I love newborns. Once children begin to crawl and toddle around, though, they’ve entered a running-interference stage that I don’t really care for. Push through to three, four and five, and we’re back to having a good time. There’s a reason the show “Kids Say the Darndest Things” was so popular.
If you call yourself a Christian, you should love children—whether you have children of your own, still long for a little one to call you “Mama,” have lost all hope of being called by that name, or haven’t given it much thought. I recently came across an article that reminded me of this truth.
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, in an article titled “How Christianity invented children,” recounts the deep counter-cultural revolution Christianity wrought, particularly toward children. In fact, in ancient Rome, it was the Christian community that rescued children from abandonment and exposure. Those who were once despised and abused in a largely accepted manner are now mostly romanticized and protected (of course, we have to take into account the atrocity of abortion and the ongoing abuse of children that, tragically, still happens in our society).
Loving children is deeply rooted in God’s breathed-out Word. It gives us more than enough proof that, if we want to be more like our Father and our Savior, we should pray for a heart that loves these little (and big) ones. Though the following list isn’t exhaustive by any means, I pray it has just enough truth to leave a child-shaped imprint on your heart. According to the Bible, we should love children because:
1. They are the future generations (Gen. 1:28).
In the beginning, God didn’t create adults that spawned into ready-made adults through some kind of bio-genetic engineering process. And he didn’t put a cap on the population. Instead, through the old fashioned (God-designed) way, God said, “Have children.” This is a good thing and the only God-ordained hope we have of carrying on physical generations from every tribe, tongue, and nation, some of whom, by God’s grace, become the spiritual generations who enter into God’s family through adoption (Rom. 8:15).
2. God’s Word extols them as a gift (Ps 127:3-5).
It’s hard to deny the value of children when God just outright spoke it: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord.” They have great worth because they are created in the image of God—whether at seven weeks, seven days, or seven years old. And the same worth holds true at 17 and 70.
3. Our Savior came as an infant (Luke 2).
How could a child be despised if our Savior was one? Granted, he is the only sinless child who has ever lived, but undeniably his appearance in the flesh as a helpless infant gives us every indication that children are precious, purposeful, and a welcome addition to our lives.
4. They imitate how we are to relate to our Heavenly Father (Matt. 18:3-4).
Over and over again, God’s people are likened to being his children—and that we are (1 John 3:1)! He created us in the womb (Ps. 139), recreated us spiritually (James 1:18), provides for our needs (Matt 6), and protects us (John 17), among other things. What’s more, Jesus, our Brother, tells us we are to be childlike with our Father—humbly and vulnerably running to him with our every need and care, without hesitation. We even have permission to be a little pestering (Luke 11).
5. Christ receives them (Mark 9:36-37).
The ESV Study Bible puts it this way when commenting on Mark 9:36-37: “The attitude of heart [that] Jesus is teaching [about] does not even overlook a lowly child (at times marginalized in ancient societies) but receives, and thereby cares for, such a little one in Christ’s name.” As Gobry mentions in his article, Jesus turned the prevailing attitude of the times toward children on its head. And let’s be grateful he did, for each of us only made it to adulthood because we were given life and, in some way, nurtured as a child.
6. True religion is marked by caring for them (James 1:27).
There’s not a child in the world who, if bereft of caretakers, would not be helpless in one form or fashion. Whether it’s an infant who can’t feed himself or a 12-year-old who becomes vulnerable to trafficking just so she can eat a meal, these helpless ones need our advocacy and tender care. We can’t claim to have Christ and, at the same time, turn our faces the other way when it comes to children. The two are incompatible.
I realize that we can take good things and make them idols. We have been doing this since the beginning. Particularly, in our churches, we can move from loving children to idolizing them, so that, if you don’t have children—whether you’re single, unable to have them, or have chosen not to have them for some selfless purpose—you are seen as “incomplete” or “less than.” While this isn’t right, it also shouldn’t warrant hardening our hearts and writing off children all together.
If we know what’s good for us, children will always be a part of our lives. Giving birth to two children, babysitting for a friend, giving money to feed an orphan, investing in teenagers, or mentoring young parents—all of these are ways we, as the church, can love the ones who are marks of a sweet, blessed heritage from the Lord.
We shouldn’t be naive. Loving children doesn’t come without it’s challenges of all sizes. In my case, loving my friends’ children is often a reminder that I don’t yet have my own. But, at the heart of embracing what God loves is a faith that trusts in His goodness and provision. Our Father has different plans and purposes for his children, but He’s not in the business of giving stones and serpents and scorpions to the ones who unabashedly come to him—even if we are a little pesky at times.