A Lenten reflection for March 12.
“Let the little children come to me.”
These words conjure up an image of Jesus with his arms wide open, a smile on his face, calling the little kids in the crowd to come up and to hug him, to touch him, to sit with him. It warms our hearts to see Jesus defying the social norms of his day (much to the annoyance of their families) and engaging the children, challenging the adults to have faith like these.
Children have such amazing faith. They truly understand what faith is—complete and total trust in someone other than themselves. At birth, children are utterly dependent on their parents to survive. We grow up with our lives, our security, in the hands of someone else.
So it should be with God, and kids get it—they really, really get it. They may or may not be able to articulate it, but they get it. They know that without God, life is much scarier, much harsher, and much less full of love. Their faith sees them through.
It is no surprise, then, that Jesus warns the adults not to set any sort of barrier or stumbling block in front of the faith of children. It would be better for that person to have a large millstone strung around their neck and thrown into the ocean! God takes children and their faith very, very seriously.
Kenda Creasy Dean wrote a book titled Almost Christian, which is based on the results of a nation-wide study on the religion and spirituality of our kids,teens, and young adults. We all know that youth are not in churches as much as they used to be. She terms their spirituality, “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”, by which she means that they see God as a rule-setter who teaches us how to be good people and who wants us to feel good, too. That is the God they worship.
The study also identified the number one reason why the faith of our youth is not the faith of our adults. Can you guess what that cause is?
The faith of our youth is the faith we have handed down to them. The way they view God and the church is the way we have taught them. We put so many barriers between them and what we considered to be “real” faith, that we never gave their faith a chance to mature and grow. Instead of being Jesus, opening his arms to the faith of the children and giving them the places of privilege, we smothered them with the laws and tablets of Moses. We built our own millstone, and it hangs around our necks.
The faith of a child is new, and precious, and to be valued. They know God better than we do. Is it any surprise then, that God would rather leave behind the 99 and search for the one lost sheep, the one child led astray?
“Let the little children come to me,” says the Lord. Will we listen?