Attitudes towards children have changed over the years.
In Roman times, parents used to put young babies out on the hillside in the cold of the night. If they were strong enough, they survived. And if they were weak . . . Well they wouldn’t be the burden on society that they might otherwise have been.
Furthermore, the Greeks thought nothing about casting out female babies and letting them die, while allowing male babies to live.
And even in our own society, in the last hundred years or so, we have done some very odd things. We’ve had the “stolen generation” where children were removed from their aboriginal parents and fostered out. We’ve had British war “orphans,” which included many who were not orphans at all. And for many years we’ve had the attitude of “children should be seen and not heard.”
And all those views may be quite foreign to the “more enlightened attitude” of today.
And yet, the background to the story of Jesus’s attitude towards children can only really be appreciated within the context of the attitude of his day (13). Indeed, it may well have influenced the disciples in their attitudes to children.
So when children were brought to Jesus to be blessed, did the disciples shoo away the children only because they thought that Jesus was too busy? Or was it because of the attitude towards children of the day? Or, maybe, it was a mixture of both? Whatever it was, they certainly didn’t expect Jesus’s response.
Because Jesus rebuffed the disciples from sending the children away. He threw aside the prevailing attitude towards children of the day. And instead, he actually encouraged them to bring more children to him (14, 16). And why? Because, as Jesus said, it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs. Indeed, despite the background of the day—that only males counted, or that the weak should be allowed to die—Jesus showed a remarkable love for children. And he eagerly took them in his arms and blessed them.
But he didn’t just leave it there. He went further. And he pointed out that unless the adults around him accepted him in the same way, it would be the adults who would be rejected by God, not the children (15).
The demand that Jesus made was that not only children should come to him, but that adults should come to him too. And they should come in a child-like manner: helpless and small, without claim or merit. That they should receive him in that manner as the saviour of the world.
In four short verses, then, we have a picture of Jesus, who showed a very enlightened attitude towards children in his day. He was a saviour who called everyone to come to him, children, and adults alike—as utterly helpless human beings.
And that should give us a real challenge regarding the importance of children, to which the world’s attitudes seem to waiver and change. It should also give us a challenge, as adults, to approach him as helpless human beings, who are totally dependent upon him for our eternal welfare.
Posted: 20th November 2020
© 2020, Brian A Curtis