Jesus Really Loves the Little Children
As Christians, it can be really hard to find the right response to things like the Catholic Churches child abuse scandal. As a father, I can state my personal disgust for the actions of these disturbed men. As a pastor, I can explain the lengths that we go to as a church to avoid any opportunity for similar actions. I can show how our philosophy of ministry is built upon protecting the vulnerable and loving the little ones, not a man-made structure. As a former Catholic, when Pope Francis says “we” failed the kids, I can point out that there is no “we” when it comes to this issue, Kemosabe. I left the Catholic Church of my high school and college years partly because this issue was obviously present even before the news outed it. As a Christian, I can even say that these men were not Christians. But while all these points are true, these are not the most important answers to the questions that abuses like these raise.
As a follower of Jesus, the most important issue in life should always be what Jesus thinks. He is the King of Kings, right? It is His church that we attend and His rules that we follow. So our answer to the skeptical world should always start with Jesus. It doesn’t matter what a bishop, pastor, cardinal or pope thinks. What does Jesus say we should do? His answer was very clear. He loves the little children. 11 Great Bible Verses about Children. When it comes to kids, Jesus is not playing around...at all. It would be better for these abusers to die a horrible death then face Jesus with this crime on their records. Jesus clearly and emphatically covered all of the issues involved in the Catholic Churches child abuse scandal. Some men of the church just chose to ignore Jesus…and woe to them
The Bible Tells Me So
How do we know Jesus loves the little children? It is like the song says, the Bible tells us so. For a book that is written by God for His followers, the Bible is relatively short, usually about 1200 pages. Most reading plans for the whole Bible cover a year. The New Testament is a smaller portion of this accounting for 27 books out of the 66 total. The Words of Jesus, those in red letters, make up an even smaller section of this new revelation and are primarily contained in 4 books. Out of the thousands of years of history, Jesus was in active earthly ministry teaching for only about 3 years and we only have sections of His time recorded. Yet, in the words recorded in His Word, Jesus makes it a specific point to express His feelings about children on multiple occassions. He is very clear that He does not tolerate harming children for any reason. He also shows His disciples that they should act the same way. There are no excuses, including the lame one of protecting the church. The children are the church!
And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”
Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”
Look at the situation from the above passages. The regular folks are coming to Jesus in droves. They see the work that He does, the man that He is and His love so they come to Him. Knowing the nature of the Jesus who is calling them, the Good Shepherd, they bring their most precious little ones with them. Unlike earthly kings, they know that Jesus is filled with love for even the smallest ones. We would never bring our toddler to a meeting with the President but Jesus is a very different kind of leader. They know He will receive the babies and terrible two-year-olds gladly and bless them. There is nothing we want more than our kids to be blessed by Jesus, right? This exactly what God intends. That we bring all of our lives, including our little ones to Him. They should always a vital part of our church as a result. For God’s view on children, read 11 Great Bible Verses on Children.
This flood of humanity coming to Jesus appears to bother the “special” men of God around Him. Remember, for all of their wonderful works, the disciples were just men. They are subject to all of our frailties and temptations. These are the guys who argued about who the greatest among them at the Last Supper. They tended to take themselves and their religious roles way too seriously.
In these passages, it is apparent they have better plans for Jesus than to waste His time on the unimportant and the weak. Who is more worthless to those caught up in religious self-righteousness than those who are powerless? This is Israel’s Messiah and they are His right-hand men, they don’t have time for the little people! Their idea of Jesus’ work is more important than God’s so they take matters into their own hands. Not content with being offended by the little ones, they rebuke people for coming to Jesus. According to their judgment, protecting their version of Jesus is way more important than these children. He must be shielded from the little ones and their parents. We can’t have regular people taking up the time of the Master, they reason. This is never Jesus’ heart. This is the proud and selfish heart of man on display.
Do we see the ugly calculations they are making? These simple innocent children are simply not worthy of Jesus’ time and effort…unlike the disciples. James and John will openly claim their thrones to the right and left of Jesus like church kings in their own self-righteousness, but assert that God doesn’t have time for the little people. The church authorities are more important to Jesus than the regular folks.
