Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Day 84: Mark 10:1-31 & Psalm 85 - What Did Jesus Think About Children?

Today's reading: Mark 10:1-31 & Psalm 85

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What Did Jesus Think About Children?

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”  And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. - Mark 10:13-16

One of the most famous teachings of Jesus is "Let the little children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God." But what did Jesus mean by this saying? How did Jesus view children? 

Some people, holding a Victorian-influenced Romantic view of children, believe that Jesus was asserting the purity and innocence of children. But if Jesus was trying to teach this, it contradicts what Scripture says about human nature and what Christians have taught for centuries in the doctrines of original sin and total depravity.

Original Sin: 
"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." - Psalm 51:12 
"The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies." - Psalm 58:3

Total Depravity:
"None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.” - Romans 3:10-12, ESV

In short, we are not born innocent, but we are born in sin and corruption. We are not just slightly sinful at times, we are sinful to the core of our being at all times. Jesus did not teach the innocence and purity of children, and any parent of a 3-year old will affirm the truth of this. As has often been said, you never have to teach children how to lie, how to disobey, how to be selfish or how to hit when angry. You do have to teach them how to tell the truth, how to obey, how to share and how to have self-control when angry.

So, what did Jesus mean, then? Well, Jesus' teaching on children has at least three important things for us to learn:

1. Children are real human beings with souls who are to be spiritually nurtured, even from birth. Jesus' disciples wanted these children kept from bothering Jesus, but Jesus saw them as fully human, as real people with real needs. 

2. Children tend to be very trusting and accepting. They believe their parents and often think their parents are capable of doing anything. We need to approach God the way small children approach their parents, with trust and awe.

3. Children tend to be very sincere, with less guile and hypocrisy than adults. Children do lie, but they are more transparent and less prone to being two-faced and role-playing than adults, especially young children. 

Jesus said we must receive the kingdom of God like a child: as real people, trusting God and rejecting hypocrisy. Thankfully, Jesus is not saying that we must do so as innocent and pure people without sin. If that were the requirement for the kingdom, none of us would have any hope. 

So, in a real sense, if we overly romanticize Jesus' view of children as innocent and pure, we'll be shutting the door of the kingdom of God in their faces and our own. No one is pure except Jesus. Praise God that He wants us to come to Him, trusting Him and not hiding who we are. 

Prayer Based on Psalm 85:

Lord, you were favorable to Your land;
    you redeemed Your people and restored our fortunes with You.
You forgave the iniquity of Your people;
    You covered all our sin. 
You withdrew all your wrath;
    You turned from Your hot anger.

Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
    and put away your indignation toward us!
We confess our sin and our unfaithfulness!
Will You be angry with us forever?
   Will you not revive us again,
    that Your people may rejoice in you?
Show us Your steadfast love, O Lord,
    and grant us Your salvation.

Let me hear what You, O God our Lord, will speak,
    for You will speak peace to Your people, to Your saints;
    but keep us from turning back to folly.
Surely Your salvation is near to those who fear You,
    that Your glory may dwell among Your people.

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
    and righteousness looks down from the sky.
At the cross, love was displayed and justice fulfilled
    promises faithfully kept and righteousness perfectly fulfilled.
Because of the cross as the demonstration of Your love,
    we know that You, O Lord, will give what is good,
    and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him
    and make his footsteps a way.

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