How Children’s Bibles Form the People of God
We never graduate from the gospel, but I think sometimes we try to do so. We pursue theological knowledge and sift through Scripture that defends our latest point or that speaks to our current life situation. One pastor says,
If you were in love and could only speak to your loved one in emails, you would never read those emails and say, “Wow. I’m right.” You would read those emails and feel so loved and become more enthralled with your love every time you read them.
Unfortunately, this experience of deep love through Bible reading is not as common of an experience as is should be. It is so easy to start to treat the Bible as a textbook to glean information from or a rule book to tell us what to do, but it is so much more than that. Our hearts need more than random verses and obscure theological distinctions.
Our Hearts Need the Biblical Narrative
When Jesus meets Cleopas on the Road to Emmaus, he finds him sad and disappointed. The Savior he thought would set everything right was dead (or so he thought). Haven’t we all felt this at some point? We felt disappointed by God and felt like he didn’t come through for us. Because we all understand what Cleopas has gone through, we need to see how Jesus met him in that situation. Jesus went all the way back to the story of Moses and explained how God always keeps his promises and how He, Jesus, was the fulfillment of all of it. In our times of deep disappointment and confusion, we must do the same. We need to go back to the biblical narrative and remember God’s overwhelming faithfulness and radical love for us, His children. Sally Lloyd-Jones, in the Jesus Storybook Bible, writes,
The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure…There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle—the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.
We need to be consistently reminded of the big story of the Bible, because it reminds us that God is always working in way more significant ways than it seems. He always has a bigger plan in mind, and it is always for our good. When we zoom out to see this story as a whole, we can trace his hand throughout history. We can’t always trace His hand in our lives, but, as Charles Spurgeon says, “When you cannot trace his hand, you can always trust his heart.” We can know God’s heart when we see how he has been working since day one to bring his people into his family.
One way to meditate on the biblical narrative as a whole is through children’s bibles. Children’s bibles, in many less words than the Bible itself, take our hands and guide us through the story of the Bible, and in most cases, explicitly show us how “every story whispers his name.” We need to be reminded of this because we need to be reminded of God’s sovereignty over all things.
Children’s Bibles are for Everyone
It is quite clear how children’s bibles are beneficial for children. They introduce children at a young age to the stories of Scripture. Yet, they are also deeply beneficial for adults. We need to be reminded of the deep and important truths that we try to deem “introductory.” They are useful to adults both new to faith and who have known Christ for years and years. Children’s bibles can be a sweet and wonderful tool to introduce new believers, or people unsure of what the Bible story even is, to the gospel. However, if we believe that we never graduate from the gospel (or from the biblical narrative) then we will believe that we need to go back to basics consistently, no matter our age or spiritual maturity. Therefore, children’s bibles can be beneficial for mature Christians as well.
We Need to Go Back to Basics
We need things spoken to us simply. An English professor of mine said, “Writers like long sentences. Readers like short sentences.” And this is so true. We need someone to explain important truths to us in simple ways. We think we need to like only upper level, difficult biblical truths, and yes, there is a place for that, but there is also a place to go back to a childlike wonder. When Paul distinguishes between Christians who need milk and Christians who need meat, we must remember that we still should eat our meat with a glass of milk near to help us digest it and to remind us that we were once beginners in our understanding too. And that even after all of the meat we could ever eat, we will always need milk as well. We never graduate from our need for the basic truths of the Gospel. As Marty Machowski says in The Gospel Story Bible,
You see, the gospel is not something we hear once, believe, and never need to hear again. We need to hear the good news about Jesus over and over. Paul never tired of sharing the gospel and telling people about Jesus and how he died for our sins so that we should be forgiven.
We also should never tire of hearing this beautiful story, and children’s bibles offer that to us. We need to be reminded of our childlike need for God to meet us in our daily lives. We need to be reminded of our need for a rescuer, and that God loves us, as Sally Lloyd-Jones says, with a “Never stopping, never-giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.”
We need need. The Jesus Storybook Bible displays this beautifully in the story of Naaman, who thought that he did not need cleansing in the Jordan River, even though he had leprosy: “All Naaman needed was nothing. And that was the one thing that Naaman didn’t have.”
We need to be keenly aware of our needs like children are. We must learn again and again how to sit at Jesus’s feet and hear the beautiful story that he has been telling all along. The need to be reminded of the truth of the gospel is never something we can or will outgrow. Reading children’s bibles can be a reminder that we will never grow out of our childlike need for our Father. Jesus says just this to his disciples in the gospel of Matthew:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Do we have the humility to become like children and marvel at Jesus and his most beautiful story? It is a humility and wonder to which we are called. It’s a humility that comes from acknowledging our childlike need for Christ.
We need the biblical narrative. We need the gospel. And we need it told to us plainly and often. Children’s bibles can offer that to us in a unique and precious way. Let us never feel like we have grown too old or too advanced not to marvel at this Big Story, where every individual story whispers the name of Jesus.