Protect the Children


Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them,
(Mark 9:36 NASB)
“Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”
(Mark 9:37 NASB)
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.
(Mark 9:42 NASB)



Jesus often used children as a lesson for the disciples. The disciples were arguing about who would get the best seat in Jesus' new kingdom. They didn't understand what his kingdom was all about and so they were pushing and shoving for their "rights" or "positions." Jesus brought out a child -- who has no position, and tells his followers that they are to value this child, for receiving the child is like receiving Christ and with him, the Father. In other words, it's not about those with the loftiest positions, but instead, it's about loving and receiving those whom the world might place in the lowest ranks and through them, we are receiving God. Finally Jesus brings the focus back to the children. We are to protect those who do not have protection. If we do not and if we cause them to stumble, we will face dire consequences from God.



I remember back in the mid-90's when we would come to America to visit for a few months and then head back to Russia. Whenever we went back to Russia we would have eight large suitcases with us filled with clothes for growing girls and supplies for the next two years. When we arrived at the airport in Moscow we would fill up two carts with luggage. Chuck and I would then maneuver with one piled-high luggage cart and one little girl. As you exited the customs area you had to squeeze out through the gauntlet of men gathered to meet people, or to be taxi drivers. They literally pushed and shoved and crushed you as you tried to make your way through the crowd with your all your bags (keeping an eye on them so no one stole one) and your little children. I remember one day as the girls were being crushed between the luggage cart and the men who were paying no attention to them and simply rushing in on them. I was at the front of the "family train" leaving the area. My mother instinct took over and I yelled at the men "get back!" as I swung my arm around to make a protective space for the girls. The men seemed rather shocked but they hadn't seen the girls in the crowd and they were about to be crushed. I felt like a mama bear ready to do anything I had to do to protect my children. I believe that God feels the same way about his children, and especially about the children of this world that are meant to be protected by God's followers. Too often the crowds are too big and people don't see the little ones and their needs. They are ready to run them over in their desire to get what they want.

I'm afraid that we, as Christians, have been at fault for not always protecting our children and there will be consequences. If we take this to the very beginning of life, we must recognize that we have a responsibility to be a voice for those little ones who have no choice. The abortion issue rages on in our world, but let's face it, for many people abortion has simply become a means of birth control. The controversy is truly not over the technical issues about times when we wonder if it's right or wrong, like in the case of rape -- the controversy should be over how easy we have made abortion. And then, Christ-followers, we need to ask ourselves whether we have created the safety-nets that are necessary for those young women who find themselves pregnant and without any ability to manage having a child. Are we willing to be loving people of God who will protect that mom and her child so that there is the hope of a decent future? What would Jesus call us to do?

What are we doing to protect the children who have been placed around us and into our care? I have to admit that I am amazed these days at the active role that grandparents are taking in the lives of their grandchildren. Over and over again I see grandparents bringing their grandchildren to church, keeping the grandchildren in their homes for numerous days and literally helping to raise those little ones. I believe with the increase in single-parent homes and with the economic difficulties of the day more and more inter-generational groups are having to work together to raise the children and in some ways this can be difficult but also exciting. Whatever it takes to protect the children!

But finally, I think we must evaluate whether we have always provided a safe place for children in the church. Have we done everything that we can to help bring those little ones to Jesus? There seems to be a generation of folks missing from our churches these days. It's those in the 20-40 year old range. Yes, in some places we have them, but in some places they are completely non-existent. I know there are many different reasons for this but one thing I hear goes back to their experiences in church as a child. People were critical of them when they were children. People in church didn't love them into the church, they pushed them into having to look, act or be a particular way. Often the people who were overly critical were living a double-life and the children knew it. In their innocence they could see straight through the facade of a lifestyle that didn't reflect Jesus, and yet somehow this person was inflicting harsh criticism on them. It left a bad taste in the mouths of the children and when they had a chance to leave, they did! Jesus warned us, "whatever causes one of these little ones to stumble...."

So today I am sitting here deep in thought and wondering what I may have done to be a stumbling block to a little one and asking God to search my heart. We desperately need to push aside our own ideas of how we would like things, and do everything we can to reach out and bring those little ones to Jesus. We need to make sure that nothing that we say or do becomes a barrier to receiving a child. We need to tear down all of our grown up, preconceived notions and we, ourselves need to become like little children again. I need to sit in God's presence with the joy and innocence of a little child and I need to welcome every little child to join with me in enjoying the great love of God. 



Lord, search me, know my thoughts, and lead me on your paths!  Amen.


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