THE LOVE BRIDGE: Learning about Jesus. By Jonathan Schkade
THE LOVE BRIDGE: Learning about Jesus. By Jonathan Schkade. Illustrated by Tim Bradford. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2017. 40 pages. Hardcover. $10.99.
The Love Bridge is a children’s book written by Jonathan Schkade that teaches children the narrative of Scripture with an appropriate emphasis on Jesus Christ.
The book starts with God’s love manifested in creation. The severity of sin is illustrated as the shattering of God’s creation. Fractured lines run through images of the world and even through people themselves. A simple and brief definition of sin (illustrated as the throwing of stones that shatter the world) is presented as something we do in thoughts, words, and choices. It’s also clear that sin is something we’re born with. A well-crafted line in the book at this point is, “When we sin, brokenness spreads.”
The solution to all this brokenness is the love of God, revealed specifically in Jesus. Jesus loves everyone, feeds them, heals them, and delivers God’s Word to them. Furthermore, he takes our sins to the cross where he dies. The accompanying illustration is of Jesus dragging a net filled with stones up Mt. Calvary. The resurrection is brightly depicted with pink sunbursts emanating from Jesus standing before an open tomb with nail pierced hands. With arms outstretched, Jesus is said to be the “love bridge to God.”
In keeping with our Trinitarian theology, God is also said to send his Spirit to us to trust and believe that Jesus died to forgive our sins. God is credited with healing our brokenness via Jesus’ love and forgiveness. A smattering of different images show the many ways that God continues to show his love to us. These images are astutely bookended by traditional images of baptism (seashell) and the Lord’s Supper (host and chalice).
Looking forward to our future hope, the book concludes with the illustration of a bridge bedecked in hearts, spanning into the setting sun with the promise that “God will take us across the bridge of Jesus’ love to live with Him forever in heaven.”
The book then concludes with a citation of John 14:6.
This children’s book tells the story of salvation in only 202 words. The illustrations are simplistic and well done. They accompany the text well. I’d say this book is geared for children ages five and under (though the message is, of course, for everyone).
My gripe with this book is the same gripe I have with most children’s books. It’s poor on eschatology. The end of the book is “And someday God will take us across the bridge of Jesus’ love to live with Him forever in heaven.”
I understand this is a children’s book and not a treatise on eschatology, but neither the Second Article nor Third Article of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creed end with people going to live with God forever in heaven. Instead, they each end with Christ returning to his people.
The wonderful illustrations of this book actually highlight why its ending doesn’t fit. What’s the point of Jesus coming to earth to heal the shattered and broken world if he’s just going to build a bridge and take us away from it all? Why bother restoring a broken creation if Jesus’ love is just going to whisk us away to someplace else?
The last page could have been improved without too many changes. The addition of Jesus Christ walking on the bridge back to earth with the words, “And someday Jesus will return to us and we will live forever with Him in love” would have been a simple conclusion that is more faithful to the biblical witness of the end times and our creedal theology.
As far as children’s books go, you can hardly go wrong with the purchase of this one. Even with its unsatisfying eschatology it’s still far more edifying than anything Llama Llama or Pete the Cat delivers. Many churches have cry rooms. Many congregations run a preschool. This book belongs in those places, and in the homes of any Christian family, seeking to share the love of Jesus Christ with their children. This book would also make a wonderful gift to give on the occasion of baptisms.
Rev. Timothy A. Koch, Pastor of Concordia and Immanuel Lutheran Churches in Cresbard and Wecota, South Dakota.