ON SPIRITUALITY & ETHICS
“Let the little children come to me;
do not stop them;
for it is to such as these
that the kingdom of God belongs.”
Jesus (Mark 10:14)
“You don’t do that! It is a rule!”
This is the declaration of my 3½-year-old son when I stretch my leg across the pool table to attempt a difficult shot. I ask him who made the rule and he replies with delight, “Jeremy!”
The next morning, Jeremy gives me a big hug and says, “I like to be close to mine Daddy.”
These are the moments when the hearts of parents melt.
But children can be difficult as well. I recently observed a mother placing a six-month old in a car seat while repeatedly beckoning her sweet three-year old girl to enter the vehicle. The little girl, however, is in her own world: Her focus is playing in the grass. Two minutes pass before the girl heeds her mother’s shouts.
This frustrated mother is apparently unaware that her child needs mom to take her hand and walk her to the car. Children are not little adults: Most children under seven can respond to only one direction at a time and—if preoccupied—even screaming may not capture their attention (an “absent-minded professor” even I, an adult, sometimes have trouble changing focus!)
Many parents disagree with this approach. They believe this three-year-old was disobedient and should be punished. I agree that most children by age seven could be considered disobedient—they are capable of responding to adults in this manner. But age three?
This is why, as parents, we must understand our children’s limitations as well as their abilities. To put it simply, we must enter the world of the child. We must try to understand—from their point of view—what the world looks like. While giving boundaries and instruction, we must also respond with care—even when their behaviors are difficult.
Jesus’ disciples are not mean-spirited when they seek to protect him from parents presenting their children for a blessing. Still, Jesus does not devalue these little ones. Children are important—deserving his time—even when he is nearing the cross!
I wrote lyrics a decade ago to reflect on this incident. They can be sung to Haydn’s majestic Austrian hymn. I appreciate the irony that the tune utilized as the national anthem of a brutal regime, Nazi Germany, can be transformed into a hymn in praise of children. The title is the introductory line and, with credit, permission is granted for use by churches.
When the children come to Jesus
Their own parents, him implore;
Taken in Christ’s arms for blessing
They are welcomed by our Lord.
The disciples, narrow-minded,
Do not see the children’s worth;
Lo, the Master calls for caring—
Transformation through new birth.
We, together, as God’s children
Know God’s magnitude of grace;
Though deserving reprobation
We receive God’s warm embrace.
May we, likewise, give our children
This same love which we’ve received:
Patience, kindness, understanding—
May these be in us conceived.
Let us be like little children
Trusting God as they trust us;
Innocent of guile and warfare,
Learning to be fair and just.
See the kingdom in our children
That our wonder be increased;
Hear the Good News
preached by Jesus
That the greatest are the least.
Let us enter the world of the child. Let us be patient, even when tempted to explode. Of most importance, let us celebrate the miracle of the children God grants as gifts for whom we are privileged to care.
©2003 Harry Rix. All rights reserved.