Jesus Loves the Little Children

October 17th, 2013

Some people brought children to Jesus so that he would place his hands on them and pray. But the disciples scolded them. “Allow the children to come to me,” Jesus said. “Don’t forbid them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these children.” Then he blessed the children and went away from there. —Matthew 19:13-15

“Jesus Loves the Little Children” was no doubt inspired by those verses in Matthew or perhaps the art created around the image of Jesus surrounded by children. Though the writer of Matthew didn’t go into great detail on this episode in Christ’s life, there is a comforting theme that emerges from his short description of the event. It seems that Jesus was not only responsive to children but also fascinated by them. That speaks volumes about the way Christians need to live today.

During Jesus’ time on earth, children were often pushed to the side. They were not privy to the conversations and dealings of adults. They were expected not to bother elders, especially those as important as Christ. Yet once again, Jesus turned the tables on the conventions of the era when he took time from his busy schedule to visit with these kids. Imagine the reaction of the religious leaders. They would have never considered such an act. Even Jesus’ own disciples were shocked by Christ’s behavior and likely surprised by His explanation. How was that possible? These were children; they saw things simply and without the filter provided by society and history! And that was the lesson most missed then and still miss today.

C. Herbert Woolston is a somewhat mysterious figure. Little is known about the Chicago native. He was born in the years leading up to the Civil War and died not long before the Great Depression. His name would have likely been lost forever if he hadn’t reworked the lyrics of an obscure children’s prayer and coupled them to the music of a George Root tune called “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp.” This unique marriage of prayerful lyrics and a war march tune created the hauntingly beautiful “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”

For his day, Woolston must have been a forwardthinking man. His lyrics crossed racial lines at a time when ethnic groups were divided by both culture and law. The writer presented a Jesus willing to bring races together in a way that didn’t favor one over the other. That kind of thinking would have been shocking a hundred years ago. So when released, “Jesus Loves the Little Children” likely made the establishment of its day just as uncomfortable as did Jesus when he opened his arms to children.

It is easy to sing the lyrics to “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” but it is much harder to actually practice them. We live in a world where prejudice is still real. Thus Christians must strive to be as colorblind as was Christ. When that kind of thinking is incorporated into the way we live, something else happens. Children flocked to Christ. They did so because they knew He would not unfairly judge them on the standards of that time. Once we adopt the higher standards of love set by Jesus, people will sense our hearts and flock to us as well.

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