Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Get out of the way! - Published in the Salvationist magazine recently

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.  16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.       Mark 10:13-16 (NIV)
When I was a child I remember being told that the sound of thunder was a sign that God was angry! God being angry is something we don’t tend to think much about much these days, it’s much more comfortable to think about his mercy or grace and His justice is (rightly in my view) divorced from any sense of anger.  
However in this passage we see Jesus demonstrating what truly makes God angry. This is one of only two occasions where it is recorded that Jesus became angry, (the other can be found in Mark 3:5). This fact alone according to Gundry-Volf “suggests the seriousness of excluding children from the blessings of the reign of God”[1].  These words and actions of Jesus should speak loud and clear into our hearts. Jesus felt passionately enough about children spending time with Him, that he became angry when his disciples made the mistake of getting in the way.
Many have speculated as to why the disciples acted in this way, maybe they were simply trying to spare him from the hassle of these little ones or maybe they really did not think that the Son of God would be interested in these children, it’s not as if he could preach to them is it? We will probably never know what motivated them, what is clear, is that they got it wrong! Even if they had the purest and noblest intentions getting in the way of children coming to Jesus got God angry.
Jesus goes even further however; v14 records Jesus making a remarkable statement, the Kingdom of God belongs to children. Jesus could hardly make a more emphatic statement regarding children’s reception into the reign of God[2]. This Kingdom that Jesus came to inaugurate is already theirs, they don’t have to change nor do they need to earn it, it already belongs to them.
As someone who is extremely passionate about children and children’s ministry this truth is absolutely crucial to my calling. However I believe that it is crucial not only in our understanding of children’s ministry but important also in our wider view of the Kingdom. Jesus is actually teaching us about this Kingdom and if we only hear it in the context to which it applies to children I fear we will again have missed the point.
The Kingdom might be described as “God’s Way of Doing things”[3] and this means that God turns our thinking upside down or perhaps that should be right way up. As the Child Theology Movement states it “exists to reform all theological reflection and enquiry ‘with a child in the midst’ and to ensure that theology of this kind informs every aspect of the church’s life and mission, including that which relates to children.” [4]
These young children in this account are completely dependent on others for their everyday needs, and well being, they literally have no means of providing for themselves. It is this state of dependence as opposed to independence that in part I believe, explains why children are both recipients and examples of God’s way of doing things.  Children do not have the power to do things on their own, this has to be learnt in life as they grow and perhaps it is this learnt aptitude that does us a disservice in Kingdom terms, we as adults are trained to do it by ourselves, we know ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’. Children however have no such problems accepting things for free, things that are given without being earned; good gifts that are offered with love. The gift of grace is offered to each of us, it cannot be eared nor can we ever be good enough or important enough or have enough status to deserve it. Rather in this upside down, right way up way of doing things we must be like a child and be totally dependent on God’s divine favour. 
My prayer is that we as a movement will take this biblical account seriously and do everything we can to get out of children’s way, rather than, getting the children out of the way. That we will do everything we can to facilitate children spending time with Jesus, giving them every opportunity to receive a blessing and to gain that personal experience of the God who feels so passionately for them.
In my role as a Divisional Children’s Officer I pray that I can be used by God to advocate with His passion for this kind of Army. I am called to advocate for the voice of the little ones, for the full participation and inclusion of children in every aspect of mission and ministry in order that they will be at the centre of every SA Corps expression of faith, not the margins. 
Anyone else hear thunder?

[1] Gundry-Volf JM, ‘The Least and the Greatest: Children in the New Testament’, in Bunge MJ (ed) The Child IN CHRISTIAN THOUGHT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001)p 37
[2] The least and the greatest p38
[3] Keith j White ‘A little child will lead them’

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


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