But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:6)
These are pretty strong words from Jesus about causing children to sin. Some people interpret this verse to mean actual children, and others say it means those who are children in the faith – new believers. Either way, I think we would all agree that purposely placing such vulnerable people in the path of sin is a wrong thing to do.
But I wonder if we don’t slip up in this area without realizing it? I considered this subject one Sunday as the pastor was preaching about staying true to the faith. He mentioned that children especially are in the “danger zone” at school. Most of their peers are either non-Christians or immature Christians who are hardly the best people to encourage someone in their walk of faith. Those peers are more likely to discourage the Christian child from following Christ. Have you ever heard a gaggle of kids or teens talking and then one of them say, “Hey, we should stop talking like this. It’s gossip and it’s not right.” Or how about this scenario – “Wait guys, we shouldn’t do that because our parents told us not to and we should respect our parents.” Sounds a little unlikely, doesn’t it?
But wait, you might say. Jesus also told us we would face opposition in our Christian walk. Isn’t this normal for a Christian? Shouldn’t our children learn early to be strong in their faith and be salt and light to those around them?
Jesus' Choice for Missionaries
Consider this. Jesus sent out missionaries to be witnesses for Him while He was here on earth. His choice of witnesses is very interesting. First of all, He didn’t even send them out until He had spent a great deal of personal time teaching them every day - for years. Secondly, He sent them out in pairs – not by themselves. And thirdly, He chose grown men. This was not cultural. Jesus repeatedly broke cultural barriers concerning women and children. This was Jesus’ purposeful plan to send out missionaries who were strong in the faith and could hold their own against the violent opposition of the world.
Who Do We Choose for Missionaries?
Now think about this. Muslims who follow the Koran believe that the infidel must be killed. And we have seen with horror that in some countries, those Muslims actually use children to accomplish this task. The children usually die in the process, thus provoking us to rightly condemn the grown men who would send a child to do their violent job.
But are we Christians any different? We believe that the “infidel” or unbeliever should be evangelized, not killed. This is good and scriptural. But why do we send our children out to do our work of evangelization? They, too, often suffer great casualties in the process. Recent studies and books have noted that children from Christian families are leaving the church in droves when they reach adult age. Perhaps this is because we send them out to fight a battle they are not prepared for?
Nurturing Children in the Faith
The Bible says that even Jesus was careful not to break the “bruised reeds” or snuff out the “smoldering flax.” (Matthew 12:20) Young people in general and young Christians in particular need nurturing and strengthening, not grueling opposition every single day from those who are their friends. God in His providence sometimes allows this to happen to young Christians. But we should be very cautious about taking such a burden onto our own consciences.
Evangelizing the world is a good thing. We should teach our children to do so. But while they are young, they should be accompanied by parents who are strong in the faith and can support and encourage them in the process.
Forcing a child every day to a place where he must stand alone against ranks of those who would tear down his faith is putting a child in a place where he is pushed to sin. Rather than smugly enjoying the fact that we’ve sent our children out to be salt and light, perhaps we should instead be on our knees repenting for actions that merit millstones around our necks.