In the United States, the third Sunday of every January is known as National Sanctity of Life Sunday. It was designated as such by the late President Ronald Reagan on January 22, 1984, to remember the 1973 Supreme Court decision known as Roe v. Wade. In that decision the Court ruled that selective abortion was the right of women protected by the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution. Thus, beginning in 1984, President Reagan designated each Sunday that fell the closest to January 22 to be Sanctity of Life Sunday. However, this article is not about the evil of selective abortion, nor is it about the evidence that life begins at conception. Rather, this article is about the value churches should place on children and what that should look like within the context of the local church and within the covenant community. Since life begins at conception and since children are a blessing from the Lord, children should be welcomed into the corporate worship service at as young of an age as possible. (At Tapestry Community Church we welcome children into the corporate worship service at age four.)
Now many people would say that bringing very young children into the adult worship service is simply not feasible or practical. “They won’t learn anything at that age.” First of all, to call the corporate gathering of the saints on Sunday morning the “adult worship service” is a misnomer. The corporate gathering of the saints is God’s worship service. Sunday morning is not our time. Sunday morning is God’s time. Secondly, very young children can learn a great deal in the worship service from what they see, what they hear, and what they sense going on around them.
Toward that end, we do well to remember that children are a blessing from God. Now some might argue that this is simply stating the obvious. But is it? Do Christians really believe that children are a blessing from God? Psalm 127:3 says, “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward” (NASB). The question then is this: If we really believe children are a blessing from God, if we really believe children are a blessing to our lives, if we really believe God has given us children as a gift to our families and to our church body, then why do so many families and churches try and put their children somewhere else during the worship service? ‘Ah! Children are a blessing. I love my kids…just so long as they’re not right here with me. We love the children of our church…just so long as they do worship somewhere else.’ When something is a blessing and we see it as being a blessing, we typically don’t want to be without it or separated from it. I think my job is a blessing from God. I would not want to be without my job. I think my wife is a blessing. I would not want to be without my wife. People think their children are blessings, but then constantly want their children to be somewhere else--in day care, in public school, in after-school care, in children’s worship service. This is not to say that any of these services are inherently wrong. For some families, day care, public schools, and after-school care are important services for different reasons and can be an invaluable resource. Our church also provides nursery care during the worship service for children ages 0-3. The point, however, is that we live in a culture which seems to believe children are to be taught, cared for, and trained by someone else other than their parents. And that philosophy has crept into the church more than we realize.
Thus, the problem is not that children are not blessings—they are. The problem is that many families and churches fail to truly view them as blessings. However, they should and must be viewed as blessings for at least two reasons. One, children are a blessing from God in that God is the giver of life. Human life in and of itself is a blessing. Psalm 139-13-16 says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” The Bible describes God as taking the time to carefully craft each and every person. Each child is unique just as each sculpture of an artist is unique.
Secondly, children are a blessing in that there is nothing more valuable in the eyes of God than human life. Genesis 1-2 makes that clear in at least four ways. Number one: humans are the last of all that God created. They are the pinnacle of his creation. Number two: throughout Genesis 1, with everything else God creates, he says “and it was good”, but when he creates humans, he says “and it was very good.” Number three: God simply spoke everything else into existence, but takes the time to form man from the dust of the earth. And number four: humans are the only ones created in the image of God. Thus, humans are the crown jewel of God’s creation. What a blessings it is then that God would give his most precious creation to families and to churches to care for, to minister to, and to teach. It is God who sovereignly does this. Ephesians 1:11 tells us that God “works all things according to the counsel of his will.” This means that if you are a parent, it is God who sovereignly chose from eternity past to entrust you with the children you have. He did not have to give them to you. He could have given them to someone else. But he chose to entrust you with that which is most valuable to Him—human life. He entrusted you to take care of them, to minister to them, and to love them.
This is not to say that if a couple struggles with infertility, then God must not trust them. Why God sovereignly chooses to do the things he does, only God knows. It is to say, however, that if God gives children to a couple or if God brings children into the midst of a church body, he is entrusting that church with his most valuable asset in all of creation—little humans who are made in the image of God. He is entrusting us to love them, to care for them, to minister to them, and to point them to Christ. What an amazing blessing that is.
Furthermore, blessings should be received with thanksgiving. First Timothy 4:4 says, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” We ought to receive everything good that comes from God with thanksgiving. We should be thankful about the blessings he brings into our lives and into our churches, and not grumble or murmur about them. We certainly should not want to put these little blessings somewhere else. To not be thankful about the blessings God brings into our lives or to murmur or complain about them is to call into question the trustworthiness and goodness of God. That is what Adam and Eve did. What an amazing blessing God had given them to live in the Garden where there was no sin or death or suffering, to be able to eat from any tree in the garden except one. And yet, they questioned the trustworthiness and goodness of God. They believed that this blessing was not a blessing at all, but a curse because God was withholding something better from them. So often parents and churches treat children the same way, not as a blessing but as a curse—as a burden we want to be free of. Children are a blessing who should be received with thanksgiving.
Blessings from God is an honor. In 2 Samuel 7, after God makes a covenant with David and promises to make him into a great name, David responds to God by saying, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house that you have brought me thus far?” ‘Who am I’, he says, ‘that you would do this for me?’ And in 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul is discussing his apostleship he says, “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am.” Both David and Paul understood what an immense honor it was to be chosen of God to be the recipient of his blessings and grace. If parents and churches would view children in the same way, it would revolutionize the way most couples do parenting and the way most churches do children’s ministry. It is an honor that God would bring children into our lives. Why should he? Does God bless us with children because we are smarter than the next person, because we somehow are better or more worthy than the next person? No! The only thing God sees in us, apart from Christ, are sinners in need of a savior. Yet, in his amazing grace he chooses to bestow upon us the honor of caring for and ministering to and teaching God’s word to his most precious of all of creation—people. That is what children are—they are little people created in the image of God.
Finally, the incarnation is definitive proof that children are a blessing because the greatest blessing from God ever given to mankind came to us in the form of a child. The blessing God promised to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15, the blessing God promised to Abraham, the blessing God promised would come through David, came to us in the form of a child and was entrusted to Joseph and Mary to love, to care for, to minister to, and to teach the word of God. The blessing of Christ came to us through a child.
Thus, when you see children wandering around in your church, when you see them sitting over by themselves, take some time to speak with them. Take some time to minister to them and to love on them because they are gifts who have been entrusted to your church by God. When you see parents wrestling with their children, in particular a single parent wrestling with his or her children, think about offering to help because the church is a family. We are all one covenant community who have been entrusted with the children God has brought into our midst. God has sovereignly brought children into our covenant community so that we might love them, care for them, minister to them, and teach them God’s word. It’s an honor and a blessing, and we should be thankful for them.
*Photo by Kevin Gent on Unsplash