Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14
I was eighteen and it was my last Sunday at my home church before I headed off for university. The minister had included me in the prayers and people were coming up to wish me well.
An elderly lady came up to me. I have to admit that we young people didn’t always view the older people with very much respect - they were just, well, “the old people”, and they didn’t really figure in our thoughts at all. Except, perhaps, as figures of fun. Though I had been in the church since early childhood I didn’t even know her name.
But what she said left me feeling completely ashamed: “I’m so pleased for you, because I have been praying for you regularly ever since you were a little boy in the Sunday School.”
She had been praying for me? That meant - she knew my name! It meant - she cared about me! Perhaps, of course, she made it her business to pray for every child in the church. But never mind! I would never see things in quite the same way again.
Jesus rebuked the disciples for trying to stop the children being brought to him. And he said a truly wonderful thing: “...the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Children have always had a very important place among the Jews: they did in Jesus’ day, and they still do. They were loved and cherished.
But (as far as I know; I’m open to correction, of course) nobody had ever said such a thing as this. This was to elevate them to a status which no other rabbi or teacher would have dreamed of. Children - who as yet knew next to nothing of the Law - were representative of those who entered the kingdom of God! Any adult who wished to enter that kingdom, must “become like a little child” (Matthew 18:3). Extraordinary.
There are other hints of Jesus’ love and respect for children. He uses their sing-song games as an illustration to his teaching (Matthew 11:16). He tells his disciples that “whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest (the greatest!) in the kingdom of heaven.” To welcome a child in his name is nothing less than to welcome him.
We hear often of terrible things being done to children - abuse of various kinds, neglect, indoctrination with hateful teachings. All of which highlights how great is the responsibility of the Christian community to care deeply for children.
What might this mean for you and me?
You may say you are not in a position to minister directly to children; you just don’t have the gifts. Fair enough. But how about taking a leaf out of that old lady’s book? Why not learn the names of the children in your church and make it your business to pray for them regularly? How about offering support work for messy church, holiday clubs and other activities? (And perhaps in fact you do have the gifts to be a teacher! Are you prepared at least to pray about that possibility?)
And what about offering a word of support to those who teach your own children, not only at church but at school as well? The work of a teacher is pretty stressful (I know; I’m married to one) and a little encouragement can mean a lot. Why not become a supporter of some children’s charity - Save the Children, Children in Need, or the RSPCC?
For some there is the ministry of fostering and adoption.
Just this last week I attended a conference in London organised by Home for Good in conjunction with the Evangelical Alliance. Home for Good is a Christian organisation dedicated to children in hard and painful circumstances. It is not itself an adoption agency, but is a good first step for anyone who may feel called by God to consider this possibility.
I was made extremely aware of the truly wonderful nature of adoption - what greater thing can anyone do than welcome a troubled (and probably quite troublesome!) child into their home? I was made aware too of the tragically high number of children in Britain alone, running into many thousands, who currently need an adoptive or foster home.
It’s a big step to take and certainly not one to be taken lightly, but could it be that it’s one you should be exploring?
And there was something else I was made aware of: all of us who believe in Jesus are adopted as sons and daughters of God. That great truth, somehow, puts everything else in a new light...
Lord, please show me if there is something you would like me to do for children in your name. Amen.
Do you think God could be calling you to adopt or foster? Why not contact Home for Good? Go to homeforgood.org.uk/contact or ring 0300 001 0995.It could be the start of a whole new life