Devotional: Children are a key part of the Kingdom

If you are like I am, you grew up singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” It was simple and easy to grasp, though sadly inaccurate in its color scheme. No one is actually red without sunburn or yellow without jaundice. Black and white are poor descriptors, too, for anyone’s skin tone. The idea, however, is biblically sound with Matthew, Mark, and Luke all presenting a Jesus who welcomes and blesses children. John’s writings regularly address the audience as “little children.” When the children are discouraged from coming, Jesus reprimands that hindrance, “Let the little children come to me!” Children are important not only in society but also in the Kingdom of God.

This has not always been promoted, however. How long ago was it said that children should be seen but not heard? This seems so strange to me who has never been able to get my children to keep quiet! A longtime friend once joked that the biggest mistake he made was teaching his kids to speak, but that is just worn-out dad talk. Children have historically been considered more of a nuisance until they can become productive members of society. This was some of the flavor behind that story with Jesus in the Gospels. If children do not have anything to contribute, they should stay out of the way and quiet. They can be dressed up and be made presentable, but their foolishness is intolerable. That is until children are seen as something more.

Children should become independent and capable. Even though young people have a hard time getting started in today’s world, it is our goal for them to become their own people by the time they reach adulthood and be able to assume their place in society. Along the way, we should even encourage them to find their voice. Sometimes, their voices can lead into essential change. 

It is remarkable how much of an impression Barbara Johns made on Virginia and the larger country. She has gone from a young lady of relative obscurity to a state figure on a national stage. I could not have told you who she was by name 10 years ago, and a good bit of my life has been right here within 25 miles. After decades and decades, she is a statute in the state capital and will be in the national capital. She is a symbol of righteous change, a figure lauded by both parties for her heroism and courage. She had a voice and needed to be heard. 

I missed the recognition of Barbara Johns Day until after I had submitted something for this writing last month, but I am so awed by her part in our story that I could not miss this chance to pay tribute. Our community would be less today without her young leadership, and I am very grateful she spoke, as hard as it was for some to hear. She is absolute proof that children have a voice in the Kingdom of God.

Rev. Dr. Peter Smith is the pastor for Farmville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at pastorfpc@centurylink.net.