My husband and I, like many others within the church body, have a deep and abiding love for children. We have always considered our church family to be a great and lasting influence in our lives and are thankful for each and every person we have met along the way. We don’t live near family and that is sometimes difficult for our children, especially. However, we have strived to teach our children that they belong to a greater family that exceeds the limits of our own homefront or DNA. This teaching has extended through all of the churches we have been members of in the last 20 years during which time the military has moved us. We believe our family is better for it! I am thankful for all of the grandmothers and grandfathers who have adopted our children into their families along the way.
One thing that has repeatedly caught my attention over the years, though, is the fact that there is a set of older folks who feel the need, as if it is their assigned job within the church, to tell younger folks with children they need to go away. Do they outright say “leave?” Of course not. But the tone of voice used when saying things such as “We have a nursery for crying babies that you need to take advantage of” speaks volumes to young parents. This is especially true when the phrase “I got nothing out of the sermon today cause your baby was such a disruption.” is added to the conversation.
When did the rule of decorum and reverence to God ever become so wieghty that it over-ruled the rule of love your neighbor?
If we truly believe (and I do) that children are a blessing from God, then why do we curse them for crying or cooing?
Within the confines of the four walls of our church, many of the young women who attend our services are military wives. A high percentage of these ladies have spouses who are currently deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq. An even higher percentage of them have NOT made professions of faith in Jesus Christ. The old saying goes that atheists don’t live in foxholes. Over the last 21 years of combined military service between my husband and I, I’ve found most wives left at home aren’t atheists either. They may not be christians (yet) but many of them are seeking to find “something” that will calm their worries and give them peace.
Another dynamic added to this is that most of these women work during the week and have little time with their children. This may be of their own choosing, but it is a fact none the less. Many moms have told me they feel guilt at having to leave their children during the week and cherish every moment they can spend together on Saturday and Sunday. That means many of these women truly believe their only options are to keep their children with them at church or just not go to church. When they are approached and told that their children are causing a disruption, most choose the latter option. Unfortunately, that also leads to a desire to never again darken the door of a church building.
An underlying theme throughout the New Testament is that Jesus met people where they were. He did not sin in order to meet them in that capacity but He showed them a new and better way. His way.
Three of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) give us the story of the disciples rebuking the people who brought the children to Jesus for Him to touch them. Jesus became indignant at this and turned around and rebuked the disciples. Jesus told His disciples that the kingdom of heaven belong to those like them.
Matthew 18 speaks to this as well. Verses 5 and 6 say:
“And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
Christ painted a pretty vivid picture! I don’t think there is much left to imagine at how God’s wrath will be poured out upon those who turn children away and lead them into sin.
By no means do I mean to say that we should have children running up and down the aisles and screaming or playing hide and seek under the pews. That is a true disruption that needs to be attended to. There should be decorum and reverence as we gather to worship our Holy Messiah, Christ Jesus. However, we need to take our cues from our pastor servants and when they follow sound biblical teaching and say they love children in church, we ought to follow their lead.
The last time I checked, the seats in church were not assigned. If you are sitting in the back pew (or even the back half) of the sanctuary and you are annoyed by the mommies and babies who choose to worship Jesus together in the only way they know how, then maybe you should take a hike to the front of the church rather than telling them to take a hike. You may just find you can hear and learn more on the front row than you ever did in the back!