“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:3-6)
The lectionary readings this week all focus on angels and spiritual warfare. All around us wages unseen yet not unfelt warfare between God’s kingdom and the forces of Satan. Perhaps one of the most vulnerable targets of Satan in this warfare are children. Though we often assume them to be innocent and cute, the truth is they are sinners just like we adults. Yet they are naïve and trusting, characteristics which make them easy prey for the devil and his deceit.
In this passage Jesus addressed issues concerning how what we do and say affects others. He addressed this by teaching about setting a good example for children. Young children are very trusting and so nowadays, quite open to the corrupting and evil influences of a host of purveyors of evil: the media, the internet, teachers, professors, politicians, celebrities, mean-spirited and abusive people, and well-intentioned but selfish or unthinking adults and parents. Children trust adults so much they will imitate their speech, ideas, and behavior.
Jesus condemns those who lead the innocent astray in such forceful terms that we believers ought to think carefully about our own behavior and speech in the presence of children. In addition, His condemnation should also make us aware of the speech and behavior we expose them to in our society. Do we know what they are hearing in school? On TV or the Internet? Are they hearing things that contradict the Word of God and promote lifestyles that are immoral and sinful? We as believers and parents are entrusted by God with the responsibility of nurturing the faith of these children and bringing them up to know, love and serve the Lord. We begin with praying for them and teaching them the word of God at home and in church.