AT a recent conference, caring men and women addressed the subject of child abuse. It's a sobering issue, and the statistics and predictions seem almost overwhelming at times. This article simply offers a Scriptural starting point that can give a healing thrust to our efforts in behalf of children. At the root of the problem, speakers pointed out, is an adult's misuse of power. Halfway into the conference, vulnerability was proposed as the most complete definition of childhood. Yearning to help free society's young ones from dismal prospects, I turned for guidance to Christ Jesus' example. His disciples had rebuked those who brought little children to him. Imagine the disciples' astonishment when their Teacher not only took the little ones in his arms but said, ``Of such is the kingdom of God''!1 Given his countless proofs that God's kingdom is always at hand to bless us, it isn't likely that the Master was equating the kingdom, and therefore children, with vulnerability. What does the kingdom of God include? Could it include the childlike qualities of purity, receptivity, joy? Is this what Jesus was taking into his arms? What would be the effect if we embraced such qualities instead of vulnerability in our concept of children?
A familiar view of children links innocence and trust to vulnerability, receptivity to impressionability. This may seem a realistic appraisal in a world where sin is rampant. But our loving Father wouldn't give His children gifts that would foster their harm and abuse. Since innocence comes from God, Truth, it must, in its truest, spiritual sense, be coupled with power. Receptivity derived from the Father must be guarded by wisdom. Our faith in children's God-given strength and intelligence is a first step toward enabling them to express these qualities.
Our Scripturally founded view of children can also extend to adults. God's gifts cannot become lost or perverted. God never takes them back. That means adults have a right to the same spiritually inherited purity and joy. In fact, the Bible tells us we are all children of God, divine Love. The true selfhood of each of us is pure and worthy. God knows how He created us. He knows the gifts He has given us. Isn't the Christian called to bear witness to these gifts, to further their expression on earth, to rebuke prayerfully the destructive materialism that tries so hard to hide them? If we attribute as much power to evil as to good, what are we saying about God's allness, about the invariable goodness of His gifts?
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``When speaking of God's children, not the children of men, Jesus said, `The kingdom of God is within you;' that is, Truth and Love reign in the real man, showing that man in God's image is unfallen and eternal.''2 Jesus perceived the child of God right before him. That's our task in prayer. That's our task on the street and in the face of the evening news: to recognize man's true, invulnerable, God-given nature; to look for the harmless, uncontaminated qualities of God belonging to all those around us. We must see through the shame and confusion associated with a sensuous, materialistic concept of man--the sinful, mortal view--and realize that each one's true being is Godlike. This is not to ignore evil but to bring a measure of healing to humanity by glorifying what God has truly created.
The inviolate goodness of God's children is provable by degrees right now. Prayer based on an understanding of man as spiritual and upright enables us to break free from gloomy, limited ways of thinking that keep us trapped. It bears witness to the creation God made. Acknowledging divine Love as sole authority, such prayer promotes an environment in which human applications of power increasingly conform to the Father's. As we accept a higher definition of childhood as our starting point, and then embrace all within it, our prayers will help advance a society where power is used appropriately to nurture and protect the children in our care.
1Mark 10:14. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 476. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright. Ecclesiastes 7:29