This child was not old enough to understand theology. I knew some Bible passages I could share with her. I decided instead to ask what she really wanted to know. I heard my Grandpa say, “I hope he burns in hell!”, but Grandma said, “You shut up!” Did my Daddy go to Hell because he shot himself? Now the issue was very clear.
My answer was, “Sometimes people say things when they hurt or are angry that are not true.” I don’t know why your Grandpa said what he did, but I do know that your Daddy believed he was going to heaven. I was there when he was baptized and said he believed in Jesus. Do you remember that?” She softly cried and whimpered, “Yes.”
What to say next seems very difficult. I believe that Jesus promised to all who believe in Him a place in what He called, “My Father’s house.” I heard your Daddy say, “I believe in Jesus. I think Jesus heard that and I believe He will keep His promises, do you?” She nodded her head quietly.
For me the simplest theology is faith in what God has done and what He promised to do. I couldn’t tell her all about eternity because I don’t know that. But even at her tender age we shared something together – we both believed Jesus would keep His promises.
Our conversation went on for a bit, but I learned two things from her question. First, I need to make sure what the question really means before I give an answer, especially to a child. Second, she needed to hear a loving word about her daddy more than a theological response.
Life after death is important, but life after death is more important. Sharing with our children what we believe and why we believe is the key to fulfilling parenthood. How are you answering the questions your children ask you? Think about that.