Last week I went to ‘Hope for the Child’ conference with 3 friends and colleagues from Turning Point (Gladys – social worker, Godwill – youth worker, Mary – project mama at Kianda centre). The conference lasted the week and was facilitated by International Justice Mission, an excellent charity fighting for justice from a biblical perspective around the world. In Nairobi they focus on child sexual abuse and unlawful detainment of prisoners. Apart from eating very good food (all conferences should serve food of that standard!), I learnt a lot. The week focused primarily on child protection and consisted of a mixture of group work and presentations led by different staff from IJM.
I learnt many things, but what particularly challenged me was a session looking at the biblical mandate on how we treat children. Below are some notes I took away from this session
It is very clear that God has a big heart for children, and how we treat them should reflect His love for them.
God has given us some quite specific instructions on we should treat children, and we need to protect them in Jesus’ name, not because we’re rich/good-hearted/able etc. In Matthew 18:5 it says whoever welcomes children in my name also welcomes me. This particularly challenged me: where does my passion for working with disadvantaged children come from? Do I do it because God has commanded me? Or is it because it makes me feel good? Do I do what I do for God’s glory, or for mine?
I was also challenged to take a biblical perspective how I ‘protect’ children in spite of the many causes of child abuse (e.g.technology/urbanisation/modernisation). Often we focus on these ‘reasons’ for child abuse so much that we miss Jesus’ principles in how we can be effective in our work with children. In other words we focus on trying to ‘fix’ these causes in our own strength rather than examining the instructions God has clearly given us in the bible in how we protect and care for children. Often the two will go hand in hand, but we our focus should stem from the biblical perspective.
God talks about how we should treat children in a very specific way. Below are 8 categories of instructions God gives us:
- Parenting: God gives parents clear commands on how to bring up their children. Teaching children about their rights and responsibilities is good BUT we shouldn’t forget about the rights and responsibilities of the parent too. (See Exodus 18:20, Deut 12:28, Psalm 127:3, Proverbs 22:15)
- Community roles and responsibilities: as a Christian community throughout the world, we need to recognise the responsibility we have in caring for the vulnerable children among and around us. God instructs us as a community and we need to take up and follow these instructions instead of passing the blame onto someone or something else. (Exodus 22:22-23, Deut 31:12-13, Psalm 71:17-18, Psalm 78:4)
- Quality of children as a measure of characteristics of a society: how we treat our children reflects our community as a whole (Matt 11:25-26, Luke 9:46-48, Lam 1:16, Proverbs 17:16)
- Future and continuity of society: often we look to our ancestors in getting guidance on how to treat our children – particularly in the African culture, but we need to look forward and see that the future well-being of our society is in the children among us (Deut 29:29, Proverbs 13:22)
- Children’s special position before God: God has a special place for children in His heart and His kingdom. Children are often a reason for God to show His compassion. Because of this we need to defend them or we annoy God! (Psalm 8:2, Psalm 68:5-6, Jeremiah 49:11, Lam 3:32-22)
- Protection and defense of children: God initiates defense and protection of children and we are called to intervene and mitigate for them (Psalm 10:14, Psalm 72:4, Psalm 146:9, Deut 31:12-13, Lam 4:4, Matt 10:42, James 1:27)
- Children’s Rights and Responsibilities: God also places responsibilities on children and we need to teach them these (Proverbs 20:11, Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 6:1-4, Colossians 3:20)
- Christ-like society: following these instructions in caring and defending the child reflects God’s Kingdom (Mark 10:13-16, James 1:27, 1 John: 2:13)
And I’m going to stop there, because you probably stopped reading ages ago. And I’m tired, and if I’m just writing this for my own benefit to get words and thoughts onto paper (/blog) then I think my bed’s more important right now.
Tomorrow is second day of holiday club at Turning Point (school broke up for Christmas last week) and I need all the energy I can get. Will post more on holiday club shenanigans another day. Night all.