Beware: Don’t Corrupt the Children

Beware: Don’t Corrupt the Children

Beware: Don’t Corrupt the Children.

“He put a child in the middle of the room. Then, cradling the little one in his arms, Jesus said, ‘Whoever embraces one of these children as I do embrace me, and far more than me – God who sent me… Woe to anyone who is the downfall of one of these little ones. If you give one of these  children a hard time, bullying, corrupting, or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck.'” (Mark 9:36, 37, 42; also Matthew 18:5-6).

Jesus reserved one of  his starkest warnings against those who would harm children. Children are highly valued by Jesus, and He went way out of His way to communicate that. He said that there was a special punishment reserved for those who harmed children in any way. He gave a recommendation for anyone who mistreated children: It would be better for you to have a huge boulder tied around your neck and be thrown into the deep blue sea than to receive the punishment you richly deserve. So where does this leave the United States? How is our society doing when it comes to the treatment of our children? Does our American culture have a millstone around its neck? Is God truly going to judge our country based on its treatment of our children? Let’s look at some aspects of our society as it relates to our treatment of children.

Child Abuse. In 2019 there were 700,000 children who were abused, which includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. That comes out to about 1% of our country’s children, and it is vastly underreported. Almost two million children received prevention services from child protection agencies. In 2018, a total of 1,770 children died from abuse. The highest rate of victimization is among the youngest children, from 0-4 years old. 7% of the children being abused or neglected were sexually abused, and 15% of the victims were abused both physically and through neglect. Of the children being abused, 78% were victimized by the child’s parents. How long will the Lord put up with this in our nation’s homes?

Child Trafficking. Globally there are about 40 million victims of human trafficking. Astoundingly, fully 25% of those victims are children. Human trafficking is now a $150 billion business worldwide. Every 2.5 hours a child is taken by human traffickers. In the United States, of the 23,500 children runaways, one in every 7 children are victims of child sex trafficking. Child predators continue to find great success in grooming their child victims online. The National Human Trafficking Hotline receives an average of 90 calls per day. Using children as sex objects is revolting and morally repugnant. What would be worse than that? What would Jesus, the ultimate child advocate, have to say about that?

Fatherlessness. This is a passive form of child abuse. There are currently almost 20 million children living in a home without a father, 19.5 million to be exact. That means that one out of every 4 children in the U.S. are not living with a father. There are millions more children who live with emotionally distant but physically present fathers. The fathers who disconnect from their child, whether physically or emotionally, deeply harm the child and are doing that child no favors. Boys without fathers are 4 times more likely to live in poverty, 4 times more likely to commit a crime, twice as likely to drop out of school, and twice as likely to end up in prison. Girls without fathers are 7 times more likely to get pregnant as teenagers. 90% of homeless/runaway children are from fatherless homes. 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes. 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. Children without fathers are more likely to face abuse or neglect, have behavioral problems, and abuse drugs/alcohol. There are 17.7 million school-age children living in a home without a father. Fatherlessness is a deliberate act of rejecting the child, of not welcoming a child into the father’s life. And that has dire consequences. Fatherlessness deeply harms the child for life. Our Father in heaven must be grieving over this form of child abuse.

Education. The statistics for minority children especially are dismal in city schools. They are not prepared for college or employment. Schools in most school districts across America are not giving the students a fair chance at a good job and further education. White students are nearly 4.5 grade levels ahead of their black peers within the Atlanta Public Schools. In San Francisco, only 12% of black students are proficient in math. In Washington, D.C., only 23% scored proficient in reading. In Philadelphia, 47% of black students scored below basic in math. In Detroit, 73% of black students scored below basic in math and 56% in reading. In 2019, the racial breakdown of high school seniors who met the minimum ACT readiness benchmarks were 62% of Asians, 47% of whites, 23% of Hispanics, and 11% of African-Americans. That’s a crying shame across the board, for everyone. Our educational system is failing our children. And this was before the pandemic, during which most public schools are providing a vastly inadequate education through remote learning. Schools need to open up to in-person instruction for the children’s sake. School children neither acquire the virus nor spread the virus, teachers are receiving vaccinations, and students in schools are safer than those who remain in a self-contained atmosphere at home. Add to that most of our low-income students do not have adequate access to what is needed for remote learning. Our educational system is failing our children, it is treating our students with little respect or consideration. It is mistreating our children, and no one seems to be taking responsibility.

