“Father and Mother! In raising children, the very heart of the matter is to regard them as highly as the Lord did—as possessors of the kingdom of heaven, and as your examples. Matthew 18:1-6.
No one has ever regarded a child too highly; and all of the children on this earth who have been damaged, have been damaged or hurt because people had too little regard for them.
When you hold that little one in your arms, know that you are then embracing heaven and God Himself, in an image unlike any that has ever been—an image that will never appear in the same manner as it does in your child!
God has given Himself to you in your child so that you might give yourself to Him. The way you treat your child is the way you treat God, and God in return will treat you in just the same way. Matthew. 18:5-6.”
– Nils Petter Wetterlund
Treating children with love, respect, and understanding
I once read these words, written by a Swedish pastor and author who lived at the beginning of the 20th century, and they stuck with me. The way he writes about children, with such love, respect, and understanding, is a great exhortation to me.
How do I regard my children? How do I think about them?
It’s easy to look at a sleeping toddler and smile tenderly. But what if that same child throws a huge tantrum the next day, in the middle of the store?
And what if that nine-year-old, who usually is so friendly and helpful, gets so mad sometimes that he throws his toys across the room?
What if that beautiful girl, whose grey-greenish eyes sparkle so often, at other times gets under your skin because she just refuses to listen?
Do I still regard them as highly as the Lord did? Do I remember in that very moment that they are possessors of the kingdom of heaven? Do I treat them as such?
Oh sure – even though Jesus presented children as our example, that doesn’t make them perfect. They have strong wills that regularly conflict with my ideas. They have inclinations towards sin, just like I have. In fact, they might have inherited these less likable personality traits from me.
They need help and guidance
But I am the adult. I should have learned by now how to cope with these character traits that might not be such a blessing to others. I can contain myself better, I have practiced how to fight against sin, and how to overcome evil with good. I know about the throne of grace in heaven where I can get help in the time of need!
However, they are just kids. They can’t help their personalities. They have yet to learn what it means to overcome those ugly things in their human natures. It’s so often not an unwillingness to do the right thing – it’s their inability to choose the good that makes them behave the way they do.
But they are intensely loved! Not only by me – Jesus welcomes them with open arms. “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Matthew 10:14.
It’s my job to point them to that kingdom of God, over and over; to nourish the budding faith in their young hearts that it is this kingdom they will inherit, just as Jesus said.
Even when they mess up. No matter how often they mess up. Even when they get under my skin and I feel frustration bubbling up. I have a responsibility to guide them and help them, so they will learn how to become an overcomer! As their role model, I have to overcome my own feelings and love them in a way that is patient, free from egotism, and full of hope! They are a gift from heaven – and by embracing that gift, even in those hard moments, I embrace heaven itself.
How would I treat Jesus?
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives Me”, Jesus said (Matthew 18:5).
And how would I receive Him, actually? How would I treat Him? Would I brush him off, because I am tired? Would I snap because I feel overwhelmed by the thousands of requests coming my way, every single day? Or would I somehow find the patience to smile, look Him in the eye, and respond kindly?
“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me”, Jesus said on another occasion (Matthew 25:40).
What a responsibility! I want to embrace my children and regard them highly, even in the most difficult moments. I want to help and teach them, not in a condescending way, as if they are unknowing, unimportant, unwise. On the contrary, I want to teach them with all respect, love, and understanding – just as Jesus treated the children and blessed them.
Every day I have lots of opportunities to show my regard for them.
Every day I can practice treating them the same way as I would treat my Savior.
Every day I want to pour out my life to serve my children, knowing that by doing so, I give myself to God.