Child’s Play or Sacrilege?

“Aww, Mom, we were playing crucifixion!” my seven-year-old guest announced with disappointment as the two moms came outside with the news it was time to go home.

Sure enough, they had made a cross from scrap wood and laid it on the ground. They had pretended to crucify their friend and carry him to the tomb. “It was my turn to be Jesus,” the young boy lamented.

Should my children play this way? The crucifixion was a severe gruesome sacrifice of the Savior for the sake of mankind. It is a serious matter and here is being so flippantly portrayed by children.

Yes, they are children, six of them, all age nine and younger. It’s the week after Easter and they all just watched a well-done cartoon Easter video for children on this very subject.

Was it sacrilege or their version of the Passion Play? Children at young ages often initiate unintentional disrespect. They need to be taught to not ask why people are so fat and to not run in church. Even George Washington made his own list of “civility” rules at age fourteen which included, “Don’t point out lesions on a person’s face” while talking to them.

Did I need to sit the children down and explain how serious this matter was? Or would that firmly cement it into the realm of grown-ups? Jesus died once for all and all includes children. As a parent, I have the distinct privilege and awesome responsibility to decide what is appropriate and inappropriate for my children. (Gulp).

Generally, pretend crucifixions for children are frowned upon, and you won’t find them alongside the cutesy Noah’s Ark story in children’s Sunday school lessons. As a general rule, I can understand that, but should I nix this type of spontaneous “pretend”? They all knew about Jesus and no one was hurt or upset. They were genuinely having fun exploring a Biblical truth through play.

On the flipside, I have to smile. They were playing “crucifixion” and not some sort of battle game with swords or using inappropriate language or humor. They weren’t using that frowned upon phrase, “Come back here, I am going to KILL you!” After all, they are five boys and one girl, ages 5 through 9. My friend is right when she said, “There are a lot worse games to be playing.” Children are exposed to all kinds of adult things in today’s world. Parents even need to monitor the commercials. At least these children are well aware of Jesus’ death and resurrection, albeit from a child’s innocent perspective, but I believe that is a good thing. After all, these children weren’t exactly “The Herdmans” from Barbara Johnson’s classic, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” The Herdmans might have tried to find real nails or tied a kid up. These children knew better than that.

Perhaps next time, I will watch their backyard play, pray for wisdom, make sure it is appropriate and rejoice that they know the truth well enough to portray it. I may even clap at the end.