JESUS LOVES THE LITTLE CHILDREN
Written by Doug Ponder on August 20, 2015
Jesus Loves the Little Children (But We Don’t)
A song I learned from an early age sang about the depth of God’s love for little ones:
Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red, brown, yellow, black and white,
They are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the children of the world.
But we don’t. Not really.
Sure, most of us love our own kids. No debate there. But when it comes to children as category of people, we really don’t like them, and the evidence is easy to spot: Watch for rolling eyes when the big family takes the adjoining table in the restaurant. Listen for disparaging remarks as you pass the mom with kids in the grocery store. Look at all the cynical comments people make about #babyspam on social media. Or just find some memes like this one.
We really, really don’t like children. And so we’re delaying having them—and having fewer of them when we do. Lots fewer. In fact, if it weren’t for immigration, our population would be shrinking. For the first time in our country’s history, we’re having fewer children per couple than what is needed to replace ourselves. Gone are the days of an average of 2.5 kids and a dog. Say hello to two dogs, a cat, and 1.92 kids.
Tragically, the greatest proof of our hatred for children is our nation’s continued support of abortion. In large cities like New York, more children are killed in their mother’s wombs each year than are born. More killed than born—let that sink in.
A Lot of Self-Space
The decline in birthrate is not due to economic hardship, for we make more money and live in bigger homes than families in previous generations. Indeed, it is telling that as our paychecks and our homes have gotten bigger, our families have continued to get smaller. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and it’s not a dirty diaper.
What’s behind the rapid drop in birthrate and the growing number of couples who will never have a child (deliberately)? Pastor Doug Wilson offers a compelling diagnosis: children don’t have children. In other words, the refusal of responsibility in many areas of life naturally leads to a refusal to take on the massive responsibility of raising children. Peter Pan didn’t want to grow up, much less have kids. “Children” don’t have children.
But is it really wrong to be deliberately childfree? Who says, anyway?
God, for one, along with every generation of people from every culture on the planet until about the last decade or so. As Wilson says, “When a typical ‘child’ of our times says “I do” and says that behavior rejected by previous generations [having children] is nevertheless something that “works for me,” then I would suggest we don’t need to research this very much further. We have entered the era where every self manufactures his or her own ethical system and hangs it from his or her very own hook in the sky. One might say the closets of our generation have a whole lot of self-space.”
One of the first things God tells us in the Bible is the command to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). And so that we don’t miss the picture, he creates marriage in the next chapter, and blesses the first couple with a child in the chapter following that one.
God apparently thinks children are so important that he even rejected the worship of his people when they refused to have them: “You cry out, ‘Why doesn’t the Lord accept my worship?’ I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows. Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly children from your union. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth” (Mal. 2:14-15).
The Way to Selflessness
The living God seeks godly children from every marriage union. But why? Why does God care about children so much? Why does he command us to have them? There are two reasons. First, the obvious one: God cares about children for their sakes. By creating the universe God chose to share himself with us, and that means every child born into God’s world is someone he longs to share himself with. Jesus loves the little children.
But God also cares about children for our sakes. We can’t talk about the childfree life without talking about its effect on us too. Again, pastor Wilson: “A child is not an object, like a laptop or camera, that you can simply forgo and that’s the end of it. A child refused is a relationship refused.” Thus to say ‘no’ to children is not just saying no to God; it’s also saying no to a lifelong relationship. It’s choosing to keep ourselves at the center of our lives, and refusing to make space for someone else.
In the end, this is why we roll our eyes, make snide remarks, and cynical memes about children. We like living as if the world revolved around us, and the unending cries of a newborn force the planets out of orbit. Children force us to respond, to take action, to grow up. They are one of God’s great blessings in this way, in addition to all their cuteness. For God uses the messes, the sleep deprivation, the diapers, the teething, the endless rounds of picking up toys, the tantrums, the heartaches, the hormonal changes of puberty, and of course the joys upon joys—all these are avenues the Lord himself uses to make us more selfless, just like the One who loves the little children.
Doug Ponder is one of the founding pastors of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he serves in many of the church’s teaching ministries. He has contributed to several published works and is the author of Rethink Marriage & Family. His interests include the intersection of theology, ethics, and the Christian life. Follow him on Twitter @dougponder.