My favorite movie of all time was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched it as a child and with my own children. One interesting fact that really says much about the quality of the film, is that it is based on a book by Ian Fleming, the former British Naval Intelligence officer and the author of the James Bond 007 spy novels. The film was only loosely adapted from Fleming’s successful children’s book but the production by Albert R. Broccoli, who also produced many of the Bond films, made the story pop in the screen play. Dick Van Dyke solidified the success of the film with an encore performance, after starring in the fantastical “Mary Poppins” four years earlier. Okay, where am I going with this? Do you remember Baron and Baroness Bomburst? Do you remember what they hated the most? They despised children. To combat the problem of children in their kingdom they employed the Child Catcher. The scene where the Potts children were hiding at the toymaker’s shop while the Child Catcher menacingly rides into the village in the Kingdom of Vulgaria on his horse drawn carriage with his child catching net still scares me. Voted by Entertainment Weekly in 2008 as one of the top 50 most vile villains in screen history, the Child Catcher ranked above the Wicked Witch of the West . However, though you may think so after this article, I am not he who hates children. I love children, but I see them for what they are. As I began this series, and told you that it was designed not to instruct but to encourage. I knew I would have to tread on a topic that some might think a little harsh. Just like boot camp, we must be broken down before we are built back up. Okay, here goes! Children are generally hated by God before they are loved by God.
Who in their right mind could have hated Jeremy and Jemima Potts. Just watch the movie and you will see two of the sweetest, most pure, harmless… enough with the adjectives, but you get the picture. The “Toot Sweet” scene with the lovely Truly Scrumptious was adorable, right. Of course, they had to be portrayed as such to create the antithesis for the Baron’s and Baroness’ antagonism. Who would want to injure these adorable little children? Let us leave the fantasy land and enter the world in which we live. How do you view the spiritual nature of your children? Is it from the world’s perspective where, more like the film, children are seen as innocent, not responsible for their imperfections and transgressions? When a child misbehaves is it sinful or simply childish? Is your child’s relentless energy or, stated another way, running, talking, wiggling, et cetera, when they’ve been told not to, benign or malignant? Is their failure to follow instruction foolishness or ignorance?
If you are a follower of Christ, your answers to these questions are very important. I am aware that there may be some doctrinal differences amongst those who read this blog. I do not wish to tread on your belief system, as far as, when a child comes to faith or is saved, at least not today.
Let’s work in reverse order of the questions I just asked. Are your children foolish or ignorant? Let’s define the terms as we know them to be. Foolishness is the lack of good sense or judgement. Ignorance is the lack of knowledge or awareness. God tells us, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” (Prov. 22:15) Do you see the desparate situation here. The soul of the child is enslaved to poor judgement. Solomon, the foremost child psychologist, does not say that a lack of information is the problem with the child’s behavior. Neither is it a retention issue. It’s not that he forgot you told him to stop running in the Church building, so he does not lack the information. He simply uses poor judgement by choosing what he wants to do over what you told him to do. For those of us who took a little psychology in college, we could argue the lack of development of the prefrontal cortex, the executive decision or judgement making portion of the brain. All right, props for that observation. The prefrontal cortex is supposedly fully functional by age 25. I know a lot of foolish adults and my horses don’t even have a prefrontal cortex and they have pretty good judgement. I digress.
Next, is your energizer bunny’s behavior benign (harmless) or malignant (harmful)? We’ll according to God, if it is caused by foolishness, and in the very next portion of the Proverb he says that “only the rod of discipline” will remove it, foolishness, from him, then it must be judged to be malignant. God would not recommend the use of corporal punishment for something benign or harmless. What your children are doing is what Paul called “suppressing the truth by their wickedness.” Remember, they are not ignorant of the fact that you have told them five times today not to run in the Church building, and five hundred times since they began to understand language. They know what you told them, they just refuse to do it. They suppress it. Read on in Paul’s introductory chapter of Romans (1:19-32.) Go read it! Several times he refers to the foolishness of men, not their ignorance. But you say, “This is bad stuff they are doing! These are some nasty people!” What does this have to do with my little darling. Well, little Johnny is capable of all this stuff, eventually. Currently, however, he is included in the same category of them whom God has revealed his wrath upon by the implications of verse 30, “they disobey their parents.” Now, is their behavior malignant or benign? Use your prefrontal cortex. You be the judge because Paul already did. He called it foolishness.
Lastly, is their misbehavior sin or is it just being children? If we still have to answer this question then I have failed and you might as well click off. The Westminster Divines defined sin as any lack of conformity to or transgression of the law of God. I think we can make a sound argument for a sinful condition. Your child is, just like you, and just like the vilest of the vile, a sinner, justly deserving God’s displeasure, and without hope save in God’s sovereign mercy.
This is quite a picture of desperation. Some may believe that God gives children a pass, an age of responsibility at which somehow magically, children move form one category of person to another. Haven’t found that one in scripture yet, but I’m not an exhaustive source. What I have found is that God has provided a remedy for the problem of sin in our children. He has also provided that wicked little viper an advocate. You being a godly parent is the most typical means that God grows his kingdom. Your child is born with its own personal priest. Your first duty in the Great Commission is not a mission trip to Uganda, but rather the evangelization of your child, whether they are infants or adults. Your child has you to lead them to claiming God’s promises as their own and to assist them in inheriting the kingdom you inherited. Acknowledging that your child is tenuously dangling over the fires of Hell is the first step in invoking the mercies of God in Christ Jesus.