It is this same justification that results in the cover-ups and denials that we are reading about in the news. The twisted logic believes the work of the powerful and leadership in Jesus’ church is way too important to care for the hurt little ones or their parents. Jesus’ church is too important, it must be protected from the people. It is reminiscent of the reasoning of the religious leaders when challenged by Jesus that leads them to put Him to death:
So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” John 11
Jesus Protects the Little Children
How often do we see Jesus angry with His disciples in the Gospels? With the Pharisees, He is direct and calls out their sins, certainly. But with His followers, Jesus is consistently patient and caring. They do dumb things and trip over themselves and Jesus loves them. Yet, when His disciples interfere with the children, Jesus is indignant. He is greatly upset. God, Himself is angry with those who interfere with the little ones and He will not stand for it. He sees what they do and corrects them immediately and publicly. He places His expression of clear disapproval on the table so that everyone can see it.
“Don’t you dare place any thing in the way of the little ones coming to me.”
“There is nothing more valuable then they are.”
Nothing is more important than Jesus’ love for the ones who come to Him simply and vulnerably. The disciples are worried about their idea of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus corrects them as clearly as possible the Kingdom they are so concerned about belongs to these children. It is not a concession or an act of charity to let the little ones into the church, they are the church. It belongs to them. Further, if His disciples don’t receive the children like Jesus, they will not even get into the Kingdom.
This is totally the opposite of what these disciples were thinking. It is diametrically opposed to how many “clergy” run their churches today. They view themselves as the royalty of the church. NOT SO! Jesus says the church belongs to the weak, powerless and vulnerable and our reception of them dictates whether we are in it as well. Isn’t it almost shocking how strongly Jesus feels about children?
Really think about this scene for a moment. Jesus says if you don’t receive the little children, you will not be received. He says if you prevent them from entering, you will not enter. He says this directly to the disciples. They had just been preventing the children from entering and were refusing to receive the children. This is no hypothetical situation. They had just been treating kids badly. Jesus says never do that again and certainly not in my name. He says it to those who will make up the leadership of the early church.
Can Jesus get any more direct in His message? Don’t mess with the children! Ever!
A Millstone about their Necks
But if we are in doubt, we must consider a millstone. It is the large stone that was used to grind grain in Jesus’ time. They were of different sizes and weights, but they were all extremely heavy. They made terrible flotations devices. When speaking of children, Jesus says the following:
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18
Jesus is again very direct in His teaching and every action has meaning. He calls a young child to Him to make sure they don’t miss what He is saying. Jesus makes clear He is talking about children. He then takes that child and places him among the first leaders of the early church to further the illustration.
He is explicitly talking about what will happen to the children among His disciples in the church. Jesus’ warning for them and us directly follows. It is better for that person to drown in a horrible manner than what will befall them when facing the Living God after harming the little ones. Sobering, isn’t it? A millstone would pull a person by their neck directly to the bottom of the sea. No amount of swimming or effort could prevent it. It is certain and it is clearly terrible but what is waiting for those who harm children is worse. We don’t know specifically what the punishment set out is, but I think Jesus gets His point across that it is really bad. He then compares the treatment of these little ones with them receiving Jesus Himself. If they harm the little ones, they will be treated as if they are harming Jesus. This is how much God values children. Being tossed in the ocean with an anvil around your neck will be nothing compared to the everlasting punishment.
Jesus Doesn’t Need Protection
Since Jesus is so perfectly clear on His views on children, our treatment of the kids of our churches should be equally straightforward. Jesus loves and values them, we should too. Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them, nothing is more important than how we receive. This should set our priorities as a church. Our congregation or structure should be destroyed before we agree to harm children or protect those who do. This should be a simple issue. Jesus took the time to cover every question that may arise. Jesus loves them so much He wants there to be no confusion. Anything that violates this has nothing to do with Jesus. It is directly contrary to His intention, His directon and His nature. He is just as indignant as any of us.
The Church belongs to the little ones according to Jesus. There is nothing more important than them and anyone who harms them is facing grave punishment. Jesus is indignant when children are pushed away from Him. We should be as well. There are no excuses. There are no justifications. The work of Jesus is to usher children to Him. Anything that opposes this work is not from Him.
Jesus doesn’t need protection or cover-ups. He just wants us to listen to Him and love the little children like He does.
4 thoughts on “The Church and the Little Children”
A very timely response–says this Pennsylvania Protestant (we have no stones to throw) in the wake of the recent AG’s report.
Thanks! And yes, the Pennsylvania report was very much in mind. Hi neighbor from Maryland.