We were having a nice little family trip to Starbucks when we came face-to-face with the way culture completely devalues children. I had taken the kiddos outside after getting our drinks while my husband had a few things to finish up inside before joining us. Now, I will be the first to admit: kids can be annoying. MY kids can be annoying. And loud. And rambunctious. But on this particular day, they were just sweet and happy. Several people had smiled at them and said “hello”. My kids are on the extremely extroverted side of the spectrum and they love talking to people, were being generally friendly, said “please” and “thank you” when ordering — you get the picture. They were cheerful, a little oblivious to other people trying to get by, but overall, their behavior was better than average.
As my husband headed outside to join us, he was walking behind a group of 20-something gals. He stopped dead in his tracks when one of the ladies, in reference to our kids, said, “don’t you just want to kick them?” She was quickly mortified when he spoke up with, “you mean my children?” She turned bright red and quickly left. But wow. My sweet and friendly kids, just being kids, somehow invited her complete disdain and even a joke about physically harming them. Yeesh.
But isn’t that culture today? Isn’t it sad? Children are seen as obstructions to our days, annoyances to our plane flights, interruptions to our dinners, and inconveniences to our lives. Their value is so minimized, it’s no wonder that their rights are also next to nothing. Not unlike the time of Jesus. At his birth, there was mass murder of babies and young children. While I doubt (or at least hope!) that this wasn’t approved of by the people as a whole, it definitely revealed the expendability of children and how they were seen as subservient to achieving one’s personal goals and ambitions (in this case, King Herod not wanting to be usurped by another King).
And yet, Jesus: always counter-cultural, always bucking the system, always surprising people. He welcomes the little children. He values their faith as something for us to learn from. He declares them to be precious. He takes time out of his busy schedule to pause and hold them, finding them to be just as worthwhile of an audience as those he preached to and healed. It isn’t surprising that a culture that devalues children then devalues people — and all kinds of hatred and fighting follow. If society can’t even view small children with a bit of charity, how will they ever see value in their fellow man? How will they learn to dialogue with others who differ from them when they don’t even have the patience for childish behavior?
I get it. Kids are annoying. Adults can be irritating. Heck, most of the dialogue happening on social media these days is downright exasperating. But we have to see past the childishness and the foolishness to see what Jesus valued in other people: their souls. Regardless of how we differ and disagree, I hope we can take the time to see all people have value because all people were created in God’s image. When Jesus takes time to focus and praise little children there is a lesson for us to learn: God loves people, pursues people, takes time with them, and is patient with their nonsense. We should strive to do the same.