Posts tagged ‘God’s Kingdom’

Jesus’ Love For Children Lost

Jesus Christ, Statue, Children, Catholic, Virginia
Credit: Pixabay

One of the most moving moments of being a pastor is sitting with a family who has just lost a child. Perhaps they had a miscarriage. Perhaps their baby never made it out of the NICU. Perhaps their child lost their life in a tragic accident. There are many questions that a family asks at a moment like this:

How could God allow this to happen?

Did this happen because we did something wrong?

But there is one question I want to focus on in this blog:

Is my child in heaven with Jesus?

This is a weighty question because it reaches beyond a parent’s present pain and cries out desperately for an eternal hope. It deserves our serious consideration.

There is a famous episode in Mark 10 that gives us a glimpse into Jesus’ relationship with children:

People were bringing little children to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And He took the children in His arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)

There is an interesting debate over Jesus’ words in verse 14 when He says, “The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” What is the referent of “such as these”? Some say the referent is found at the beginning of verse 14 in “the little children.” This means that Jesus is not only welcoming a particular group of little children into His arms at this moment, but making a broader declaration about how the kingdom of God belongs to many other little children who are like these but who are also beyond these. The phrase “such as these,” then, reminds us that “Jesus loves the little children – all the children of the world.”

There are others, however, who argue that the phrase “such as these” is better informed by the word “anyone” in the next verse. In this interpretation, Jesus is not declaring that little children can enter His kingdom. Instead, He is only calling people in general to have a childlike faith. Though Jesus is certainly calling people to have a childlike faith in verse 15, syntactically, the specific referent of “such as these” is quite clear. In Greek, the word for the phrase “such as these” is tointoun, which is neuter. The word for the children who come to Jesus is paidia, which is also neuter. The word for “anyone” in verse 15 is hos, which is masculine. It is important to note that the genders of each of these words are incidental features of Greek syntax and not determinative of which genders of human beings can and cannot enter God’s kingdom. Syntactically, however, Greek pronouns and nouns do need to generally match in their genders. Thus, the first interpretation of which referent is the appropriate one for the phrase “such as these” is correct: it is children like the ones who are coming to Jesus in Mark 10 who can enter God’s kingdom. Age is no barrier to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Of course, I would not walk a grieving family who has just lost a child through the technicalities of the Greek syntax in Mark 10 like I did in this blog. But a careful consideration of the syntax is important for my pastoral ministry because it allows me to confidently proclaim:

Jesus welcomes children into His kingdom.

Just because a baby cannot intellectually assent to the great truths of the Christian faith does not mean they are barred from eternal life. Indeed, one of the reasons that adults can have a faith like a child is because there is such a thing as a faith of a child (cf. Matthew 18:6). Children – and even babies – can sing babbling praises to the Lord (Matthew 21:15-16). Babies – and even infants in the womb – can respond to God’s good news of a Messiah (Luke 1:41-42). A child lost to a parent does not mean a child lost to the Lord.

If you are reading this and you have lost a child, this I want you to know:

Jesus welcomes children into His kingdom.

You can have hope.

If you are reading this and you have a child or are expecting one, share with them God’s Word, even from the womb. Allow them to hear the voice of their Savior calling them. It’s never too early to teach the faith because it’s never too early for someone to have faith. And it is by faith that we live – and live eternally.

March 1, 2021 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Coronavirus Comfort

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Credit: Pixabay

It’s been another tough week in our nation. I keep wondering where the peak of the coronavirus’s spread is on the one hand and where the bottom of our economy is on the other. The number of people becoming infected is increasing – exponentially. And the economy is collapsing. Goldman Sachs is forecasting a 24% decline in our GDP in the second quarter while J.P. Morgan predicts a more “modest” decline of 14%. Families are trying to stay healthy by sheltering-in-place while businesses are trying to figure out how to stay afloat. And no one seems to know quite how or when all this will end.

At times like these, the words of Martin Luther’s famed hymn seem especially poignant:

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.

