain to the children that the biblical descriptions of crimes and mistakes do not mean God agrees with them. We find some stories problematic because of the horrible behavior, and the story doesn’t always have the ending we’d expect. But in the end, there is a real outcome: God does not leave people in our own mess but sends us his Son, who saves us and brings us into his family.

Your Role in Helping Children Learn About the BibleHow should your children learn about the Bible regarding challenging Bible passages?

There is a lot of hope in the Bible stories. Through them, we are convinced that God is never surprised by our failures but has a plan for us. We can remind the children of Peter, who denied Jesus, but he still loved him. Or David, the adulterous murderer described as a man who “followed God with all his heart.”

When reading stories, let’s talk openly and honestly with the children about their feelings. We have to be aware that we do it in a way that is appropriate for the child’s age.

How Do Preschool Children Learn About the Bible?

Many Bible stories are not yet suitable for preschool children, as they would not be able to understand them. So let’s wait a bit with them. If they ask us questions about something they heard, let’s focus primarily on what we know about God.

We can tell them: “Remembering what God is like helps us daily. God is loving, powerful, and wise. Some stories from the Bible want to tell us how badly we humans need a solution. Others tell us how good God is who saves us. People sometimes do and say ugly things, but God is the one who best helps us and heals us.”

Children 6 – 10

Children in this age group are already exposed to dark narratives, as they often outgrow the “light” versions of children’s Bibles. Although they are sometimes too small to understand man’s sinful nature fully, we can still openly begin some of these narratives with them. The goal is to emphasize what God is like and what we are like.

Tell the children that the Bible is not a book about the best people in history. The Bible is the story of God’s relationship with some truly corrupt people. “It is good to read such stories because they show us how much God loves even people who have committed really terrible things. That’s good news because we all do bad things too.”

Children Over 11 Years Old

As the children grow, we continue to build the foundation of man’s need for a Savior and God’s fulfillment of that need.

We always ask ourselves two questions about the passage: “What does the text tell me about the nature of God who saves us?” and: “What does the text tell me about the nature of the man who needs salvation?”

These two questions help us understand that God is holy and we are not, that God is all-powerful and we are vulnerable, and that God is merciful and we need mercy. Perhaps Christ is not mentioned in the text, but the display of God’s and man’s nature makes the need for His coming evident.

God Will Give Us the Wisdom to Guide Children to the Truth

It’s okay if children have doubts. Even Jesus’ disciples faced doubts. Even those closest to him did not believe that he really rose from the dead!

We can tell the children that doubt does not keep God from being close to us. “Jesus asks us to believe in him and forgives us when we don’t. Honest doubt isn’t bad. Jesus is not concerned about the strength of your faith. What counts is the power of the One on whom your faith rests.”

When we read the Bible with our children, we may feel uncertain and unprepared. However, we must not avoid “hot” debates. If we are guided by faith and love and want to guide our children to the truth, God will give us the grace and wisdom we need.