It is not hard to see the joy that comes into our lives with the birth of a child. Everyone celebrates. Social media explodes. Something about babies causes hope to spike and joy to become contagious. I dare you to look at that baby and not smile from ear to ear and your heart not just melt! It is like we are all being refreshed in some way.
The Bible calls children a blessing from the Lord. It is his message that there is still a future, and that he still is working to make the world better.
We as the church need to be sure we adopt God’s view of things. We see sin as God sees sin. We seek to love as God loves. We try to treat people as God treats people. And we need to view children the way God does. It is not hard, either, because God makes it clear repeatedly in Scripture what he thinks about children.
First, we need to honor obligations God puts in place for our own children. The most important thing is to convey to children the nature and character of God.
We are to teach our children about what God has done and what he is like (Psalm 78).
We are to talk about God and his will as our children grow (Deuteronomy 6).
We are raise our children in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6).
How we discipline them and what we discipline them for, how we meet their needs, and how we model love and touching and respect and responsibility all communicate something about their Creator. The goal is to make a transition of revering us to revering God as smooth as possible. In a sense, God’s will about everything is revealed so that we can model God to our children and raise them properly.
But there is a second thing about children that is crucial, and it is not restricted to our own. God expects his people to have a gracious view of children who are in need. The three groups of people closest to the heart of God are widows, orphans, and the poor. They become a test to see just how faithful his people are. God’s people should be on the leading edge of having compassion and a heart of service and love for children who, for whatever reason, are left without protection and representation by a loving, functional parent or guardian.
This is so fundamental that James is crystal clear: religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this, to look after orphans and widows in their distress. Our religion must be more than talk, whether in song or in prose. It must be action and, in particular, action toward the most vulnerable.
And there is a third emphasis that is even more general than this. It again includes children beyond our own. It comes with a couple of reprimands, just to be sure we get it. It is to be a blessing to all children.
The church, in order to be like God, must be a very, very, very, very child friendly place!
It must be a community of people where children are known by name and are loved and nurtured by everyone in it. I often wonder why parents wanted their children to come to Jesus so that he could touch them and bless them (Luke 18:15). What was it about him that parents clamored to have their children be in his presence? I am not sure I can answer that, but I know it is true
I know that when the disciples grew tired of this and tried to discourage it, Jesus issued a firm warning to them. He “rebuked” the disciples. It sounded like this, “Don’t you DARE get in the way of children coming to me!” Why? Because the kingdom belongs to people just like them. We need to know the names of the kids at church. We need to make it a habit to engage them in conversation. We want them to know they are not just “put up with” but are very much embraced. Not only that, but they are parables for us. We look at them and we study them because the kingdom actually belongs to people who can become like them in some way. So we keep them among us as reminders that we cannot get far from what they are without losing our way. In another place, Jesus warns those who become a stumbling block to children (physical children or spiritual children) that it would be better for them to have a millstone put around their necks and drop into the sea. That is pretty clear, isn’t it?
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this, to look after orphans and widows in their distress…
May we be a community that takes seriously our responsibility to our children! We do that by making sure our homes are Christ centered. And we do that by having our kids at Bible class and at youth events that will strengthen their spiritual lives.
May we be a community that blesses its children by hugging them and smiling at them and calling them by name and asking what is going on in their lives. Our children need to associate the church as a community of people who loves them.
May we be a community that even looks outside of itself and engages itself in caring for the children of the world in need of protection and security. Only then will we really have a view of children that is anything like our Lord’s.
To celebrate this emphasis, we are having “Let the Children Come to Me” Sunday on February 17th. We will give attention to all three phases of caring for children. We will have Bible class for the kids and while they are learning, we will hear what is going on at Children’s Homes, Inc. in Paragould to help children who are in dangerous and vulnerable situations.
After class, we will have a special prayer for our children who have been born in the last couple of years. Their families will stand before us and we will stand with them to ask God’s blessing on us all having a role in encouraging them. And we will offer a potluck meal to all those who are further interested in learning about the situation of foster care in our area, and how we can help stand in the gap for kids who are forced into “no man’s land.”
We want to be a place where children are safe, secure, and spiritually fed so as to become God’s people for the next generation. In order to do this right, we must be a church that always holds out the banner, “Let the Children Come Here!”