Discipling Children Regarding War

I have war on my mind these days, as I’m sure do most of you. The images of war: gutted buildings, fiercely solemn men, weeping women, haunted children—they pierce us to the heart. Even more piercing is this realization: the historical record proves that wartime is the norm for us – not times of peace. 

Of course, we do not revel in sin and war. We long for peace; we strive for peace; sometimes we even fight for peace. The apostle Peter exhorts believers living in Rome at a time of growing persecution to prepare their hearts and minds for action and to be ready to give reason for their hope. We are right to do the same. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us as he weeps over human sin and the devastation it brings: Part of our faithful response is to weep with those who weep. 

Though we bear witness to a history characterized by the bellicose, we know it’s not supposed to be this way. Our Creator made us for flourishing, for fruitfulnessfor gardens not for grenades. Before man’s rebellion (our first war against God and even against our creature-status), we walked in ultimate peace: right relationship with God, one another, and creation. Though we turned our backs on His design for us, the horror we feel in the face of war proves, in part, that we still image Him though through our sin, the image is marred. Our instinct that war is not how it is supposed to be shows that His imprint is still on us, His creation order is still integrated into our being. God is still with us.

This serves as the root of our discipleship with our children with regard to war. This is how we must speak to them of war. Allow me to spell it out as clearly and practically as I can:

  • Affirm the horror of war.
  • Gently tend to the emotions of your children.
  • Calmly model grief and compassion.
  • Pray with them for the Lord’s mercy.
  • Proclaim that war is not the way God intended for us to live.
  • Define and describe justice, define sin, tyranny, oppression—use words that help younger children to grasp concepts while protecting them from words that communicate violence beyond what they can handle.
  • Allow them to ask questions and be ready to discerningly answer according to what they can bear.
  • Explore some of our resources within WORLD News Group in general, and God’s WORLD News in particular, where we approach the topic in biblically sound, developmentally appropriate ways (see below).
  • Point to resources that help your older children wrestle with the theological and philosophical questions: books like When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty by Joni Eareckson Tada and C.S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain.
  • Take the opportunity to tell or retell the gospel narrative:
      1. God made us and His creation very good.
      2. Man sinned and brought evil into God’s good world.
      3. He did not leave us in our sin, but provided us salvation through His Son, Jesus.
      4. Though sin is still in the world, we have this hope: He is coming back to make all things new. He will wipe every tear from our eyes…

I do not lighten the gravity of war when I say that it allows us to tend to the concerns of discipleship. Though they are difficult conversations, they are opportunities to see our children recognize their dependence on Christ, and to see God’s grace abound.

Declaring the Truth, discipling our children in it, gently modeling love and compassion and teaching our children to do the same—this is our most important work.

"Declaring the Truth, discipling our children in it, gently modeling love and compassion and teaching our children to do the same—this is our most important work."

So, arm yourself and your children with the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. Remind yourself of its myriad promises:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4) 

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4) 

Our hope is not in whatever peace we can secure in this world, but in the lasting peace Jesus gives. Our security is not in earthly citizenship but in a heavenly kingdom. We are not guaranteed freedom from hardship, freedom from pain or from war’s callous harm. But in Jesus, we have this guarantee: He has overcome the world! 

***For resources within God’s WORLD News, I recommend our new issue of WORLDteen which has several articles that address war: a profile of President Zelenskyy in People Mover; Law ’n Order offers a story explaining the influence of oligarchs in closed countries and another on the website only about war crimes and the Geneva Convention; a brief byte with image from Mariupol in the Around the World spread on page 4; and an editorial cartoon illustrating how Russia’s conquest over Ukraine may encourage China circling like a shark around Taiwan (page 28). In WORLDkids we have a unit on Ukraine, putting the war into its social and geographic context—which is supplemented online with a video segment about refugees leaving the war zone. In each of these cases, the facts of the situation are presented reliably with a view to inform, educate, and even inspire.

Photos

1. Nadiya Trubchaninova, 70, cries over the coffin with the body of her son Vadym, 48, who was killed by a Russian Army gunshot last March 30, during his funeral in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, April 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

2. The daughter of Rostyslav Romanchuk, eight-year-old Viktoria, cries as her father’s casket is lowered into his grave at the Lychakivske Cemetery in Lviv. Romanchuk was one of 35 killed in an airstrike on a military base near the Polish border. Mourners gathered in Lychakivske cemetery in Lviv, for the burial of four Ukrainian soldiers: Oleh Yaschyshyn, Sergiy Melnyk, Rostyslav Romanchuk, and Kyrylo Vyshyvany, killed by a Russian airstrike on the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security, a military base in Yavoriv near the Polish border earlier in the week. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

3. Yehor, 7, stands holding a wooden toy rifle next to destroyed Russian military vehicles near Chernihiv, Ukraine, Sunday, April 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Kelsey Reed

Kelsey Reed