Happenings, News

Bothersome children, welcoming Lord

HAVE you ever regarded children as being very bothersome? I have and I know many who do, at least sometimes.

To the poor eking out an existence, the coming of another child means another mouth to feed. To some young couples, having children means setting up impediments to reaching their goal of a high-flying career. To many Englishmen of the Victorian age, children ought only to be seen and not heard.

Even the many among us who claim to be enlightened by modern and kinder theories of child-upbringing sometimes do wish that the Victorian adage is applied by some parents, especially when juvenile noise bombard our already raw senses. And recently, the character played by Paul Newman in the movie, “Road to Perdition”, gives vent to a similar sentiment: “Sons are put on this earth to trouble their fathers.”

Why are children regarded as bothersome, one may ask? First of all, they are often not capable of doing the simplest of things. They cannot do their sums and they cannot start their games. They cannot even feed themselves without making a mess. Yes, they might not even be able to change their diapers but they do perform natural bodily functions on the plenty. Why can’t they look after themselves?

Secondly, they are not familiar with propriety. They do the wrong things in polite company. Adults know the proper questions to ask in any given setting. Kids often don’t. They talk when the movie is on and ask questions that embarrass their parents. A third and related reason is that they are very poor at timing. Even the most patient among us often wonder why they ask for help only when we are busy. Yes, most adults believe that they are often very willing to help kids. The trouble is that kids often ask for help at the wrong time. Hey kid, get your timing right and many will run to your aid!

A fourth and insidious reason, which we often dare not face, may be this: they have a rather low status in society and they cannot repay our effort. I say this because I know of many who are willing to endure hell and high water if only the multi-million dollar deal is clinched or the way to higher office is facilitated. We believe the pot of gold at the end of such a road of endurance is worth all the while. But what pot of gold awaits us at the end of helping a kid except perhaps that which is flushed down the toilet chute?

The above might sum up the many thoughts coursing through the minds of Jesus’ disciples when children were brought to Him in order that they might be blessed by Him. Luke 18.15-17 records for us the following incident: “People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ “


HUMBLING NEWS

‘For all our abilities and status, we are still like bothersome children. So bothersome are we that it took the great sacrificial act of God to retrieve us from the road to destruction (of our own making) and place us on the road to life. This is humbling news but it is this which will give us a chastened estimation of ourselves and an inspired attitude to helping those who cannot fend for themselves in our society.’

But isn’t Jesus the busiest man in Palestine? Why bother Him with little affairs that do not move heaven and earth? Surely He needs His rest? The surprising answer of Jesus is that these children, being what they really are — and make no mistake here: there is no romanticising of children in the passage — are to be welcome for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these! It is precisely those who cannot fend for themselves, who often fail, who often need help at the worst of times (such as a recession!) and whose faces and abilities are quite forgettable, who are invited to the greatest inheritance and blessing: the Kingdom of God. God is never too busy for needy and bothersome people and they must not be hindered from coming to Him, the all-important One. This is indeed good news.

However, the next statement of Jesus in Luke 18.17 must have shocked His disciples even more. It is true that there is some discussion on the exact interpretation of the words of Jesus but the general drift is clear. Entrance to the kingdom of God is linked up somehow with children: either by our being like them or by our receiving them. Either way, the shock is there only because adults have blinded themselves, by their hubris, to the fact that they are still children in many ways!

For all our abilities and status, we are still like bothersome children. So bothersome are we that it took the great sacrificial act of God to retrieve us from the road to destruction (of our own making) and place us on the road to life. This is humbling news but it is this which will give us a chastened estimation of ourselves and an inspired attitude to helping those who cannot fend for themselves in our society.

If Luke 18.15-17 says anything at all, it must be that Children’s Day is a day to be observed by all: whether it is that high and mighty politician who runs his country like a patriarch runs his family, sitting in his grand and comfortable chair, or that venerable sage, who has thousands of disciples sitting at his feet, fighting over scraps of wisdom.

Dr Tan Kim Huat, Chen Su Lan Professor of New Testament at Trinity Theological College, is the Dean of Postgraduate Studies.

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