I’ve been going over the Lord’s prayer with the children in worship during Lent, and tomorrow I come to the verse, “But deliver us from evil.”
I must admit, it is with some trepidation that I approach this peitition, so this post is an attempt to prepare myself for the challenge.
So how do we talk to children about evil?
One response might be: Don’t! They will find out about evil soon enough — no need to scare them now. Let them have their innocence.
I’m all for allowing kids hold onto the innocence, but it seems to me that children possess an innate knowledge of the existence of evil. When a child awakens in terror from a nightmare, or becomes hysterical in a department store at the thought that she’s lost mommy and daddy, is there not therein expressed an awareness that evil lurks in the world?
Fairy tales commonly have characters who embody evil — the witch in Hansel and Gretal, for instance. Kids love these stories, perhaps because they allow them to address their fears in a context where good eventually triumphs over evil.
The story of Jesus can’t really be told without taking seriously the reality of evil. It’s there in the birth story with Herod’s slaughter of all the male children in the land under the age of two. It shows up in the figure of the devil tempting Jesus to abuse his power, and in the demons oppressing various poor souls Jesus encounters in his ministry. And it is surely evil that conspires to nail Jesus to a cross when he finally arrives in Jerusalem.
In the end, the Gospel tells the story of the ultimate triumph of good over evil. It isn’t, however, a victory easily won. In essence, Jesus absorbs the force of evil into his own body, thereby disarming it. And those who follow his name are expected to do some of the same.
I think I will begin tomorrow by asking the kids what they think evil is. I suspect they will already have some notions of what evil is up to in this world. We’ll take it from there. Pray for me, and for our kids.
Deliver us from evil, Abba Daddy God. Deliver us from our fears of the things that go bump in the night, real and imagined, and save us from the cruelties we are capable of committing. Empower us to do what we can to defuse the evil that ravages our world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.