By Paul Leavens
One of my favorite paintings of Christ pictures a little boy with his arms around Jesus’ neck, his tiny face cuddled up to the cheek of Jesus. The youngster has a contented smile on his face. He is obviously delighted to be in the strong, caring arms of Jesus.
Jesus loved little children. In Mark 9 and 10 we read about four instances when Jesus showed compassion for children.
He cleansed a boy of a demon (Mark 9:14-32). The demon would occasionally throw the child into convulsions and cast him into a fire.
He welcomed a little child (Mark 9:36, 37). He said to the disciples, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.”
The disciples had just been arguing about which of them was the greatest. Jesus demonstrated greatness by caring for a child.
The Lord measures greatness by service to the humble. “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (v. 35).
He warned against child abuse (Mark 9:42-48). “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”
That’s strong language coming from the one who epitomizes love. But love hates that which is evil and clings to that which is good (Romans 12:9). You can’t love your child without hating leukemia. Likewise, you can’t care for people without hating the sin that can destroy them.
The nation was shocked to learn that a Midwestern couple had locked their children “home alone” while the parents took a vacation to Acapulco. Many concluded the unfit parents should themselves be locked up for life.
But what about the children who are abandoned spiritually, and are left with no knowledge of a heavenly Father? What about those who are led away from God by false teaching about their origins and about their accountability to God? Jesus warned us if we caused a child to sin there would be a payday someday.
He blessed little children (Mark 10:13-16). Some proud parents wanted Jesus to see and hold their little children. The disciples tried to prevent the parents from interrupting Jesus. They wanted him to spend time with influential people and important matters.
Nobody was more important to Jesus than children. He was indignant when he saw what his followers were doing. “Let the little children come to me,” he said, “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these… And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”
There’s a real temptation to allow the children’s department to play second fiddle in the church. But children should be a priority in the ministry of the church. The children’s department is the one place where lives are the most readily changed.
One church calls its nursery “The Infantry.” What a great name! Those who care for the little ones are the “foot soldiers” of the church. They are the ones who are blessing the children by introducing them to Jesus.
It’s said that when Dwight Moody returned from a revival meeting, his wife asked how many conversions there had been.
Moody responded, “Two and a half.”
“You mean two adults and one child?” his wife asked.
“No,” the evangelist responded. “There were two children and one adult. The adult’s life is already half spent. The children both have an entire life to live for the Lord.”
Are you a youth worker in your church? Don’t don’t give up, don’t get discouraged. Keep planting those internal seeds. You well Bless the children in their future.
- What is your fondest childhood memory? What makes it so good?
- Jesus says we should be like children. The apostle Paul says we should put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11). What is the difference between being childlike and childish?
- How do you reflect childlikeness in your Christian life? How do you reflect Jesus’ attitude toward children in your life?
Dr. Paul Leavens is minister of the Christian Church in Lindsay, 120 N. Frazier Ave. To contact him, call 559-562-3743 or visit www.lindsaychristianchurch.org.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.