The Yoke, The Pointing Finger, and The Judge

Isaiah 58:6-10

“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
“Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.”

This passage shows God wants to break the yoke of oppression which He did through Jesus. In fact, Jesus said, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew11:30, NASB). Yet, many Christians do the exact opposite of what Isaiah 58:6-10 tells us to do.

Christians point their fingers at others, especially children. Christians put the yoke of oppression on others, especially children. And Christians judge!

I have been guilty of pointing fingers and judging myself. I am far from perfect.

Of course, before I get into how we do this with children, I need to comment about the most recent ways Christians are pointing fingers, placing the yoke of oppression onto others, and are judging. This week the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage should be allowed in every state. This has Facebook going nuts. Many Christians are angry. People are arguing. Memes are going around. And many profile pictures have rainbows on them.

I’ve stayed out of it for the most part except for commenting on a few friends’ posts.

I believe the act of engaging in homosexual acts is a sin according to the Bible. I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman as even Jesus reiterated in Matthew 19:4-6. Marriage is a symbol of the covenant between God and the Church, therefore, it is Holy Matrimony. That being said, this is not a Christian nation. I’m not sure if it was ever really founded on Christian principles. What this country was founded on is freedom. That includes freedom of religion. I am free to follow Jesus and worship Him openly. There is a reason for the separation of church and state. The government has no business telling us what religion or deity to follow.

Allowing gays to marry is simply giving them freedom. Do I agree with that lifestyle? No. Is it my job to push my Biblical belief onto them? No.

I am not condoning the lifestyle of homosexuality. But, God gives us free will. They are free to live how they want. They’ll never enter into Holy Matrimony, but since this is a free country and as long as they’re not hurting anyone but themselves, I believe they should have equal rights.

If we want them to come to Jesus, we need to love them as Jesus does. We are all sinners. Stop judging, pointing fingers, and placing the yoke of oppression on them and just give them grace and love. They already know we disagree. Instead of making this such a huge deal, why not quietly show them love by remaining peaceful? It doesn’t mean we condone it. It just means we be Jesus to them.

Now, when it comes to children, many Christians also put the yoke of oppression on them, point their fingers at them, and judge them.

The primary way we put the yoke of oppression on children is putting unrealistic, unattainable expectations on them. Expecting infants to sleep through the night is unrealistic and unattainable. Expecting toddlers to control their impulses and emotions is unattainable and unrealistic. Expecting children to cheerfully obey the first time is also unattainable and unrealistic. Christians who have unrealistic, developmentally inappropriate expectations of children oppress them because they do not allow them to be children. They force children to be someone they’re not. Children are not free.

Then when children don’t live up to the unrealistic expectations, they get fingers pointing at them saying how “bratty, sinful, defiant, rotten, spoiled, and horrible” they are. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this happen to children who were just being children. Of course, many parents point their finger at their children while rebuking them. Yet, the opening passage tells us to stop pointing our fingers at each other. This applies to children too.

Finally, many Christians judge children. They can’t negatively label children without judging them. And with judgment comes punishment by either ignoring an infant’s cries so they “learn to sleep,” which the only thing infants learn through cry-it-out is that we won’t come. They still wake up hungry, scared, in pain, sick, hot, cold, wet, poopy but they won’t cry out because they’ve learned nobody will come. This is not what God wanted. And they don’t enter a natural sleep when left to cry-it-out. Infants’ bodies shut down from all of the stress of crying and they enter a forced state of sleep.

As far as judging children and really, anyone, Jesus says not to do it.

Matthew 7:1-5 states, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

When we decide that a child deserves punishment for “defiant” behavior, we are judging the child. Instead of judging and meting out what we think is “proper punishment,” we must connect with and discipline the child.

Let us stop, as Christians, doing the very things God is trying to undo. Stop placing the yoke of oppression on others. Let us stop pointing our fingers at others. And let us stop judging each other. May we love one another as the Bible says over and over again.

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Born to Love and Radiate!

In Shawn Mullins’ (1999) song, Shimmer, he sings:

“Sharing with us what he knows
His shining eyes are big and blue
And all around him water flows
This world to him is new
This world to him is new
To touch a face
To kiss a smile
And new eyes see no race
The essence of a child
The essence…

He’s born to shimmer
He’s born to shine
He’s born to radiate
He’s born to live
He’s born to love but we’ll
Teach him how to hate.”

I often hear Christians say of toddlers and young children that we don’t have to teach them how to hit, kick, or bite. They are born knowing how to act “naughty.”  When Christians say this of young children, they’re referring to children’s “sinful nature.”  But, do young children really come into the world knowing how to be mean and malicious?  Based on what the Bible says and on my knowledge of child development, the answer is no!

In fact, Jesus tells us to become like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and also gives us a very stern warning regarding causing them to sin!

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’  And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven'” (Matthew 18:1-3, ESV).

“Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:4-6, NASB).

 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10, NASB).

And look how Jesus reacts when His disciples try to keep children from being brought to Him:

“But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these'” (Mark 10:14, NASB).

