A few months ago I began to wonder if my sons knew what the Bible was all about. Contrary to what I wanted to imagine after knowing both of them had sat in church services, Sunday school classes, religious school seats, and summer youth camps almost beyond counting – I began to suspect they hadn’t a clue what all the fuss was over. So, I gave them a quiz: In one word, what would you say God or the Bible is all about?
Once I heard my son’s answers, I began giving a quick version of this quiz to almost every Sunday school student I could find. To my horror, none of them gave the answer Christ said was central to understanding Christianity. This set of lessons exists and is growing in size to help alleviate that spiritual shortcoming. As first Timothy 3:16-17 said, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man [or woman] of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” So, first for my sons, then for all children, I created a set of lessons that focused on the one-word truth I had expected they all knew.
What were the answers these children gave that so disturbed me? My oldest son picked the word “discipline.” That is perhaps because when he was younger I had a sign above my desk that said, “God has one son without sin but no sons without discipline.” Which is true. But when I asked at what end discipline was suppose to aim, he didn’t have an answer. My younger son said the Bible was about stories. But when I asked the point of the stories, he hadn’t a clue either.
That was the start of the matter. After I brought this question to my fourth-grade Sunday school class, I knew, for certain, that I was on to something. What really got my attention was this this: It took five seconds, literally, for them to explain to me that Satan was about hate and evil. But it took almost ten minutes of prodding to get them to say that God and the Bible was all about love.
I am a high school math teacher by trade. In a vein similar to this religious blind spot, most new math teachers assume that if children can show their work and end up with the correct answer, then they understand what they are doing. It occurs to very few new teachers that the majority of student have no idea why they are doing beyond, “We’ll, because that’s what my last teacher said to do.”
Whether spiritually or mathematically, people often go through the motions without understanding the reason behind the motions at all. After a time young and old alike know the expected behaviors and are great at delivering them. But they often don’t fully understand the reason behind the behaviors. The real danger in this is that when the larger crowd shifts behavioral expectations, many Christians will have no firm reason as to why they should not shift right along with them – no unmovable, inalterable, one-word anchor that will keep them from drifting with the tides or giving in to the buffeting storms of fear, despair, temptation, or outright deception.
The Sunday school lessons that follow are meant to make one thing and one thing alone clear: In every facet of its being, the moral center of the Christian universe is love of God and of neighbor as self. All else revolves around such love like spoke to hub, planet to sun, life to breath.
- Lesson 1: How to Ask the First Question (coming soon)
Read More from Love: The Foundation
In 2002, I visited Maine to see Gregg, my college roommate, and his young family. At the Naval Academy, Gregg and I made strange bedfellows: