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Jesus and Children: How to Cultivate & Guard Kids’ Love for Jesus

The Special Relationship Between Jesus and Children

In a bygone era, millions of children said a common bedtime prayer. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Like many classic nursery rhymes and fairytales, it’s a bit sober, don’t you think?

Yet we can’t hide children from the sobering news that Jesus’ public ministry on earth ends. God-become-flesh bears the sins of the world, suffers the horrors of crucifixion, and gives up His spirit. His lifeless body is buried in a rich man’s tomb.

Even then, Jesus is true to His word. Never the hypocrite, He shows the full extent of His love. Jesus doesn’t just die but keeps His promise to rise from the dead.

I marvel at the wonderful gifts that are ours because of God’s infinite love, ultimate sacrifice, and eternal triumph. The Gospel truly is Good News to all.

So in all we do with children, let’s cultivate their love for Jesus, our victorious King and Savior. But that’s not enough when it comes to Jesus and children.

Guarding Love Between Jesus and Children

I interviewed a large group of third- to sixth-graders at my church. Each child sat on a “hot seat” and answered five questions. The first four were easy: name, grade, number of siblings, and how many years they’ve gone to church.

The final answer was a little tougher. Talk about when it’s hard for you to trust God. I was amazed at their responses. First, they had a much shorter list of reasons than adults usually do. Second, several children honestly and sincerely told me, “It’s always been easy for me to trust God.” You should have seen the smiles on their faces.

What could possibly ruin such wonderful, childlike trust in God? Sadly, it’s very possible for a child to grow up in a faith community, learn lots of Bible stories, sing lots of songs, memorize plenty of Scripture verses, say all the right things, look good, and yet lose faith.

Sometimes, it’s the individual’s own choice. Sometimes, however, it’s because of the sinful, terrible choices of adults the child should have been able to trust.

Scripture Is Clear About Jesus and Children

Anyone who repeatedly or severely harms a child or young adult by sinning against them—physically, psychologically, sexually, or spiritually—is in grave danger of God’s judgment. Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 18:5-6.

Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (NIV)

Ancient Jewish men feared drowning above all else. Even experienced fishermen were scared to death of drowning. Sure, some like Peter could swim, but that wasn’t a given. There certainly was no Michael Phelps. Even if there were, imagine a judge ordering a crew of Roman sailors to take you 10 miles out into the Mediterranean Sea, tie a 100-pound millstone around your neck, and send you to the bottom of Davy Jones’ locker.

Peter and his fellow disciples shuddered at the thought. It should make us shudder too. Why? Because Jesus warns us that such a fate would be much better than causing a child to lose faith in Jesus Christ. The point is crystal clear. Don’t let your attitudes, words, or  actions soil or steal the God-given faith of a child.

But perhaps that warning should also cause us to think of other, smaller ways we can cause children to lose faith. Our critical attitudes, hypocrisy, and self-centered living don’t reflect Christ-like, childlike kingdom living.