Evaluate the role of children in the Church

First and foremost, please forgive me if my utterances within this article seem to be too harsh, yet also be dearly aware that I press on writing to you about these issues because they are deeply degrading the body of Christ and our witness to the personage of God Almighty. Matthew 19:13-14 declares, “Then children were brought to him [Jesus] that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’” I am ashamed to admit that I have been a part of and witnessed the belittling of countless children concerning the kingdom of heaven and thus have refused them due citizenship among the ambassadors of light.

What travesty that our community which claims accurate representation of Christ should hinder in any way those who are due to inherit His kingdom! For in 1 Timothy 4:12, Paul commands his son in the faith, Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” As parents, or merely older brothers and sisters in the faith, I plead with you to consider the witness you are cultivating in how you treat those younger than yourselves. Are our actions and thoughts intentionally paving the way for the generations behind us to thoroughly progress in the kingdom of God or are we selfishly content to worry about our own spiritual livelihoods alone?

Some of you may have been brought up in the faith with Exodus 20:12 deeply ingrained into your belief system by your parents, hearing again and again, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Hear me clearly, Church: I do not debate this Word of God in any manner! Respect for one’s authority figures is clearly defined in the written Word of God as a supplication of righteousness for us to delight in. Yet, as a result of human corruption, I implore you to discern that our upbringing in the faith may have been swayed by human selfishness in the form of unjustly lording over authority. Sadly, the practical application of this verse may have unknowingly sown seeds of disrespect for the younger generation amidst our upbringings. However, this circumstance is even more frightening in the manner that we ourselves may be active vessels for this dishonor to flourish for generation upon generation to come if we pass it on without proper judgment of our own legacies.

My suggestion of action roots in the very commandment in which we place our faith: Mark 12: 30-31, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Within the basis of our faith lies the perfect solution: even our children deserve to be loved and not belittled by our understanding of what spiritual realities they may be able to comprehend. What if our four-year-olds were invited into our prayers of healing over the sick and saw results instead of being subjected to noisy daycares that they are sent to because they are seen as a “nuisance” during prayer meetings? 

Consider again the Word of God: “Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves’” (Luke 22:25-27). As children, whether biological children or spiritual, are the very legacy which we have the honor of bestowing upon this world, what privilege we have to sow into them and treat them with the same grace we would our beloved Savior. Thus I beseech you, dear Church, to counsel one another with the intention of encouraging and developing those younger than you. 

In countless instances in our community and culture today, we have borne witness to the degrading of those younger than our own age in ways that are shameful to the Christianity we claim daily. Encourage, Church; encourage! As a body of believers, we acquire the utter and absolute divine privilege to convey to this world the character of our Lord in every aspect of our lives, especially in our treatment of others. Our children are not exempt from this witness, fellow believers. Set aside any selfish desire and bear the pleasure of developing Christ in others according to the leading of the Holy Spirit, brothers and sisters, so that we may truly obtain the Lord’s favor. I exhort you to cultivate godliness in this way.

Kathryn Cook