Several years ago I was asked to consider writing a book in a series of Christian education curriculum.

Had this been just any publisher, I might have run screaming in the opposite direction.

Don’t get me wrong; I love Jesus. But sometimes the things people say “in Jesus’ name,” well, they can be cringe-worthy, to say the least.

(What’s that weird song about the little cute sweet box to put Jesus in? Or is it a pocket to put Jesus in? Whatever it is, it is weird.)

As Harper Lee put it in To Kill a Mockingbird

“Sometimes the Bible in the hands of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hands of another.”

And Christian education materials for children can often be disappointing, if not, in fact, appalling. Once I sat in on a Sunday School class in which the lesson — from a very well-known Christian author — could be summed up thus: “obey authority and behave,” with no caveats concerning abuses of authority and how disobedience certainly has an important place in the Christian life (hi, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Moreover, a lot of kids’ curriculum relies on stories that are just not right for kids. Like, for example, Noah’s Ark, that favorite of nursery decoration themes, because ALL THE CUTE ANIMALS. Except it is actually a story about God destroying every living thing on the face of the earth except for a few. But enough about the kids’ curricula I don’t like.

Telling God's Story, Year 3. Photo courtesy Rachel Marie Stone.

Telling God’s Story, Year 3. Photo courtesy Rachel Marie Stone.

This curriculum, from Olive Branch Books, which is a division of Peace Hill Press, takes a different approach. It’s not pushing a narrow theological agenda, and it doesn’t talk down to kids. And it begins with Jesus.

In writing this just-released third volume, The Unexpected Way, I was myself delighted to rediscover that (to borrow Jonathan Merritt’s phrase) Jesus was even better than I imagined. And it’s my joy to introduce children to the Jesus of the Gospels in this book.

(The first two books, and the book introducing the series, were written by Peter Enns. Years 1-3, however, are not mutually exclusive nor are they necessarily sequential; each is about Jesus and the Gospels.)

Reading through the Gospels again and again as I wrote, I realized afresh and in some ways for the first time how upside-down and unexpected Jesus’ words and actions are. I like this Jesus so much better than the Jesus often dragged onto billboards and political podiums, and, dare I say, into the pulpit.

This is the Jesus who does the ‘wrong’ thing with the ‘wrong’ sort of people; who comforts the afflicted and in so doing afflicts the comfortable; the Jesus whose arms stretch wide and who issues an extravagant, almost embarrassing welcome.

This is the Jesus who is born poor and obscure; an unexpected Savior with an Unexpected Way.

(You can order The Unexpected Way for a child in your life, for a Sunday School class, or for yourself by visiting Peace Hill Press on the web, through Hearts & Minds Books, or on IndieBound

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