Have you ever done something or heard something, which means one thing to everybody else, but to you it has a totally different vibe? Like this morning, in church, the pastor quoted that well known passage of scripture “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14). Jesus was letting people know how important these little ones were to him. Anybody who knows me, knows how much I love children and how important they are to me. The reason is simple: 1. They are very honest. One day last year I was walking down the hall with my 2nd graders. As we were walking, one kid kept starring at my face. I finally said, “What are you looking at?” He replied. “Your face.” And of course I asked him “What about my face?”. He said, “Why do your eyebrows look so strange?” After that I made my way to the end of the line to hurry the stragglers along (thinking that maybe I should have left the hairdresser trim my eyebrows when she offered). 2. They are also fun. Many students (I said many, not all) tell me they love me as a substitute teacher because I am so much fun, but the only reason I can be fun is because they are fun. Actually, they are a riot! 3. And finally, each child is a special individual created in the image of God. Each child challenges me differently if I take the time to learn who this child is and what he/she likes or doesn’t like. What is he/she thinking about and how can I be of service to this young mind? So, I love being a substitute teacher, I love listening and learning from some of the shortest and smartest people in the world. But as I said in the beginning of this Recharge, I get a different vibe when I hear or read Matthew 19:14 and it’s all because of church history!
Yes, Church History. I was reading one of my books in preparation for the Church History class that I will be teaching in the Fall (September 15 through October 27) and I came across a very sad and disgusting fact. You see, in ancient times the children did not always have the chance to grow up, to be honest or funny or display the wonderful image of an amazing God. The Romans did not see babies as gifts from God; they thought they were doing them a favor by letting them live. Unwanted children were often thrown on the trash heap, left to die, a practice called “exposure”. The head of the household had the legal right to decide the life or death of all members of his family. The decision was usually made within the first 8 days of the child’s life which was why they did not name them immediately. The reasons varied, but often it was because the baby was a girl, or if the family was poor, or if the baby was illegitimate. If Jesus had been a Roman, he probably would have been a victim of “exposure”. (from “Who Is This Man?” by John Ortberg, pg. 28) When I read Jesus saying “Let the children come to Me” my mind immediately goes to all those children who never had the chance to be someone’s baby, to be held and to be nursed until they drifted off to sleep. Jesus was not only teaching that you have to come as a little child to enter the kingdom, but I also believe he was saying to all those who would listen, “Allow ALL the children to come to me, and reject the savagery that sends the little ones to the trash heap”. And according to church History, those who listened did so! Some of these babies were rescued from certain death, often by Christian parents. The practice of exposure was outlawed by a Christian emperor in the 4th century, only to be followed by the start of orphanages by who else, the church!
If you get a chance to have a conversation with a child today, cherish it. And if that child happens to be yours and Junior isn’t acting like a cuddly little baby but rather like a “terrible two”, pause and thank God that this too will pass. Remember, Jesus loved the little children and he spent time with them. I just wonder if they thought His eyebrows looked weird.