This is post #10 in a twelve blog/podcast series entitled REAL LIFE CHRISTIANITY. In this series, we’ll look at very practical matters like how we must learn to love and honor both ourselves and others in order to be the Christ-centered followers the Master wants us to be here in the twenty-first century. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
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Our Lectio Divina for today: Matthew 19: 13-14 (MsgB)
One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that He would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to Me. God’s Kingdom is made up of people like these.”
Last week, we looked at how the relationship we have with our spouse can become a key testing-ground for how well God’s agape love is working in and through our lives. This week, I suggest that we ponder a bit more on agape by gazing into the next circle of relationships most of us have…our relationship with our children.
Now, to be honest, not all of you reading this blog have had the unique opportunity to have children of your own. But, I suggest if that’s true in your situation, that you don’t skip over this section, because the way all of us treat children, not just our own but all children, speaks loudly on how much agape love is flowing through us. Keep in mind that we are defining agape love as an un-ending, un-relenting, un-conditional, un-limited, un-equaled, out-of-this-world type of love! And if you are around a bunch of kids for any length of time, you know that children can try your patience just about as much as anyone or anything on the planet.
Because, in many ways, children and youth can be the most self-centered, self-consumed people around. Just ask any teen-ager. They will quickly tell you (not with words but by their actions!) that life is, without a doubt, all about them! Right?
So when Jesus stops His disciples from “shooing” away the children, He’s actually setting an important precedent that you and I, as followers of Christ, must pay attention to, lest we fall prey to that ugly trap that says children just aren’t worthy of our attention until they reach adulthood.
Sadly, I’ve spent way too much time in church settings where we adults gather for the “important” aspects of ministry while we “shoo away” the kids and teens into hidden corners of the building, asking under-paid, over-worked child-care workers to “minister” to our children. Oh yes, I admit, that some churches do that “shooing away” very effectively, providing top-notch, all-the-bells-and-whistles kid’s and teen ministries in ways that look pretty impressive.
But here’s the rub.
As I see it, our society has become one that actually prides itself on how well we “shoo away” our kids. Let me explain. When a typical child is born today in America, over 50% of these kids will never have both a mom and a dad growing up with them in their home. Credit our high divorce rate for that “shooing” away. Next, with our overwhelming need for income to survive and a work culture that values productivity in the workplace over quality parenting at home, most parents are forced to place their kids in childcare within weeks of a child being born! Then, as our children are growing up, we over-achieving parents feel the pressure to signup our kids for a variety of group sports or other extracurricular activities, believing this is the best way to show our “love” for them. But as a result, any free time a family might actually have together in the evenings or on weekends is actually spent piling into the car to travel for practices, doing the activity itself, and/or preparing for the next event after this one!
That brings us, now, to Sunday. If a family does actually attend a Sunday morning church service (nearly 70% of American families don’t), they attend a church that whisks the kids and teens away from the parents, once again “shooing” them away from meaningful relationships with the very ones who could be the best teachers and mentors these kids could have in their lives…Mom or Dad!
And for those families who don’t attend church, our git-r-done culture makes certain that everything we do to keep ourselves busy on Mondays through Saturdays, is available on Sundays as well, making any family-oriented “day of rest” pretty much an impossibility for those who feel the need to keep up with the Jones rather than keeping up with Jesus!
Whew. Are you tired yet?
And through it all, our children and teens have been “shooed away” from any quality time with parents, or their extended family, and as a result, relationships suffer, families become even more scattered than they already are, and agape love within our homes rarely has a place to lay its beautiful head.
So what’s the answer to all this “shooing” away in our culture?
In today’s passage, Jesus makes sure that He takes the extra time needed to gently lay His hands on each one of the children in His circle of influence. For the Master, blessing each child was not an “add-on” ministry, but a work of agape love that lies at the core of everything He says and does. Maybe we need a similar approach to life and love with our children in this day and age?
My prayer: Jesus, it’s obvious to me that Your care and attention to the children was not an “add-on” for You but a ministry that was at the very core of Your life. Blessing the children in my circle of influence with the agape love of God is obviously an important work. Make me much more aware of how I might gather them in toward that blessing versus “shooing” them away. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Who are the children in my circle of influence right now and how might I be wrongly “shooing” them away? What practical steps might I take to draw these children into my life, gathering them, like Jesus did, to bless and encourage in the agape love of God?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?
Thank you for joining us on this 12-session journey we call Real-Life Christianity. We suggest you bookmark our blog/podcast homepage for this series to keep all the blogs and podcasts in one place for your future reference.
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