Story by Joanna Kimbrel
Believe it or not, the elementary-age children you parent, teach, and care for are ready for the book of Romans. It’s true that Paul’s letter to the Romans is notoriously intimidating. It covers topics like sin, election, and justification that can be difficult to grasp and accept whatever your age. Even Peter said some things in Paul’s letters are difficult to understand (2 Pet. 3:16), and Romans is Paul’s longest and arguably his most theologically dense epistle.
But though Romans doesn’t seem kid-friendly, it tells an adventurous story of peril and rescue. The book of Romans is about a hero. But not just any hero—the greatest hero of all time. He’s the hero who frees people from slavery, defeats the Devil, and even brings the dead back to life. He’s a hero who came to save villains!
Though Romans doesn’t seem kid-friendly, it tells an adventurous story of peril and rescue.
Wait a minute. Save villains? Isn’t the hero supposed to fight against the bad guys? What kind of story is this! It’s the story your kids need. It’s the story we all need.
Still intimidated? Here are three truths you can point out to kids as you read the book of Romans together.
1. You might not think you’re a villain, but you are.
What if I told you you’re a villain? That’s right. You’re the bad guy, and so am I. Every person in the whole world has the same big problem—sin. In fact, this problem is so big that Paul spends chapters 1–3 telling us about it. As you read, explain to kids that we sin when we disobey God. This makes us God’s enemies, the bad guys! We sin with our actions, our thoughts, and our hearts. We see our sin when we want to do things our way instead of God’s way. We see our sin when we want to hurt someone or take something that doesn’t belong to us. We see our sin when we’re unkind to others and always want to be first.
Why is sin such a big problem? Because in our sin, we love and worship things more than God. And sin has big consequences. The payment for our sin is death (Rom. 6:23). To live forever with God, we must become one of the good guys. We must be righteous—perfectly holy and right with God—but no one is righteous. Not one person (Rom. 3:10). This means every one of us deserves to die. Yes, that’s a big problem.
2. The good news is Jesus loves us even though we’re villains.
Instead of fighting against us, the greatest hero fights for us. He changes us from bad guys to good guys, from enemies to family. Jesus offers a perfect solution to our big problem. He offers himself! Even though we’re bad guys, he loves us and rescues us. Point out to your kids all the places in Romans that talk about the salvation we have in Jesus Christ (there are a lot of them). Remind the kids that Jesus was the only righteous person who never sinned. Tell them that Jesus didn’t deserve to die as we do, but he died in our place so we don’t have to. Jesus gives us his righteousness so we can live with God forever (Rom. 6:23).
Isn’t the hero supposed to fight against the bad guys? What kind of story is this!
How do we get Jesus’s righteousness? By trusting him (Rom. 1:16-17; 4:5). Explain to kids that having faith in Jesus means believing that he’s the Son of God who died for us and trusting him to save us from our sins. If we have faith in Jesus, he takes all our sin and gives us his perfect record. That’s really good news!
3. Jesus changes our villainous hearts and helps us serve others.
Jesus loves us when we’re bad guys and turns us into good guys. The gospel is the good news that those who trust Jesus will live with God forever, but it’s also the good news that Jesus changes hearts right now. Romans 12–16 tells how our lives should be different because of Jesus. Tell kids that when we trust Christ, he makes us new (Rom. 6:4).
Jesus saved us, so now we can love him and obey him (Rom. 12:1–2). When kids trust Jesus, it should change the way they obey their parents and teachers, treat their friends and siblings, and deal with disappointment. We can love others even if they act like bad guys toward us (Rom. 12). We obey God by obeying the people he put in charge (Rom. 13). We don’t always need to get what we want—we can give up things we want to show love to other people (Rom. 14). Jesus is the reason we want to obey, and he is the reason we can.
So pick up your Bible and read the book of Romans with the children in your care. Show them the Savior who saves even his enemies. And let God’s grace capture their imaginations and hearts. Help them to see their need for Jesus, the good news of his salvation, and the way he changes our lives.
Read more from Joanna Kimbrel in her new kids’ book, The Greatest Hero: The Book of Romans(Kaleidoscope Books, October 2022).