War and Peace. That is often how the world views peace – the opposite of war, the absence of conflict. Yet Jesus himself was at times in conflict with people like the Pharisees. Could it be that the peace mentioned as a fruit of the Spirit is something more?
The answer might be found in Ephesians 2:11-22. Jesus is the Peace. His death, burial and resurrection brought peace between Jews and Gentiles…it gave Gentiles the opportunity to be reconciled with God.
So the peace in the fruit of the Spirit is probably more about being reconciled to God, becoming a welcomed part of God’s family, the church. Does it also mean peace in the way the world usually uses it? At times, it may. In a healthy family conflicts must be resolved or the family stops working well. If we sin and don’t repent, we don’t have peace with God. We must repent to resolve the separation our sin created.
These are deep concepts for young children to understand. They can understand that conflict causes separation. Our sin causes a gap between us and God that God doesn’t want to be there. Conflict with our Christian brothers and sisters can distract the church from serving others and sharing their faith.
To help your kids begin understanding these principles, you can make it a bit more concrete. It’s fine to still discuss the deeper ideas in peace, but don’t be discouraged if they look puzzled. Focus on the concrete concept of peace – resolving conflict with others.
Here are some fun ways to explore conflicts and peace with your kids.
- Guess what happens next. Most books – even for children – involve some sort of conflict that must be resolved. As you read to your kids, pause when the conflict becomes apparent. Ask your kids what they think will happen next. What are some things the characters could do that will make the situation worse? What are some things they could do to resolve the conflict and be at peace?
- Look back in time. History is filled with conflicts. Examine some of them with your kids. What started the conflict? Sometimes the situation that eventually led to the conflict seems almost silly to us years later. At other times, people felt justified – whether they actually were or not is another discussion. What did various people do that made the situation worse or better? You can make it more fun by using educational books and videos created for children to examine some conflicts. Try to find ones that will be new to your kids so they can look at them without preconceived notions.
- Someone has to win. Conflict is often the result of believing there is only one winner and one loser…everyone fights to be that winner. The reality is there are often other solutions where everyone would have won. It’s just that no one takes the time to find them. Teach your kids how to work through their own conflicts looking for those unique solutions that aren’t as obvious, but work better for everyone.
- The church family team. Participate as a family in service projects, mission efforts…anything where diverse people within your congregation work together to serve others and share their faith.
- Encourage quality apologies. Your kids may be too young to understand sin and repentance. They can however begin learning how to apologize to friends and family members properly. Apologies should include real sorrow and a statement of what they will do differently next time so it won’t happen again. There should also be an effort to make amends and a request for the other person to forgive them. Allowing your kids to kick the metaphorical dirt while mumbling “Sorry” won’t teach them about repentance or peace.
Peace is a tough fruit of the Spirit. The younger your kids are when they begin learning about it though, the easier it may become for them. It’s worth taking the time and effort to help them.