A WEEK of related stories: a teacher who falls in love with a 15-year-old pupil is found with her in France and faces serious charges; a celebrity DJ (deceased) is accused of inappropriate behaviour with teenage girls; a five-year-old child is abducted and the worst fears of a small Welsh town are sadly realised.
In the New Testament part of the Bible we read of folk bringing little children to Jesus so that He could lay hands on them and bless them. What might the touch of Jesus have conveyed? Something quite different from what we would tend to think if we were to read of a similar incident in the news today.
The context of the story is straightforward enough. In the first century Jewish culture children were at the bottom of the pecking order. But Jesus gave them both His time and attention. And, of course, they would have had nothing to do with Him if it hadn’t been so.
There were plenty of adults pressing around Jesus, listening to what He had to say. The children playing nearby simply wanted to be part of what was going on. The close friends of Jesus shooed them away. They should have known better but they thought they were protecting Jesus by forbidding children to approach him. They were wrong.
The brief narrative in the gospels tells us that Jesus stopped what He was doing and invited the children to come right up to Him. He even took when in His arms! The times in which we live now mean sadly that we do not allow ourselves to be quite so demonstrative with anyone other than our own children or grandchildren.
But let’s not miss the point of this gospel story. What Jesus goes on to say reminds us that God’s people aren’t all adults. “Let the children come to me.” Woe betide us if we get in their way. In fact, Jesus expresses Himself more strongly elsewhere when He declares that if we give them (children) a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, we will one day wish we hadn’t!
James Gordon Mathew, retired Church of Scotland minister.