This moment in our history is certainly filled with “mortal ills.” And yet, God is stronger than any illness. God is bigger than our own mortality.

This is why Luther concludes his hymn:

Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Even if coronavirus can quarantine a society, it cannot quell God’s presence. And even if coronavirus kills a body, it cannot conquer God’s kingdom. His kingdom is forever. Coronavirus is not.

Let’s try to remember that during these long days.

March 23, 2020 at 5:15 am 2 comments

Breaking Down Brexit

London.jpg

It was a shocker of an outcome. British voters backed Brexit.

In a move that sent markets stumbling and the pound tumbling, Britons voted to leave the European Union 52% to 48%.  The fallout from the exit was nearly immediate as David Cameron stepped down as Britain’s Prime Minister, saying:

I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the EU. I made clear the referendum was about this, and this alone, not the future of any single politician, including myself.  But the British people made a different decision to take a different path. As such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.[1]

In support of Brexit was Boris Johnson, a member of Parliament and the former mayor of London, who explained:

In the end this question is about the people…it is about the very principles of our democracy…I think the electorate have searched in their hearts and answered as honestly as they can.  They have decided that it is time to vote to take back control from an EU that has become too remote, too opaque and not accountable enough to the people it is meant to serve.[2]

Back here in the United States, the Obama administration had announced its support for Great Britain remaining in the EU and expressed disappointment at the vote while still pledging its ongoing support for the UK.

As with many things of this nature, there were probably good reasons for Great Britain to stay in the EU and good reasons for it to leave.  On the one hand, fraternal cooperation between nations who support each other in their humanity and not just in their nationality is good.  On the other hand, a governing body as large and as political as the EU is simply too inherently prone to corruption to exercise its power without problems and concerns.

Regardless of how you may personally feel about the Brexit vote, it is important that we, as Christians, pray for the British people.  This much is certain:  this vote has launched that country into turmoil.  The price of gold has surged as jittery investors clamor to find safe financial havens.  British millennials are also broadly upset with the vote, with one millennial tweeting, “A generation given everything…have voted to strip my generation’s future.”[3]  According to one poll, 64% of Britons ages 25 to 29 wanted to stay in the EU.  It was the older Britons who carried Brexit to victory.  But even in the wake of victory, the United Kingdom is still divided.

Ultimately, Brexit can serve as a reminder that no human coalition or government, no matter how seemingly strong, is impenetrable or eternal.  Every earthly kingdom eventually fails and falls.  This is why our hope can never be in nations, international unions, or leaders.  Our hope must finally be in the Lord.

After the Egyptians free the Israelites from the shackles of their slavery to them, and after God miraculously parts the Red Sea so the Israelites can escape the Egyptian army when the Egyptian Pharaoh changes his mind about releasing the Israelites, and after God causes the wheels of the Egyptian chariots to fall off as they pursue the Israelites into the parted Red Sea (cf. Exodus 14:25), and after God swallows up the Egyptians in the Red Sea by causing its waters to fall back on them, Exodus 14:31 says, “When the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in Him.”

Eventually, the wheels of every kingdom fall off.  Brexit is just the latest example.  Thus, if we trust only in human kingdoms and powers, we will be left with nothing but fear when these kingdoms collapse.  This is why we must put our trust in the Lord.  For when we trust in Him, we can move through even a time of international uncertainty knowing that one kingdom – God’s Kingdom – can never be shaken.  In the words of Martin Luther:

The Word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

___________________________________

[1] Heather Stewart, Rowena Mason, and Rajeev Syal, “David Cameron resigns after UK votes to leave European Union,” The Guardian (6.24.2016).

[2] Kate McCann and Laura Hughes, “EU referendum live: Boris Johnson hails ‘glorious opportunity’ of Brexit as David Cameron resigns,” The Telegraph (6.24.2016).

[3] Ivana Kottasova, “British Millennials: You’ve stolen our future,” CNN Money (6.24.20216).

June 27, 2016 at 5:15 am 1 comment


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