8 Year Old Grasps Substitutionary Atonement

Written by Joel on December 30th, 2009

Recently I shared a story about a boy who was sent to undergo psychological evaluations for drawing a crucifix to fulfill the assignment “draw something that reminds you of Christmas.” The boy’s family took him to The National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette to view a Christmas display. In addition to the Christmas display were several crucifixes throughout the shrine. School administrators were concerned when the boy put his name above the Jesus figure. When asked about the drawing, the boy said the person on the cross was himself. He was sent for psychological evaluations which determined that the boy is not a threat to himself or others.

This boy may understand what many older and wiser people fail to see their whole lives. That Jesus died for our sins. The ten cent theological word for this is atonement. The idea that Jesus took punishment in our place is substitutionary atonement, an idea made popular in Western Christianity by St. Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th century. It is also interesting that when thinking of Christmas, the boy immediately went to the cross. That Christ’s primary work on earth was his passion.

I think the school administration is right, it is crazy: That God became man in order to die for our sins. In the church we call this the mystery of Christ. It is a mystery many will spend a life time attempting to grasp.

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