In another curious passage, the disciples discourage people from bringing their children to Jesus. (Mark 10:13-16) We don’t know their motivation, perhaps they see the children as a nuisance to their Teacher, or they believe that they will only get in the way of Jesus’ more important business. Once again, Jesus rebukes them. “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them.”
I imagine Jesus having great fun playing with children; perhaps he told them stories for the pure joy of it. Like other religious teachers, Jesus may have appreciated the purity of a child’s heart and desired to nurture the essential goodness of each child. As far as I can tell, later Christian notions of “original sin” were absent from Jesus’ teaching. Jesus loved the faith of children and out of his love for children, he blessed them and laid his hands prayerfully upon them. Children were beautiful not sinful.
Our children need healing. As the grandfather of child just learning to crawl forward today, I am especially concerned about the world that he will grow up in. While our world is beautiful, there are many human-made threats to children – global climate change, poverty and economic injustice, child pornography, abuse, not to mention the socially acceptable threats – the diminishing of childhood due to forcing children to grow up too early, parental focus on work rather than family, materialism, age inappropriate media.
Those who seek to bless children in the spirit of Jesus must insure that every child has adequate housing, education, diet, and health care. We must support the integrity of the family by promoting authentic family values, whether the parents are heterosexual or homosexual, married or single. We need to work for a society in which every child is loved and nurtured.
Whether or not you are a parent or grandparent, you are called to bless the children. Open your heart to ways that you can support children’s wellbeing in your community and across the globe.
Make a commitment to live by the following affirmations:
I bless every child I see.
I seek a world in which every child has the resources to flourish.
I open my heart to learn from and well as to teach the children in my life.
I joyfully support other peoples’ children through my time, talents, treasure, and taxes.
Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, healing companion, retreat leader and lecturer, and author of nineteen books, including Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living; God’s Touch: Faith, Wholeness, and the Healing Miracles of Jesus; and Tending to the Holy: The Practice of the Presence of God in Ministry. He has taught at Georgetown University, Wesley Theological Seminary, Claremont School of Theology, and Lancaster Theological Seminary. He is currently theologian in residence at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His most recent book Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed will be released in May 2011. He can be reached for lectures, seminars, and retreats at firstname.lastname@example.org