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"Let the little children come to me..."

Soul Talk Advent Series: "Words to Live a Life By'

Guest Blogger: Tara Devlin

It might have been a particularly busy day. There were parables to teach, questions to be answered and people to be healed. The last thing Jesus needed was children being thrust towards him for a blessing. Or so the disciples thought. These youngsters were not really where it’s at. There were older, wiser, more important heads who should take preference over these little ones. But the Saviour saw things differently. He opened his arms and welcomed them, and as he did he gave those who thought they knew better a sobering lesson.

There is something of the kingdom that can only be found through a child-like lens.

What did Jesus mean by this?

I think that part of what he was referring to is the ability of children to see truth, believe it and call it out, regardless of how it might be received. They are so much more ready to take Jesus at his word and do what he says without reasoning away all need of faith or being too embarrassed to live the principles he taught.

I’m sure many of us can think of times when we have been challenged by the simple yet solid faith of a child, or made to feel uncomfortable by them saying clearly for all to hear what the adults have been too polite to say. That’s not how we like to behave as serious, sensible grown-ups. We see something that needs addressed, corrected or made right and think ‘someone should really do something about that’. But we don’t want to make a fuss, don’t want to cause inconvenience, don’t want people to think badly of us, and so we quietly get about our business while diverting our gaze from that which really needs attention.

Just over a year ago a schoolgirl decided to speak truth to power, even if that power would not listen. She went on strike from school and made a one person protest outside her government’s buildings to call attention to the climate emergency. The image of her standing alone with her placard struck a chord, starting a chain reaction which led to her being nominated for a Nobel Peace prize and addressing world leaders in September at the UN Climate Summit. For me her words echo those of the Old Testament prophets, sent to rage against a people who had forgotten God’s ways of justice, who had trampled the poor in their hunger for power and greed and who had become detached from the very things they had been asked to care for.

“How dare you,” she said, her fury barely contained. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

The Bible teaches us that we were given stewardship over this world, to lovingly care for it and to ensure its provisions would meet the needs of all of creation. And yet as Christians we have often found ourselves caught up with the relentless pursuit of more, bigger, better, faster and we have turned a blind eye to the great cost of all this progress.

How dare we?

Of course there have been many people of faith who have been active and vocal in this work for a long time and yet somehow we have not been loud enough. It has taken a child to cut through the noise and lead the way and where she started millions have now followed, a global army of young people marching for change, no longer satisfied with the status quo. It would be easy for us in our comfortable maturity, having been around the block a few times and knowing how the world really works, to figuratively pat these young ones on the head, tell them well done for their efforts and then quietly ignore them and return to our business as usual. And yet something of the teaching of Jesus should call us back for another look, to stop and pay attention.

We dismiss them at our peril. The state of the planet, and indeed of ourselves, is at stake.

Tara Devlin works for Fusion Jamaica, serving the children and young people of Trench Town.

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