Passage: Mark 10:13-16
“People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” Then he hugged the children and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13–16, CEB)
I think it’s fair to say our society today is very confused about the role of children in our lives.
Either they are kind of pushed aside and given screens as babysitters for hours on end, or our entire schedule seems to revolve around their extra-curricular activities (which is often at the expense of actual time together as a family, and often at the expense of worshiping together as a family with the broader family of Christ).
The cultural trend is to give our children more physical things than they know what to do with. Yet as a society, it seems to me we are giving less and less of ourselves to children. We might say we bounce back and forth between forms of neglect and idolatry.
So it’s important for us to understand our responsibilities, and attitudes toward children in light of the Gospel message…and at the core of the biblical attitude toward children is the idea of being faithfully present with them.
I want to draw out four observations regarding this from the story of Jesus’ presence with the little children today.
First, the people were bringing children to Jesus, so he would bless them. This was the instinctive behavior of many people following Jesus, and they were right on. As adults in the church we should want to bring our children to our Lord and Savior so they too will receive the benefits of eternal, abundant life. And this isn’t just about teaching them doctrine. Of course, teaching children correct doctrine is essential, but sometimes we can be so focused on that we forget to lead our children into the presence of the living Christ through prayer, worship, reading the Bible together with them. We can sometimes overlook teaching our children how to discern the presence of Christ in our zeal to teach lessons from the Bible. We can forget ourselves that the while the Bible does contain moral lessons and doctrine, those things are meant to point us to a relationship with the living Christ, and that’s where we want to lead our children.
Second, the disciples scolded the people for doing this. Often the biggest barrier between children and Jesus is…adults—and it’s often the leaders in the community. We are forgetful of the presence of Christ with children. Yet Jesus says we are to welcome children, and he models that for us. Remember too that Jesus wasn’t married, so his example of faithful presence with children is for all of us—whether we are married or single, whether we currently have children in our households or not.
David Fitch reminds us in his book Faithful Presence,
“Being with children…is not a spiritual gift. It is never mentioned in Scripture as a spiritual gift. Instead the church brings all its gifts to the space of ministry with children.”
Third, children have something to teach adults about the kingdom. Kids, all of us adult have a lot to learn from you. Jesus says “God’s kingdom belongs to people like…children.” Kids, you know how to trust. You know how to live in the moment and not worry. You know how to depend on others, and find joy in helping at the same time. Adults, we need to re-learn all of it—and we can—with the help of the Holy Spirit, by taking the time to faithfully be with children. Children will often lead us into the presence of Christ if we simply let them. Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes one…child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:5, CEB)
Fourth, Jesus has a special place in his heart for children. He hugged the children and blessed them. God has a special place in heart for you, kids. He loves you more than you can imagine. Don’t forget, God was a child once in Jesus. He knows what it’s like to be a kid…and so we can take him at his word children are special and have a special place in his Kingdom. Being with children is an honor and a joy for the family of God.
Jesus was—is—fully human, and so he identifies with every human—child, or adult. He lived the life every human was made to live but can’t because of sin and through his death and resurrection made a way for each of us to be restored to that perfect relationship as children of our heavenly Father.
We can take a disciplined, intentional approach to being with children in all three circles of our lives.
I’ve always appreciated that our church makes space to be present with children in the close circle of the fellowship of believers and our principle time of worship. As long as I’ve been going to DMAC, we have made it our practice not to separate children out into their own worship service somewhere away from everyone else, but to welcome our kids into the worship of the church, so we can faithfully tend to the presence of Christ alongside them. I’m also grateful for Jen, who oversees our children and youth ministries, along with our faithful Sunday School teachers that model, teach, and lead us in being faithfully present with our children.
The dotted circle may be the most challenging of the three. Half a century ago, most family dinner times were an hour and half long. Today’s average? Less than twelve minutes. And as a busy parent, I get it…Yet we are called to live in countercultural way, and we are called to reorder our life in light of the Gospel. Jesus calls us to be faithfully present with him as we are faithfully present with children in the dotted circle of our homes and neighborhoods.
Christians living in light of the Kingdom recognize the need for children to be cared for because God cares for them whether they are in the church or not. As we go into the half circles of world and needs become apparent, we have opportunities to witness to the love of Christ by getting involved in local schools, crises pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, and foster-care organizations. The church should be the leaders in caring for children.
Our call as the community of Christ is to be faithfully present with him to receive his faithful presence wherevere it is found as the gift of grace it is…so let’s remember that he’s with all the little children of the world, and join him there—receive him there—with them. Amen.
 Fitch. Faithful Presence. p. 137
 Fitch. Faithful Presence. p. 132