“Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” -Matthew 18:5-6
This is a fallen world. What an understatement! The world exudes evil. Just think of the daily news reporting about wars and rumors of wars, murders, rapes, and mayhem; pernicious drug and alcohol fueled too-often-fatal addictions; human cruelty upon fellow humans beyond the pale; slums, famine, and poverty leading to death; violent execution of society’s most vulnerable – tiny babes in and out of the womb.
I have personally witnessed such travesties in my travels, experiences, visual media, and through extensive reading, as I am sure you have. I have seen a world which is incredibly beautiful, with numerous oases of great joy and laughter, teeming with vibrant life, but you cannot deny the manifest evil in it also, perpetrated by man torturing man, as well as indiscriminate damage wrought by man on the beauty of this earth we call home.
The evil in this world radiates from the heart of the prime focus of God’s creation: man, a fallen sinner. Most revealing of all, however, is man as parent! You must understand that every killer, every rapist, every robber, every creator of mayhem had a father and a mother – a father and mother tasked by God to nurture and discipline their child into becoming a productive member of society at least and a follower of God at best.
If every father and mother had done their job as parent “successfully,” what would this world be like? Jesus’ warning is dire to say the very least. It must cause shivers of fear to course through the veins of those whose consciences are not yet seared.
I know this warning does not address parents alone. Jesus speaks of anyone who causes “these little ones” to stumble, to fall into sin. Obviously though, the ones who are most in an accountable position to precipitate this stumble are the parents of little children. Augustine once said, “Give me a child until he/she is seven, and they are mine for life,” pointing out the critical impact of those first seven years.
It would be better for those who cause this stumble, Jesus says, for a millstone to be tied around their neck and to be tossed into the depth of the sea. This warning does not mince words. It places a heavy burden upon every parent and anyone in a position to be an example to children. Very possibly in heaven God will reveal those who looked up to your example, even some of whom you had no clue were watching you.
Jesus leaves parents with much more than a devastating warning. His promises to covenant parents in the nurture and discipline of their children are sure and numerous. You cannot fulfill your calling and task apart from them, for these promises are powerful and effective. If taken to heart, the realistic burden of this warning must drive parents to Jesus and His promises.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Is this true? God declares it is. But so is the millstone warning! Jesus spoke clearly and truly. Parents and all of us must take this to heart. If you are a parent, parenting is the most important thing you do!
“Gracious Savior, gentle Shepherd, our little ones are dear to Thee; gathered with Thine arms and carried in Thy bosom may they be, sweetly, gently, safely tended, from all want and danger free.
Tender Shepherd, never leave them from Thy fold to go astray. By Thy look of love directed, may they walk the narrow way; thus direct them and protect them, lest they fall an easy prey.
Let Thy holy Word instruct them. Fill their minds with heavenly light. Let Thy love and grace constrain them to approve whate’er is right, take Thine easy yoke and wear it, and to prove Thy burden light.”
(Verses 1-3 of Jane Leeson’s hymn, “Gracious Savior, Gentle Shepherd,” 1842)
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