His Heart for Children

Originally posted at: https://anglicanfrontiers.com/his-heart-for-children/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=his-heart-for-children

We now turn to another group in God’s family—his children. As with the church in North Korea and the hungry in Chad, the criteria for these are the same. The children we will look at do not make the news, are not familiar to us, and are deemed unimportant. The standard measure of them tells us they are not worthy of any attention and have nothing to offer. But we will see God’s measure of children, how he values them and gives them a laureate position. Here are the primary features we learn of God’s love for his children:
  1. Children are created in his image, each and every one. We share in the divine image. Yes, some come with disabilities, deformities, and other evidence of our fallen world; yet each child is created in the image of our Creator. We are, each one of us, sacred and inhabited by God. That truth assures us that worth, dignity, and value are indelibly stamped in us. As God’s creations, “he shows us the path of life, his presence fills us with joy, and he brings pleasures into our lives” (Psalm 16: 11). These gifts come to us by our Creator.
  2. They are called “children.” They are not identified by age or by race or by territory. They do not live as autonomous beings. By definition, the term “children” tells them they are in relationship with others, specifically with mothers and fathers. Children have parents, and parents have children. God has put us in families, the first and most secure social institution on earth.
  3. God is their Father. He deliberately makes that statement for them. “Our Father, who are in heaven…” He is their true father. We do have earthly fathers, but they are imperfect. We must be careful not to let our image of Father build upon our earthly fathers.  It must be the other way round. God defines fatherhood. If we are affected by our earthly fathers, how much more shall we grow under the influence of our heavenly Father. As we consciously absorb the ways our wise and loving Father, we grow toward “the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:23).
  4. God watches over his children. His eye is on them, and he fiercely protects each one. Knowing that his children are vulnerable, he knows that predators will inflict all forms of evil to destroy and dehumanize them. None of this goes on without God’s knowledge. He defends them, hears their cries, promises to be their father, sends angels to protect them, and does not want to lose one of them (Matthew 18:3, 10, 12, 14). His is the sweet and intense love of a shepherd for his sheep. “He will carry them gently in his arms (Isaiah 40:11).
  5. Children demonstrate the characteristics of life in the Kingdom of God. Jesus says so: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children” (Matthew 11:26). “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). What does he have in mind? Certainly, a child’s trusting attitude towards parents, willingness to do what they say, obeying because that is best for the child. A child takes on the personality of father and mother. So a child watching the Father in heaven will grow in conformity to the image of the king of the kingdom, Jesus Christ.
  6. God honors those who care for his children. We know how to notch up our worldly reputation, wealth, and security. Truth be told, for many grownups seeing the needs of children, they will pass by on the other side. After all, what item on a CV highlights time and funds given to children? How many offices encourage time to hear a child’s tearful complaint, to tie a kid’s shoes, to wait for the bus together? The behavior God wants is counter-intuitive to the ways of the world. In the economy of God’s kingdom, his honor descends on those who take this path: “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4).
  7. Lastly, Jesus punishes their enemies. He addresses those who lead children astray, who enslave them, who sell them for perverse use. He will punish these predators. Using one of his strongest images, one that leaves nothing to the imagination, he invokes the scene of tying a millstone around their necks, throwing them into a deep lake, and drowning them (Matthew 18:6).

These are glances into God’s heart for his children, the apple of his eye. But in this imperfect world, grisly fates await many children. They end up on the street, fending for themselves; the very young end up in orphanages or institutions; the unborn die without a plea; the mentally impaired are discarded or pushed to the side; the impoverished sell children for food.

But their protector neither slumbers nor sleeps. Next week I will highlight some of the countermeasures to poverty, abandonment, and the sinister ways of predators. It is a long trip back for these children, they and their friends know it. Through all their toil and discouragement and successes, the Father of the fatherless is caring for them (Psalm 68:5).

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