I couldn’t wait for their visit! That is how I felt as a child when I heard that my grandparents who lived 300 miles away were coming. I only saw them twice each year and treasured the time we would have together. As Christians, we often long for the presence of Christ in a similar way. Though we believe He is always with us, there are those special times when His presence becomes so real, so tangible. We thirst for Him and want to sense Him close by. We will go to great lengths to experience these encounters, but sometimes He is standing right before us and we do not even know it.
Jesus said, “Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” This means that when we allow ourselves to experience Christ’s heart for that little one, and open our hearts to him/her, we are opening our hearts to the presence of Christ Himself. It may not be in the midst of a worship service or when we are in our personal prayer closet, but His presence is real nonetheless, and can happen just about anywhere and anytime. Jesus cares for children, that is why He went on to say, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”
In view of Jesus’ words, it is imperative that we love children and reach out to them from the heart of the heart of Christ who lives in us. This coming Sunday is Blue Sunday. I had never heard of it until recently, when our church leadership decided to observe the day. Blue Sunday is a day that many churches set aside a time in their worship services to pray for victims of child abuse and those who rescue them. It has been observed since 1994.
According to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, child maltreatment is rising. In Maine alone in 2017, “There were 7,288 reports involving 10,119 children assigned to a caseworker for a child protective assessment….”[i] It is likely that child maltreatment occurs in your community. Unfortunately, the church at large is not immune to this issue. According to one source, there is an average of 70 allegations of child abuse per week in houses of faith across the nation[ii].
The impacts of child abuse are significant. It can cause mental health and trust issues later on in life. As much as 2/3 of people in drug treatment programs reported that they were abused as children [iii]. Many victims of maltreatment are abused by someone they knew and believed they could trust. Imagine being a child and being maltreated by someone you look up to and thought was a safe person to be around. Imagine that trust being violated and the way it would affect the way you look at the world.
What can you, as a Christian, do? First, realize that Jesus cares very much about these little ones. Next, ask God to make His heart beat within you for them and pray for them. Educate yourself about the issue and take the appropriate steps if you suspect abuse in a child’s life. (For example, you can call 1-800-4 A CHILD and they will instruct you on what to do.) Last, but definitely not least, create a safe environment in which children have every opportunity to thrive.
[Note: The above only scratches the surface of this topic. If you would like to learn more or have questions, feel to reach out to me at email@example.com or at 207-443-4747.]
Lord Jesus, You care deeply for children.
Would you put Your heart in me for them
and help me to see these little ones through Your eyes?
Would You teach me how to pray for them
and for those who are endeavoring to rescue them?
Move in my community that it might be a safe place for children
to grow up and to learn more about who You are.
In Your name I pray, amen.
[i] 2017 CPS Annual Report
[ii] “Preventing Child Abuse,” Basyle ‘Boz’ Tchividjian in Caring for Kids God’s Way,” video course by the American Association of Christian Counselors.
[iii] Blue Sunday information sheet