All things "Jesus in Your Heart"
Hello! This week the parent and kid questions happen to be related, though that won't always be the case. I do hope to pick a story for the breakdown that speaks to the kid-question, as a general rule.
So scroll on to talk about
Alternatives to "asking Jesus into your heart"
Answering a kid who asks "how Jesus can be in everyone's heart at once?"
The story of Jesus calling the 12 disciples
You asked: What’s a different way to talk to my kid about life with Jesus that isn’t the “ask Jesus into your heart” narrative for salvation? I know it’s not theologically correct but I don’t know what to replace it with for my littles.
I imagine part of what you’re noticing is that “Jesus in your heart” focuses on just the individual, when God’s story is also communal. Saying yes to Jesus means we join a family. Jesus’ mission was, in part, about expanding the boundaries of God’s family to the nations (as was always the dream in forming the people Israel.)
The phrase is also a metaphor, and kids tend to be concrete and literal. (More on that in the Kid Question).
Here’s one option that points to the communal while having an individual response. It also overlaps with the ways kids will hear the stories of Jesus and his followers.
We’re invited (and can say yes.) We can follow (and get to know God as we do.)
Sounds like: “When Jesus was on earth, he would invite people to follow him. At that time, that meant they actually started traveling with Jesus, learning from him, but most of all, getting to know him. So people would say yes and follow.
Now, we’re invited too! We’re invited by Jesus to follow him, and we can say yes. Like those followers, we get learn from Jesus, and most of all get to know him. I think, as you get to know Jesus, you’ll discover how much he loves you and you can trust him.
Someday, you might be ready to say, "I’m a follower of Jesus," like the first people with Jesus did, like [co-parent or grandparent or other loved ones] and I say. And I’m here to help you get to know Jesus bit by bit as we explore the Bible, talk to God, ask questions, and things like that.”
Your kids asked: How can God be in everyone’s hearts at the same time?
“Jesus in your heart” language is so common that it’s likely to get to a kid even if you are talking about it in other ways. So, how might you answer their questions?
Affirm the truth within the phrase: “God is with everyone all the time because God is so big. Since God isn’t a creature, They can be everywhere at once. Isn’t that wild?”
Explain how heart is an expression: “Having Jesus in your heart is an expression, like, ‘Let’s hit the road!’ Do we actually walk out and hit the street? No, it means time to go. Jesus in our heart is also an expression. There isn’t a tiny Jesus inside you, like an action figure.”
Offer a simple redirection: “One way people talk about God with us is “living in our heart”, because it’s an expression that reminds them that God is super close and always with us. It doesn’t mean that God is inside our actual heart that pumps blood, it means that nothing separates us from God, ever.”
Bible Story Breakdown: Jesus Calls the Disciples
Since we’re talk about following, let’s do a quick breakdown of the original Bible story for this idea: Jesus inviting the first disciples to follow him.
Found in: Matthew 4:18-22 or Luke 5:1-11
Good for Ages: 2 and up, read or paraphrased
God-centered Storytelling Truth: Jesus invites us to follow him
Summary for the grownups: Jesus isn't simply asking people to help him 'evangelize' (i.e. fish for people), he is forming a group of 12 to represent Israel, God's people. Jesus is being who Israel was always meant to be: the one to show who God is and what God's like to the world, so that everyone can join God's family. The 12, then, are a 'first family' that point to the bigger family. The first invitation to them points to the invitation we all have.
Young kids might enjoy a game of Follow the Leader, ending with, “In our game we actually move around. When we follow Jesus, it means that anywhere we go, we are loved and can show love!”
Older kids might be interested in how Jesus’ 12 disciples were very different from each other as a symbol of God’s work. For example, Matthew’s a tax collector--a stooge to the Roman government. Simon the Zealot was part of an organized resistance to Rome that could even be violent. And there they are together.
Two wonder statements for this story:
I wonder if anyone ever regretted saying, “Yes”?
I wonder what the family and friends of the 12 disciples thought about their choice to follow?
May you hear Jesus' invitation to follow as a reflection of his deep love. May you find the courage, today and everyday, to say, "Yes."