I'm struck by two different situations in our world - the overwhelming problem of extreme poverty, and the pain and suffering of abortion.
Forty years ago today, the United States Supreme Court effectively made the killing of children legal - so long as they are still in the womb of their mothers. Willfully denying the fundamental and simple science that says that a fertilized egg is living (growing, changing, and reproducing) and not dead - leading to the most ridiculous mental gymnastics as people try to figure out what it means to be human and alive if an unborn child is neither - our society has made children literally disposable. Since that day 40 years ago, over 53 MILLION children have been murdered before they ever had the chance to see the outside world. Today, 1 in 4 African American babies are aborted, and almost 1 in every 3 women in the US have had an abortion (around 70% of which identify themselves as Christians in name, at least).
53 million. Over 3,300 babies are killed per day, legally, right here in the US.
Outside the womb, children around the world are in peril. Over 9 MILLION children under the age of 5 die each year; and over 2/3 of those deaths are from preventable causes.
Every day, 1500 women die from preventable complications in pregnancy or childbirth, and every day 10,000 babies die before reaching the end of their first month of life.
25% of children in the developing world are underweight and at risk for long-term complications from malnourishment. 9 million people die from hunger each year.
For those who can't quite get your heads around the enormity of those numbers, think just about the number of children right here at home who do not have permanent families. According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, in 2011 (the last year for which there are published estimates), the US foster care system served over 646,000 children from September 30, 2010 - September 30, 2011. 401,000 children under the age of 18 were in foster care in the US on September 30th. Over 250,000 children had entered the system, and around 245,000 had exited the system. 61,000 children had their parents' rights terminated, and over 104,000 children were waiting to be adopted. In my county alone, there are over 6,000 children in foster care. In my state, there are over 14,000 children in foster care or in emergency shelters waiting for placement in a group home or foster home after being removed from their biological family.
We have a problem in our 21st-century society. At the heart of it is a rejection of the worth and human dignity of a child. We have somehow decided (in the US, at least), that a child's life is inherently less valuable than an adult's life. We've neglected children both prior to birth and afterwards. We lament the problem of child abuse and broken homes, but then do nothing about the thousands of children in our town who live in constant fear & flux, with no support system and no security.
One of the criticisms that pro-abortion spokesmen make of those who abhor abortion is, "You care about the child before it's born, but you do nothing for them afterward!" For many of us, even in the church, we would have to confess that it is a true statement. We find it sad when we know that children are suffering abuse, forced prostitution, or dying from tainted water supplies or malnourishment, but so long as it doesn't affect our home, our family, then it's not really our problem.
I'm here to tell you: it is your problem. Our problem. We talk about children being our future, but there will be no future if we as the body of Christ do not wake up and start really loving people. Meet their needs. Comfort them. Rejoice, cry, encourage, live fully with them, as part of each other's lives, rather than looking down on them with pity.
In the past three weeks, my church's interim pastor preached on Mark 10:13-16:
People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
He talked about how over 3/4 of all Christians accepted God's love and sacrifice as children; very few adults ever turn to Jesus if they haven't done so by age 22. He made the point that it is vital that we bless children - that we love them, accept them, meet their needs, and show them the love of God.
I also have started reading Wess Stafford's (the president of Compassion International) book, Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters Most. And I read Pam Cope's Jantsen's Gift, which I've mentioned before, along with Amy Julia Becker's A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny (about one family's coming to terms with their daughter's Down's Syndrome diagnosis at birth - by the way, it's estimated that almost 90% of babies diagnosed with Down's in the womb are aborted, killed before getting the chance to show the world their worth). While reading all of them, I have been constantly tugged and prodded by the realization that children are suffering all over the world, including in my neighborhood, and I want to do something about it.
I am convinced that we as the body of Christ need to get up off our collective lazy behinds and start loving children. Remember that DC Talk song from the late 80s or early 90s - "Love is a verb"? If you can get past the somewhat cheesy rap, pay attention to the message here:
Pullin' out my big black book
Cause when I need a word defined that's where I look
So I move to the L's quick, fast, in a hurry
Threw on my specs, thought my vision was blurry
I looked again but to my dismay
It was black and white with no room for grey
Ya see, a big "V" stood beyond my word
And yo that's when it hit me, that luv is a verb
Words come easy but don't mean much
When the words they're sayin' we can't put trust in
We're talkin' 'bout love in a different light
And if we all learn to love it would be just right
Hey, tell me haven't ya heard?
Luv, is a serious word
Hey, I think it's time ya learned
I don't care what they say
I don't care care what ya heard
The word luv, luv is a verb
Down with the dc Talk, d- d- down with the dc Talk
Are you down with the dc Talk, d- d- down with the dc Talk
Thinkin' of a way to explain-o
Cause ya' know when I'm flowin' like a bottle of Drain-o
Simple and plain, L-O-V-E
Ain't all that junk that ya see on TV
Put soaps on a rope cause they ain't worth copin' with
It's a myth that there ain't no hope and
Luv is enough if it's unconditionally
Givin' now you're living out the Great Commission
Back in the day there was a man
Who stepped out of Heaven and he walked the land
He delivered to the people an eternal choice
With a heart full of luv and the truth in His voice
Gave up His life so that we may live
How much more luv could the Son of God give?
Here is the example that we oughtta be matchin'
Cause luv is a word that requires some action
"And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them." Maybe it's time for us, as the hands and feet of the body of Christ, to take the children in our arms, put our hands on them, and bless them. What do you say?