Message for Sunday 3 October 2021: “Praise the Kids!”

Mark 10: 13-16 reveals Jesus’ praise of children: “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15). There has been much controversy over what Jesus meant but it’s worth noting that Jewish children in Jesus’ day referred to anyone under age twenty.

Jesus wasn’t saying that only children can obtain salvation. The issue is that there is something good about being like a child. References to childhood are mixed. On the one hand, there are statements like “stop acting like a child” or “stop being so childish.” Variations of these negative statements get to the same point, namely that aspects of childhood involve immaturity, selfishness, and temper-tantrums. On the other hand, children are notable for their innocence, joy, and openness. It is these or similar positive characteristics Jesus emphasized.

Jesus’ followers tried to dissuade the children headed toward Jesus. The social norms of Jesus’ era meant that children should not intrude on the personal space of an adult, certainly not a religious teacher such as Jesus. You can almost hear the anger in Jesus’ words as he warns his disciples: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14). This is a case where Jesus instructs all of us about embracing children. It is rare for any great religious teacher to single-out the young for positive treatment. Yet Jesus does just that, and in a way that dramatizes his love and compassion.

The old saw “children should be seen and not heard” is not good advice in light of what Jesus said. The sense that kids are bothersome, annoying, and intrusive has often dominated descriptions of childhood in many cultures. God’s view is different, such that children are precious and their care and nurturing central to what God wants.

Sure, kids are difficult to handle. The challenges of raising a child reveal that parenting isn’t for the squeamish (all the more so given the rigors of adolescence). Nonetheless, children’s dependence on adults and the energy they require is one of life’s splendid ordeals. Successful parenting requires sacrifices so that children can benefit from their parents’ care (similar to the way God loves and cares for all ages of humanity).

Now, back to those child-like qualities to which Jesus referred. Children’s yearning for love and affection characterize their attitude as much as does their physical activity and exuberance. Kids’ energetic, welcoming spirit often contrasts with adults’ jaded skepticism. Children often exhibit a color-blind acceptance that doesn’t get hung-up on what political party a person supports, theological doctrine, or many other issues that contribute to adults’ judgmental mindset. Adopting a child-like attitude involves setting aside learned distractions and discriminations that can interfere with how people love one another.

A child is by definition immature yet this does not diminish how God values them. No matter your age, continue growing, yearning, receiving and sharing the best life has to offer. In this manner you will be childlike in a good way. Roll back the calendar and revisit your childhood. Who knows but that you might be blessed with a new-found vitality.

–Reverend Hoxey

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