“On Your Mark”
Help or Hindrance? (Chapter 9 Verses 42-50)
The actions prove the reality of the profession (v42a). This stumbling, this causing to sin, is a spiritual death-trap, a snare, spiritual destruction is what is in mind. You destroy a child-like believer of mine says Jesus, and you are history, worse than dead meat (v42b). Better you had never been born. This is serious stuff. The least possible good you can do a disciple, is give him or her a cup of water (v41), the worst possible damage you could do, is cause them to sin (v42a). But the ultimate action lies way back down the line (Matthew 5.21; Matthew 5.27 etc.), that is why it is so important that we deal with anger before it gets out of hand and becomes murder. That is why we must deal with the lustful look before it becomes adultery. The lesser is condemned as is the greater. And Jesus takes us to this extreme, the worst you can do to a disciple of his, is to spiritually destroy him or her. That is how precious one disciple is in the sight of Jesus (1Corinthians 8.11-13). What a sound warning to all of us, parents, Sunday School teachers, Pastors and evangelists, all in positions of influence. To think that through our wrong teaching or bad conduct one soul could be lost.
The little ones does not necessarily mean children though it could include them. The scarcity of children who truly believe in our own day does not negate the possibility of children believing. Of course it is an area where great care is to be taken, evangelising children I mean. This abominable practice in our day of dragging prayers and confessions out of children, is to be dismissed. I have seen children evangelized who will trustingly, humbly, because children are like that (Jesus very point), do anything they are asked. There are three principles that need to govern our handling of children in our Churches I believe. The three I’s. 1. Instruct them. 2. Interest them. 3. Impress them. No more, no less. If we teach them God’s word, if we give them a good grounding in Christian education, yes, including God’s law, not just the stories about Jesus. if we engender and keep their interest in Christian things and impress them with both the word of God and our conduct. It is the Holy Spirit’s work to regenerate them, not ours. We do not need to interfere in that. He, and he alone is quite capable of leading anyone including children, to Christ. Hands off! Let him do it! It is well-meant but I believe in the long run it is more harmful to get a child to make a profession of faith when he or she does not understand for one moment what they are doing. It could lead them to a false assurance, or eventually away from the Lord altogether. Tried it, does not work, how often have we heard it? Simply because there never was any spiritual reality there to begin with. Of course when we are speaking of and dealing with covenant children that is different. We bring them up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). The promise is for them as well as their parents, “for the promise is unto you, and to your children” (Acts 2:29)
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)