QBKidsChildren invite our acceptance as God accepts them. Children challenge us to accept them as Jesus accepted them.
Some of us find children in our midst an encouraging and stimulating presence. Others of us find them to be an unhelpful distraction. The story goes that an aging congregation called a new minister to church to see if the declining numbers could be turned around. The minister came and brought his very new family. On the first Sunday the young family were in attendance, it became obvious to all that having a small baby in their midst would require some adjustment.

The baby cried.

His presence made a difference. Many of the older women also cried. It had been so long since they had heard the cry of a small baby at church that to them the baby’s cry was a symbol of new life and hope for their little church family.
Not only do children invite attention, they also invite our acceptance of them. While some children might be shy, others are capable of launching themselves at people, invading their personal space and expecting a degree of love and acceptance that they just haven’t earned. They seem to think it’s their right to be loved and accepted. Such children are capable of assuming a level of friendship that probably isn’t really there … except in the mind of the child. Such is their trust.

I know this from my observation of my own daughter. When she was much younger I carefully watched her approach perfect strangers (children and adults) and say hello and expect to play with them. In later years the idea of ‘stranger danger’ as well as a growing reserve meant that she did this less often. Shyer children are no less inviting of our acceptance of them. They are waiting to be convinced of our welcome and trustworthiness. They will be won over by our patient and careful friendship towards them.

[blockQuote position=”center”]The very nature of children and who they are means that they are incapable of doing anything significant to earn our acceptance of them. They are simply themselves, warts and all, and simply invite our acceptance.[/blockQuote]

Now despite all that children are or are not, it is entirely up to us as to whether they are welcome or not. It is who we are as adults, in terms of our character, beliefs, attitudes and desires, that will determine a child’s place in our midst. This might range in response from, “A child should be seen and not heard!” through to, “Let them do what they like!” It could mean that “Children are the future!” or that “Children are part of our present!” (by the way, I only agree with one of these statements and entirely reject the other three. Now there’s a discussion!)

There are also a whole set of other responses that might be operating. In their helplessness perhaps a child stirs up our maternal or paternal instincts. Maybe we are instinctively attracted to a pair of smiling baby eyes and can not easily harm her with our rejection of her. Perhaps a child triggers deeply held prejudices that cause us to favour girls, or boys, or blue eyed babies, or dark haired children. Perhaps a child’s rowdiness causes us anxiety because we have a hearing disability. Perhaps their specific behaviour upsets us because of cultural or traditional differences. Perhaps their apparent lack of discipline at times concerns us. Perhaps prevailing attitudes of our society or sub-culture cause us to view children in a certain light.

And yet there is a challenge before us. Despite a child’s invitation for us to accept her or not … despite who we are and the attitudes that we hold towards children … the challenge is to accept children as Jesus did.
Mark10:13-16 reads as follows: “And they were bringing children to him, that He might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, He was indignant, and said to them: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of God … … And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.” (cf. Matthew 19:13-15 & Luke 18:15-17)

It was quite possible that in Jesus’ time there was a custom of children asking for the blessing or being brought by adults for the blessing of famous rabbis. Jesus was considered at the very least to be a rabbi if not a prophet or even the prophet “ who is to come into the world” (John 4:14; cf. Luke 7:16). (Weber. p15)

According to Mark’s and Luke’s account, children were brought “that He may touch them.” The touch of Jesus may have even been held in high esteem even by healthy people since it was often by his touch that Jesus healed the lepers, blind or sick. (Weber. p15)

When the disciples didn’t allow children to come forward for this blessing of Jesus, it provoked Jesus’ indignation. This is the only one of two places recorded in the New Testament where it is written that Jesus was indignant, the other being about the use of the temple for commercial use and the injustices around this. Jesus was not indignant at the children for their noise or interruption. Jesus was not indignant at presumption and intrusion of the parents and friends of the children who brought them along. Who was he indignant at? The disciples. Imagine that. The hero-leaders of ‘The Jesus Way’ getting it wrong once again. This comes out time and time again especially in Mark’s gospel. Perhaps they thought that the children or their older companions were ritually unclean and not fit or proper for Jesus presence. Being typical Jews of their time, perhaps they considered children as too insignificant to take up the time and attention of their master. (Weber, p16) Well they were wrong, wrong, wrong!

And so Jesus blessed the children. Matthew’s account concludes at this point however Mark’s and Luke’s accounts add another saying of Jesus.’ Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of God .’ Jesus was referring to the actual children which were brought to him therefore implying that “To these and other such children belongs the Kingdom of God.” (Weber, p18) At that very moment, the children received the greatest gift possible, the Kingdom of God, which is both a present and a future reality. (Weber, p19)

Here again is a picture of the God’s Good News presented by Jesus … to us. These children and children such as these have no merit, no qualification and no power or influence. In no way do they deserve to be counted among the ‘poor in spirit’. Nothing qualifies them to be blessed/benefited. Nevertheless, ‘theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven’ (Matt. 5:3)

So, is Jesus being unreasonable to grant such acceptance? Well according to worldly standards and many of societies attitudes towards children and often our attitudes towards children in our midst, yes. However Jesus says, “Let!”

[blockQuote position=”center”]Is God’s generous and gratuitous love towards children turning upside down our adult attitudes to children? Probably! However Jesus says, “To these!”[/blockQuote]

Faith communities everywhere today are seeing this more and more as a challenge … how to accept children as Jesus accepted children. This goes far beyond mere recognition … it challenges us to act out God’s sovereign rule on earth by embracing children with our arms (through welcomes, relationships with small groups and leaders, inclusive programs, nurture, discipling, nurture, parent education and support and much more), blessing them (being of great benefit to them) and laying our hands upon them (praying for them with words of encouragement and dedication).
One of the real challenges is to understand that a child belongs now. A child is not ‘future church’ they are ‘now church’. Working out what the experience of ‘belonging to Jesus and the faith community’ means for an adult is hard enough when it comes to determining member rights and member responsibilities. The challenge is to do this also for a child, a young person, a new comer, for a profoundly disabled person, for anyone really.

Children invite our acceptance as God accepts them. Children challenge us to accept them as Jesus accepted them.

by Phillip Day
[Phillip Day © midst.com.au This article is FreeShare. Part or all of the text may be used provided it is not for profit and provided it carries this complete, square-bracketed tag.] ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Footnotes: http://vcce.org.au/portfolio/childreninvitechallenge03/Reference: Weber, Hans-Ruedi. Jesus and the Children. World Council of Churches. Geneva. 1979.
Notes: [Phillip Day © midst.com.au This article is FreeShare. Part or all of the text may be used provided it is not for profit and provided it carries this complete, square-bracketed tag.] Where personal pronouns were required in this article, ‘she’ or ‘her’ were used; the next article uses ‘he’

Post date: 03/04/2014Post Author: Phil Day

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Dear reader,

We would love it if you could use/adapt any of the post or the excerpt below to reference our QBKids news post:

QBKidsA child in our midst is meant to make a difference
Children invite our acceptance as God accepts them. Children challenge us to accept them as Jesus accepted them.
For this post and more like it, please visit our website: kids.qb.org.au/