I was talking with some members of my extended family yesterday and something came up that got me thinking. I realized that how people interact with children sends me a strong signal about their character.
I’m not even sure whether this is right or wrong, but I am realizing that when I see someone who talks easily with kids, who can get on their "level" and understand their world, I tend to trust them more than I do someone who has no time for them or doesn’t know how to talk to them.
There is a security guard at a place we go often who never talks to any of the adults in our group, but will only address children. And when he does so, it’s always to correct them, and always in a very dominating manner, and usually when other adults are not around. The way he speaks to children tells me a lot about him.
In contrast, I’ve also recently been very blessed to see the adults at Christ Community interacting with the (many) children there, talking with them about things, being patient with them… blessing them.
Of course Jesus famously had a lot of time for children. When his disciples were bickering about "greatness" Jesus placed a child in their midst as an object lesson as to what "greatness" might mean in the kingdom of God.
"Unless you change and become like little children, you won’t even perceive the kingdom." To paraphrase Hauerwas, few things about Jesus are as subversive, radical, and counter-cultural than his blessing of children.
The thing about children is that they are weak, needy, dependent, little, poor, of not much "use" to the economic bottom line. It says a lot about a person to see how they treat someone who can do nothing for them in return. Perhaps this is the reason that, even from the very early days of the church, caring for the poor has always been a vital part of Christian faith and practice. Perhaps we bless children, then, for the same reason we care for the poor: not because it is good for society, or because "children are the future," or because we want to build "strong, healthy families," but simply because this is the way God is. Blessing children comes close to the kind of self-giving God himself engages in when he loves the world, and we as God’s children, and Jesus’s brothers and sisters, are called to be like our Father in heaven.