Suffer the Children to Come
Jesus Loves Children!
Our Responsibility Before God
One of the most precious gifts that has been given to human beings by their Creator is the ability to produce another fellow creature created in the image of God Himself. It is an awesome privilege to be given the responsibility to bring children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And it is one that we should never take for granted. Indeed, every generation has to make sure that their children are reared in such a way that they hear about and experience God's love for them so that they might, when the time comes, accept his love and respond to the gospel message.
In fulfilling this mission, it is important to know that God has a special love for children that goes beyond even the love an earthly parent can know. Scripture is full of verses about his feelings for them and how we should treat them.
I. God's Special Love for Children
Throughout the Bible, we see God's special relationship with children. We find in Psalm 127, for instance that God gives children as a reward. The Psalmist tells us:
"Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court" (3-5).
For the children who have no father, the Lord gives this promise:
"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling" (Psalm 68:5).
It is interesting that Scripture often puts widows and orphans together as persons that God especially cares for. In ancient society, women were more dependent upon men for sustenance. There was no welfare in those days and no government help for food and housing. Also, the husband and father played the role of protector and defender against those who would seek to take advantage of his family. Those who had no husband, and the children who had no parents were particularly vulnerable because they had no one to take care of and defend them against those who would do them harm. God himself took responsibility for those unable to take care of themselves. Psalm 10:17,18 tells us:
"O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more."
In the Law of Moses God gave specific instructions for his people in caring for widows and orphans as well and gave harsh consequences to those who shirked their responsibility (Exodus 22:22,23).
In the New Testament children had a special place in the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ. One day some children were brought to Jesus for him to lay hands on them and to pray. The disciples rebuked them and tried to keep them away from their busy master. But our Lord would have none of it. He said: "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:14)
Our Lord went beyond this when he said that children would be the greatest in His Kingdom and that a person must actually become like a child in order to inherit the Kingdom of God. Scripture states:
"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children,you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." (Matthew 18:1-5).
Children have an unquestioning faith and Jesus here is characterizing a person's conversion as a simple, helpless childlike dependence upon the Lord. Like children, we must come to the Christ without any achievements and accomplishments of our own to commend us. It is putting our trust completely and without reservation in Jesus alone.
Beyond all this we've just mentioned there is, I believe, the greatest demonstration of Jesus' love for the children. The Lord gives a solemn warning to anyone who would seek to harm a child by leading him or her astray. He puts them on notice by saying this:
"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matthew 18:6).
This should make anyone who harms a child in any way to fall on their knees in utter terror and beg forgiveness for what they've done! God does not take lightly this great sin. And we, his people, shouldn't either!
II. Remaining Faithful in a Changing Culture
Unfortunately in our modern American society there is a cultural change that is allowing more and more of those people to whom Jesus gave warning to thrive. And for those who have children, it gives to them an uneasy feeling of dread unlike we're able to remember having existed in our country before. And it is in this culture, more than ever, that we need to do our job of protecting and nurturing our kids.
How a society treats the weakest and most vulnerable among them has a lot to say about the character of that group of people. The world in which we live has become a more hostile and violent place for children in America. And it seems so much harder being a parent in today's world than it was even a generation ago. Of course I cannot speak for other cultures but would suspect that there are similar things happening in other parts of the world as well.
Our greatest fear in school in the past was being sent to the principal's office because we didn't listen to our teacher or because we did something horrible like chewing gum in class. And of course, the dread of the principal telling our parents that we acted inappropriately was downright blood-curdling!
I guess that every generation looks back at the "good old days" with nostalgia. But in many ways, those days actually were better if you were a kid in the United States.
Many more are now growing up in single parent families due to the skyrocketing divorce rate and thus they don't always have the benefit of a good father figure. Indeed, all a person has to do is go on the internet and view study after study of the negative consequences the lack of a father figure has on the home and the children. Of course the emphasis here is on a good father and not one who neglects his God-given responsibility. There is too much of that as well in this culture with similar consequences.
I was a teenager in the 70's and when I was growing up parents would allow their children to go out and play without a lot of direct supervision. We could be at the neighbors and our parents, though they had a vague idea, didn't always know exactly where we were. It was a time when neighbors helped look out for each others kids. And, if you were in the city, when the streetlights came on, you had to get back home. Although, it may have happened on rare occasions, you hardly ever heard of children being abducted.
There was, however, a genuine concern in the 80's that the so called latch-key kids would not do well due to not having enough adult supervision. In many cases both parents had to work to get enough money for the family so kids had to come home to an empty house and let themselves in while the parents were away. While most of these kids seem to have made it all right, the latch-key kid has now given way to the helicopter parent who hovers over their children. This is done by the former latch-key kids themselves. Among other reasons for this phenomena is the whole idea of a fear of leaving their precious children alone in today's world.
Child sex trafficking was certainly not on our minds years ago. We never thought about such horrible things or knew occurrences like this could even happen! Unfortunately, this is an all too common part of a parent's life today.
Also, when we were sent to school just two generations ago, there was never any worry that we might not make it back home because of some crazed gunman shooting up the place and the people in it. In fact, we had gun safety classes in those days in which children were allowed to bring their own guns to school. And we never thought of shooting one another.
It is in this harsher, more sinful, society in which we are living that parents and other concerned Christian adults have to remain strong. We need to keep our children safe and continue our mission of passing our faith in Jesus Christ to the generations that will take over when we are long gone.
III. Extending Love to All Children
Also, while keeping our own children safe and secure and imparting to them God's love, we must not forget about the children of the world that are in dire need. As I heard someone once say: "We in North America are unfairly blessed!" We are indeed better off than 95% of the world. And we were not given these blessings to keep to ourselves. Our blessings should be used to bless others less fortunate.
God's love is not exhausted by one particular culture. His love extends to the children of the world and we must follow his leading to help those in need.
Nearly 1/2 of the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day. And according to UNICEF 1 billion children live in poverty. About 22,000 children a day die because of poverty.
In a recent study, over a one year period, it was found that 165 million children under the age of 5 were stunted in their growth because of malnutrition. In other words they had a reduced rate of growth and development because they didn't have enough food to eat! This is the worst type of injustice that anyone can imagine!!
And we have to remember that a child with an empty stomach cannot even think about spiritual things. We need to care for their physical needs before they will be open to the gospel.
Sadly we cannot, as individuals or church's, help everyone. However, we can help one, or a few. There are many good Christian organizations out there that are seeking to alleviate this travesty of justice. One such group is Compassion International. According to their own website this is what they do:
"Compassion International is a child-advocacy ministry that pairs compassionate people with those who are suffering from poverty. The ministry releases children from spiritual, economic, social, and physical poverty. The goal is for each child to become a responsible and fulfilled adult."
I like them because they not only provide for physical needs but preach the Gospel while doing this vital service. However, this is one of many good organizations. Every Christian should at least consider giving to one of them. Just make sure that the majority of the money isn't going toward administration fees, but is going directly to help the children and their families.
The bottom line is that, whether at home or abroad, children are a gift from the Lord. They really belong to him. And they are on loan from the Heavenly Father. We are his stewards to lead them safely to adulthood and ultimately back to God.
There is an old song that goes like this:
"Jesus loves the little children;
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white;
They are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world."
Those whom God deems so precious must not be neglected by his followers. We are their defenders. We are their protectors. And they are our legacy that will carry on the Christian faith for years to come should Jesus tarry. There is no greater job than to bring up a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And we all have a part in that work of love. All of us, whether we are parents or not, have some influence on a child at one time or another. May God be glorified in the way that we handle that influence!!
© 2018 Jeff Shirley