TRINITARIAN LIVING – EVEN FOR KIDS
Thus, keeping the Trinity as core to faith and worship, how can we in turn lead our own children into ‘Trinitarian living’? That might sound foreign to our ears, but remember that God is the Trinity. What we simply mean is ‘living with God’, but with the recognition of who God is and what he is like. Remember that the ‘eternal life’ that Jesus gives us is not about life in heaven (although it includes that), but about knowing God. As Jesus said:
“Now this is eternal life, that they know you the one true God, and Christ Jesus whom you sent” (Jn. 17:3)
That said, we really can lead our children into a more full and satisfying relationship with God by helping them consciously relate to God according to who he really is: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And I believe we can do this within the simple framework of gospel living that we are hopefully striving to teach them already.
1. The Trinity and Salvation
By teaching the Trinity, we can communicate two very important truths to our kids about salvation in Jesus.
The first is that they can be assured that Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to cover their sins because it was God who paid the price. “It is finished” (John 19:30) Jesus cried out just before he died. Everything that was needed to pay for their sins was accomplished by Jesus who was God himself.
The second thing the Trinity teaches them about salvation is the greatness of God’s love for them. What personal cost would it have been to God if Jesus was just a man, or even an angel or a ‘created’ Son? Worse still, how could God remain fair and just while laying the blame for our sins on someone else? But the love of God is shown in his willingness to take the punishment for our sins upon himself, and the love of God the Father is understood more clearly, even for children, in realizing that He was willing to sacrifice his own Son to do it. Likewise the love of the Son for the Father is made more clear in realizing that Jesus was willing to be that sacrifice to fulfill his Father’s will. Only framing God’s love within the Trinity will give our kids a true understanding of what that love is really like. As Paul taught us: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. (Romans 5:8)
2. The Trinity and New Identity
The Trinity also provides the gift of identity to our children in a culture which sees identity as something they must find or create within themselves. Children today are taught that they can determine who they are, using whatever criteria they choose, now even to the point of choosing their own gender. The truth is that our identity is found in our relatedness to others, not in ourselves. Therefore our true identity is determined by our relatedness to God in Christ. He both declares and supplies our identity which is found only in our relationship to him as his children. Again, emphasizing the work of God among the three persons of the Trinity, Paul teaches us that the Father sent the Son so that we might “receive adoption to sonship”. This isn’t just information we receive, but the three persons of the Trinity actually work together to make this an experiential reality.
“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out ‘Abba, Father’” (Gal. 4:6)
3. The Trinity and God’s Love
This leads us to perhaps the most important truth about the Trinity. In giving us our true identity in Jesus, the Triune God who eternally exists in loving relatedness, and is therefore by his very nature love, brings us into loving relatedness with himself for all eternity. Listen to Jesus’ words:
“Righteous Father…I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:25-26)
Oh that our children (and we ourselves) would grasp the wonder of wonders that in Christ, God the Father loves them with the same love that he has for Jesus the Son. Remind your children often that the Father’s love for the Son is the same love that he has for them.
4. The Trinity and Knowing God
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Cor. 13:14)
When our children first place their faith in Jesus, we hopefully feel the burden upon us as parents to disciple them into Christian maturity. However, the temptation is too often to begin by teaching them all of the ‘do’s and don’ts’ that we feel are necessary for Christian faithfulness. Moral instruction certainly has its place, but as Michael Reeves reminds us, “Christianity is not primarily about lifestyle change; it is about knowing God.”5 Starting our kids off right therefore requires that they begin with a proper concept of God, and the starting point for that is the biblical revelation of God as Trinity. As St. Augustine puts it in speaking of the Trinity:
“…in no other subject is error more dangerous,…or the discovery of truth more profitable.”
My hope is that these reflections would ignite a flame in you to explore or re-explore this great bedrock of Christian faith. Ever mindful of parents’ need for resources, I have devoted the recommended readings section on the back page to works that will help you learn and teach the Trinity in your own home.
For some other helpful posts for teaching the Trinity to kids, check out:
Also, here is a great teaching tool for young children.
5. Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity, (Westmount, Ill, IVP Academic Press, 2012), p. 10.
6. Augustine, On The Trinity, 1.3.5.