You see, as the song says, we are born to shimmer and shine.  Young children are so open to God and Truth. They only act out physically when they don’t know how to verbalize to us. This has nothing to do with children being “sinful.”  Children are just learning and developing. It’s not their fault their brains are young and immature. It’s not their fault they lack verbal skills.

We are the ones, as the song says, that teach our children how to hate and stifle their lights. How?

Every time we impose our wills unnecessarily over children and treat them harshly, we’re teaching them hate and are slowly putting their lights out. Yes, most Christian parents claim they’re showing their children “love” by ignoring their cries, spanking/hitting them, and sending them to isolation. This is a form of hate.

The Bible says gentleness and compassion is true love. Harshness is not. If we want our children to truly shine, shimmer, and radiate, we need to treat them as Christ treats us.

We also need to make sure we shimmer, shine, and radiate God’s Light to all!

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NASB).

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Born Sinful?

I believe the doctrine of original sin is man made like the doctrine of spanking is man made.

God created children to go through each developmental stage. Babies cry to communicate. Toddlers test boundaries and lack impulse control. Young children do not set out to sin until they are older.

God does not call children sinners. The way we view children is how they will behave. Many Christians seem to view children as “sinners” and “manipulative.” That’s Dobson’s view too as he calls them horrible degrading names in his books. This sets up an adversarial parent-child relationship.

Interestingly, God calls children blessings in Psalm 127:3. I view children as little people in need of help, guidance, and discipline (teaching).

When the focus is on cooperation instead of control, children cooperate. Children do better when we view them as God does. Young children are not capable of truly understanding sin. They even have a special knowledge of Who God is according to Matthew 25:11.

I do believe Jesus cried as a baby and screamed as a toddler because these are developmental behaviors. James 4:17 states, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” This can only apply to older children and adults who truly understand sin. “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it” (Deuteronomy 1:39).

God clearly says young children do not know right from wrong. It’s up to us to gently teach and guide them through each developmental stage.

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The Forgiving Nature of Children

So many people believe children are born “sinful.”  Yet, young children are quick to forgive whether we apologize to them or not. They don’t make us pay for our mistakes before they forgive us.  Rather, they offer forgiveness freely.

If you ever watch young children playing, even with their peers, one minute they are fighting and the next minute they are best friends again. Young children are incapable of holding a true grudge against anyone. Yet, we often take advantage of their unconditional love and forgiveness by making them pay for their mistakes against us.

Even abused children will often forgive their abusive parents and will ask to go back home with them despite the horrible abuse. Perhaps this is one reason Jesus calls us to be like them in Matthew 18:3.

Forgiveness, despite the fact that it isn’t listed in Galatians 5:22-23, is a fruit of the Spirit. You need everything listed as a fruit of the Spirit in order to forgive. Children have most of these. The only reason they lack self-control is due to an immature brain. Calling something out of their control “sin” is not fair.

Children are forgiving in nature, therefore, they cannot be “sinful.”  It’s only when we become adolescents and adults that we begin to struggle with forgiveness. I truly believe that being raised in punitive homes, especially Christian homes, where children must pay for their mistakes before they are offered forgiveness leads to this struggle most of us have with freely forgiving people as Jesus has freely forgiven us.

We need to help our children keep their forgiving natures by connecting with them and giving them our forgiveness without making them pay through punishment. This does not mean we don’t allow them to experience the natural and logical consequences of their actions. It means that we become more Christ-like and do not inflict pain on our children.

The nature of children is forgiving, not “sinfulness!”

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Why Gentle Christian Parents Don’t Focus on Sin

I was asked why gentle Christian parents and advocates don’t talk about sin much when it comes to children. The answer is because what most Christians believe is sin in children usually isn’t. A toddler saying, “no!” when asked to do something isn’t sin, it’s the child exploring independence and boundaries. A preschooler crying over not having something they really wanted is the child just having a hard time. Even biting, hitting, kicking, and cussing in young children is NOT sin. Young children needing food, love, comfort, room to play is not sin.

Sin is when we truly understand something is wrong and goes against God and we have total control over ourselves and can tap into God’s strength to resist, yet choose wholeheartedly to go against God, THAT is sin!!  Every child is different. Every child will sin like us. But, before 12-years-old, I don’t believe children truly sin. We slowly teach children about sin by disciplining without punishment. By providing them with appropriate behaviors. And, by teaching them about God.

Also, when we look for sin in children, it makes us hypersensitive to all “inappropriate behavior.” It makes us want to punish for perceived sinfulness. We look at children as “little sinners” rather than blessings as the Bible says they are. Jesus loves children and told us to be like them. When sin is the focus, we become proud. We become judges. We think more highly of ourselves than we should so we can “beat that sin right out of that child.”

In reality, we are WORSE sinners than older children. Jesus said to get the plank out of our own eyes before removing the speck out of our brother’s eye. This applies to children too! Sin is sooooooooo much more than a child having a meltdown. Childish behavior is NOT sin. Rejecting God is!  Hurting children is!  Let’s focus on teaching and guiding children instead of worrying what childish behavior is sin. Give children the tools to choose good over bad so when real sin comes their way, they can tap into God and make more righteous decisions over sinful ones.

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