Pandemic. Hospitals report a sharp rise in child admission due to severe injury from child abuse. Their emergency departments report an increase in visits due to child abuse and neglect. The Health Department has stated that during the pandemic there is a greater risk for child maltreatment, and that it is a “significant public health concern.” Pediatricians across the country report that there were more severe injuries caused by abuse during this pandemic, as well as more child fatalities. Child advocacy centers have reported that the official reports of abuse have dropped, but the calls to National Child Abuse Hotline has increased by 31%. Many officials worry that the abuse is grossly underreported, since the children don’t have the infrastructure of teachers, social workers and daycare centers to report the abuse. That  infrastructure reports one-fifth of all abuse cases. This pandemic is taking a terrible toll on our children. That data is incomplete at this point, since it is still being recorded and researched by the various child advocacy agencies. Officials are fearful that child abuse is increasing unofficially, behind closed doors. Since the pandemic’s social isolation, school closures, and lack of parents’ jobs, depression and anxiety have become rampant in our young people. It has been called a “mental health epidemic.” A difficult life for children has only been made worse during the corona virus, and in the view of the children, there is no end in sight.

Abortion. This is the ultimate child abuse. Since 1973’s Roe v. Wade, there have been 62 million abortions. Only a statistic? Not when you consider that every one of those 62 million was the developing life of a preborn baby in the mother’s womb. There has been a growing callousness in our general society toward the worth and dignity of children ever since abortion has become such an accepted part of our culture. Abortion is a barbaric violation of the sacred intimacy between mother and child. In the U. S. society, the innocent blood of these children is crying out to God from the ground. The voices of these victims seem to be getting louder and louder. How long will God put up with this?

What did Jesus mean when, after taking up a child into His arms, He said that whoever welcomes one of these little ones in His name in fact welcomes Him? It seems to me that Jesus might be saying:

Here’s the bottom line, people… I love children. I knit every one of their little bodies together in the womb, I strung together their DNA, I wired each nervous system. I breathed their first breath through my Spirit to each and every one of these children! I invented each personality, fashioned each child from scratch, and then danced a jig to celebrate every birth. And so I designed each child to represent much of what is true of my Kingdom: simple and transparent, playful and straightforward, relational and curious, zealous and dynamic, dependent and trusting. Children, all of them in general and each one in particular, are my pride and joy. Unfortunately, each one of my prize packages is also vulnerable in this fallen world of mine. So they have my heart, and I have their back.

I’m like any devoted parent, only more so. I take personally whatever happens to them, as if it happens to me. I’m like the parent who screeches “ouch!” when the child falls on the sidewalk. I identify so closely with my children that when a child is bullied, I feel the humiliation. When a child is victimized, I feel the shame and revulsion. When a child is harmed in any way, I head in the direction of justice for that child. On the other hand, when a little ragamuffin kid is received with kindness and respect, I feel like I’m being received that way too. 

When parents graciously open their hearts and home to be blessed with a child – as an act of faith and trust – they had better set an extra plate at the table for me. When schools welcome students into their classrooms as honored guests made in my image, they’d better get an extra desk for me. Whoever welcomes a child, welcomes me, the Lord of children. And in this process arrives the Father, from whom all fatherhood gets its name. 

I become a household name whenever love for children is a natural outgrowth of love for me, whether the child is sick or healthy, athletic or awkward, academic or artistic, passive or exuberant, a rock star or someone who is easily lost in the shuffle. I especially root for those underdogs, because I know what that feels like. I was once an unknown child, often dismissed as being “just a kid.” As I grew, I was considered a fool and a misfit. I remained a child at heart, even though I was judged and abused as an adult. I know what those children feel like in an adult world. So, by all means, by every means, welcome my children into your embrace, and you will find that you’d better open your arms a little wider, because I’m right there with you. Make room for me too. And don’t even think about mistreating my children. I have a millstone waiting.