Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-3)
When I taught the fruits of the spirit to children I realised that faithfulness and goodness were difficult to explain. We thought that faithfulness was like integrity, and that goodness was when you are able to do the right thing, even when no one else knows. We drew pictures of ourselves doing things that were kind and loving and hid them under a lift-the-flap.
I also realised that my view of the fruits was a bit distorted. As a child when I was taught the fruits I perceived them as a list of qualities needed to be a Christian, qualities to strive towards.
I told the children I was teaching, if you are friends with Jesus you will just start becoming more and more like this. You will be loving, kind, gentle, good, etc. etc. They are called fruits of the spirit because they just automatically grow in you when you have the Holy Spirit helping.
I still may have inadvertently burdened some, which is why teaching children is fraught and causes me endless reflection.
I’m relieved, on reflection, that I also told them that I see these qualities in them every day.
My daughters are good. From infancy to now, they have shied away from behaviour that is malicious or unkind. Behaviours which may have been understood as “bad” in my childhood are understood these days as self-preservation; there is always a reason.
When my eldest was about 3, a friend of my brother’s was having a boring one-sided conversation about original sin. They said I must have seen it in her, when she misbehaved. I said no, she always wanted to do the right thing, and on the rare occasion she didn’t, there was always a good reason.
I have taught a lot of children and I have never met a bad one.
I don’t believe in the concept of original sin, that children are born evil.
I may be wrong but I just haven’t seen it yet. Jesus said to be like children, so maybe I’m right.
My family was remembering on a Zoom the other night, how my Mum would always ask for 4 good kids for her birthday. We would joke that she could find another 4, go ahead. She said that’s what her Mum had always asked for too.
I said I don’t ask for it because my children are already good.
My daughter, sitting beside me, glowed. Ω
Reflect: Imagine you can hear someone you trust talking about you. They are saying that you are good, gentle, kind, loving, peaceful, joyful; that you are faithful; that you show great self-control. How does this make you feel? Could this voice be God’s?
What is this? Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. Traditionally it is a time of reflection and pilgrimage. To help you on this journey, Sanctuary has put together 40 stories from people both within and beyond the congregation, with associated questions for reflection and prayer. A reading will be uploaded every day of Lent. This year’s theme is Fruit of the Spirit. #Lent2022. Real People, Real Stories: 40 Readings for Lent © Sanctuary, 2022.
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