During the second night of our recent Kids’ Adventure, I talked about the Spirit of the Lord giving Samson strength. I attempted to sensitively work through some of the more provocative parts of the story while maintaining the integrity of just exactly what God did through Samson’s life. I was clear from the outset that Samson was somewhat of an anti-hero, a less than honorable hero, but didn’t want to get into all of the details. However, I really wanted to end with Samson’s final act of heroism where he brings down the Philistine temple. What’s a children’s pastor to do, especially when we had all ages present and many visitors?
I’m not one to shy away from the trickier parts of the Bible. If anything, I jump at the chance to share them because I believe they are important and do not get talked about enough. I try to do things in an age appropriate way and be sensitive to my audience, but without making the Bible out to be something it isn’t, namely a fun book with cute little stories about bunnies, princesses, superheroes, and unicorns (which are actually mentioned in the KJV oddly enough). When teaching on David nearly assassinating Saul in the cave, I told the kids Saul was, “reading the paper.” The older kids understood what I meant and my body language pretty much gave it away, but the younger kids didn’t as much and parents were thankful for that. Also, when teaching about David defeating Goliath I got to the part right before David decapitated his fallen foe, but cliffhangered it and told the kids if they wanted to read the rest of the story they could read it with their parents when they got home.
However, with Samson’s story, it was hard to tell the end without it becoming clear that he committed suicide in his final act of strength. I asked my pastor what he thought about teaching that part of the story. His response was perfect. “It’s in the Bible, isn’t it?” This simple statement told me two things about him. First, he’s not afraid of the tricky stuff either. Second, he trusted that I would teach it appropriately. I never expressly mentioned that Samson killed himself that day, but also didn’t shy away from the fact that he brought the building down and killed many of his enemies that day.
I know there are stories in the Bible that kids really should not discover until they are older, sometimes much older. But I also think we do a disservice to God’s Word if we are not gut honest about what it is. The Bible teaches us about man’s depravity and our great need for a redeemer. It’s real life stuff, murder, sex, love, salvation, hope, fear, peace, struggle, pain, sickness, healing, rebellion. God put that stuff in there for a reason. I think part of the problem we have with the Biblical illiteracy in our world today is we have avoided the tough parts so long we’ve made the Bible boring and unrealistic.
Have you found yourself afraid to share certain parts of a particular Bible story with your kids? What have you done to sensitively share those parts without watering down God’s word?
As an aside: I’ve always pictured Samson as a skinny man whose strength wasn’t found in his muscles but in his God. Especially because Samson’s acts of strength are always preceded by the words, “The Spirit of the Lord came on him” which seems to say that his strength wasn’t always present. I picture him like the Incredible Hulk, normal until his strength is needed. That may not be good theology, but it’s encouraging for a muscularly challenged guy like myself.