The children could hear right away in the opening of Galatians that the Apostle Paul makes a big deal about turning to a different Gospel:
6) I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel– 7) not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8) But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9) As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.
I asked the children to say in a nutshell the Gospel they have received through the teaching of Scripture. “Love your neighbor” was their resounding answer. I asked my students if it would be a different Gospel if they heard, “Love your neighbor. Love one another as God has loved you. You must submit to each other in love. AND you must always wear purple shoelaces.”
After a few giggles, one courageous student offered, “Well, it sounds like the Gospel. I think it’s the Gospel with just a little extra added on, because wearing purple shoelaces really isn’t a big deal, and it’s probably ok.”
I reached for the bucket of crayons and held up three. “How many crayons am I holding in my left hand?”
“Three!” Everyone could plainly see.
“And how many crayons am I holding in my right hand?”
“One!” It was clear to all.
“If I put them all in one hand, how many are there?”
“Four!” they correctly answered.
“Is three the SAME as four?” I asked.
“If these three crayons stand for the Gospel, and this one crayon stands for purple shoelaces, and I put them together, do I have a different Gospel?” I questioned my students.
“Yes! It’s a different Gospel because three is not the same as four!” Even the youngest child was convinced of the logic.
“Is ‘Love your neighbor AND always wear purple shoelaces’ the same Gospel you received?”
“NO!!! It’s a different Gospel!”
“Am I loving my neighbor if I won’t share my toys with someone just because he isn’t wearing purple shoelaces?”
” Am I loving my neighbor when I spend all my time and money on purple sparkly shoelaces, purple silk shoelaces, purple neon shoelaces, and show off all the fancy ways to tie them and wear them as belts, bracelets, and hair ribbons?”
“Am I loving my neighbor if I have a zillion purple shoelaces and I won’t give even one away to someone who has none?”
When a different “Gospel” is preached, the difference becomes a mechanism for judgment, self-righteousness, and hatred. We all are tempted to see who is “in” and “out” by clear criteria. As Christians, we often establish criteria measured by how we dress, and what we eat, and rigorous expectations for behavior. And when we establish the criteria by our own hand, it’s tempting to show just how great we are. Before we know it, we’re so consumed by the extra-peripherals that pervert the Gospel that we find ourselves deserters of the one, true, simple Gospel that first called us in the grace of Christ.