As many of you know, I do occasional tour groups at the Antietam Battlefield (where I am sitting and writing this final devotional of the summer series). I talk with guests about how the Confederates under A.P. Hill marched 17 miles in 7 hours to arrive on the field just in time to save Robert E. Lee from total disaster.
For them to have done this, it also included wading across the Potomac River at a ford just downstream several hundred yards from where the bridge now is that crosses into Shepherdstown.
And when there are kids in the group, I will say to them, “Hey, it is a shallow place and we could probably go down there now and do the same thing; do you want to do that?”
And invariably the kids will answer, “Yes, that would be so cool; let’s go do it!”
And invariably the parents will say, “No, we’re not going to be doing that!”
Kids are great because they are completely trusting when they sense they are in the care of someone who genuinely loves them and cares for them. They fully believe that those adults will only do those things that will help them, not hurt them.
Another example — a toddler is only about one-quarter the size of a typical grown up. So, imagine if a 24-foot tall giant was to come along, pick you up under the armpits and throw you up and down 40 feet into the air, would you welcome that activity and giggle all the way through it like a little child does?
Didn’t think so!
In today’s reading we see how people were bringing their little ones to Jesus to be blessed and to meet this great teacher in whom they had come to have great respect and faith.
The Little Children and Jesus
Luke 18:15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
This passage is included also in both Matthew and Mark. And when we take the three accounts together, there are three things I would really like to emphasize from it …
First, the words used for children here are not limited to babies or tiny infants, but rather refer to children up to about 12 or 13 years old. The people were bringing families — don’t think of this as an infant dedication service of newborns. Yet at the same time, it is similar in one respect — that it involved the faith of parents in the person of Jesus and their desire for their children to be intimately connected to him.
Secondly, when Jesus rebukes the disciples for forbidding and discouraging this (they thinking that they were protecting Jesus from being bothered), the English translations do not capture the original text’s intensity. His words to them were very sharp, intense, pointed, and filled with emotion. He greatly desired them to come.
And finally, the picture is profoundly accurate to portray both the simple and humble faith of those who come genuinely to God, as well as the desire of God for them to come to him in full trust for salvation and life eternal in His Kingdom.
FINAL NOTE >> It has been a good summer series in the Parables. We next turn to six weeks of study in the book of Esther, and we will be back in less than two weeks with an accompanying devotionals series for that.
It just occurred to me that the more that we get caught up in the things of the world, and it might include as we focus on procuring things, impressing others, and the whole range of activities and concerns that adults have to deal with on a day to day basis … that we will forget the importance of children in God’s eyes.
Additionally we are aware of the scriptures that talk about children being childish, and we also are aware of their limited grasp of how the world works and that as we mature we put chldish things behind us.
Yet, this scriptural passage is so powerful. Maybe it is powerful both because it shows God’s love for children. It is a love that perhaps the disciples missed.
The second way it is powerful is that it shows and reminds us of the need to connect with God, to love him on a personal basis unencumbered by a myriad of distractions that society offers. Our love for God is then to be unfeigned, real, sincere. We are to worship him in “spirit and in truth.”
I’ve seen maybe one or two TV series that dealt with slavery and I hate to think that I understand anything about that environment based on having watched a TV series, but I’ll just touch on the more real love and friendship between children that got pushed out or squashed by political expediency and selfish adult interests later. That was a storyline in the old TV miniseries ROOTS.
I remember in that series that it was portrayed that sometimes the slave owners children would play with with some of the young children who were in the slavery institution. Societal pressure would later cause these people to change their relationships, their friendships as they aged.
Now, as we are called “children of God” we too need to be ready to express love as/is possible with other children of God, especially as God leads.
And we as adults – we don’t normally know how to reach out to others as God wants us to.
It may be hard for us to fellowship with others at church.
I might now be making slight personal improvement in this area of how to treat people at church. First of all, I am realizing that I should be in humility before God when at church, and realize that He wants me to represent him. That is our goal in life, to advance his purposes and to do nothing that will offend others or cause them to stumble. Also, as we understand spiritual issues more deeply, we realize that others also share the same struggles with self-centeredness and sin that we do. And as scripture says, if we see others who sin, we should pray that God will grant them life. We should be willing to forgive them rather than judge them. For also the measure we use to judge others is the measure by which we will be judged. God wants us to love his children. If we do not love our brothers and sisters, who we can see, how can we love God who we can not see?
So no matter what church we attend, we have spiritual obligations for whoever God decides is our neighbor. We need to realize that we represent God in our lives and we need to represent him at all times. I’m not trying to focus on the balance of how we show our love (whether to those in the church or without), we should let God decide such a thing in our lives and we might need to recognize where God wants us to funnel our energies. With humility I think of Jesus, for a while, ignoring a woman screaming after him about her daughter who needed healing. Jesus told her that he had a mission to the people of Israel. Yet, finally Jesus healed the woman’s daughter in response to the faith of the woman. At other times Jesus cautioned his disciples to not greet people on the road, but to focus on their core mission in going to cities and preaching.
So, the point I’m trying to get at is that we need to serve God and have a good attitude about helping others and being light, but that we each may have different tasks assigned to us by God. We should not judge others by some cult-like cookie cutter standards about what constitutes good works and what we should each be doing. And maybe that is one thing that I like about Tristate Fellowship (a lack of panicky pressure to attend and do church things. With some churches this comes across as feigned concern, and manipulation, as people try to trick you and pressure you into promising to attend next week.)
God gifts different people with different gifts. Yet, if we don’t have love for God and his people and everyone else, this is a problem.
Our set of priorites have to be switched out. Selfish priorities need to be replaced with priorities for the Kingdom of God. It is when we switch out trying to make a life of our own, for seeking God’s life, then we will find real life. I think it is Isaiah who compared the people of Israel to people who try to gather water with broken vessels. They did not go to Him for life, they tried to get life on their own and they repeatedly failed.
As a youngster, I “counted the cost” and put off making a decision for Jesus, telling him I would serve him later around age 18 or so. I didn’t believe that I could handle family opposition to me putting God entirely first in my life, and I was also under the delusion that I could perhaps make a life for myself in the meantime.God was faithful in turning me back to him around age 18.
God used the interim to make me realize that my life wasn’t working, and my reasons for not becoming a Christian were removed.
Now, I can look to God for guidance and I intend to keep trying to partner with him. This (serving him) can only be done by his power, and maybe I have to more deeply acknowledge that fact (that any good thing can only be done by his power).
And so maybe I’ll get off the internet and pray for you Tristate Fellowship people, and the rest of the body of Christ, and about God expanding his Kingdom as he wants, and helping others come to know him.
I went to pray and realized that first I need to give myself to God. First to God and then I can pray for others. Without God, what does it matter. Here is the scripture where Paul gives that principle. So here is my adendum to the long comment below.
NIV 2 Corinthians 8:1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.
2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,
4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.
5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. (2 Cor. 8:1-5 NIV)
You’ve got me interested in crossing the Potomac. BTW. It really does sound like fun activity, but as an adult I might like to plan to for it. See we would need to put our cell phone and wallet in a water-proof plastic bag or container. Bare feet OK? or some beach slippers needed?
And since I’m not originally from this area, I’d have to learn where Shepherdstown is an all that.