Everyone somehow knows how special young children are. Jesus said not to look down on them for their angels always behold the face of His Father in heaven (Matt. 18:10). But we also know that while they are growing up they lose this innocence. Paul describes the process in Romans Chapter 1. It starts off in this way in Romans 1:21-22: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise they became fools.”
So if you want to retain that innocence for as long as possible teach your children to give thanks to God for everything at every opportunity.
The school system is set up to undermine this mainly through peer ridicule. Children can be merciless to each other in the playground.
I have the joy of having three teenagers who are all loving God (none of them are perfect but their direction is the right one) and one of the keys has been their ability to cope with peer pressure. It helps that they started school later than most and are old for their classes. The other key has been peers who have encouraged them, which is why being part of a living church with lots of young people in it is so important.
The other reasons the school system undermines childlike faith is because of godless, cynical teachers and a curriculum informed by secular values that, even in Ireland, largely ignores God.
It is no wonder then that teenagers end up exchanging the glory of God for images of the Kardashians and other YouTube gods & goddesses. The inevitable next stage of that exchange – as Paul points out in Romans 1: 23-25 – is impurity and the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves. By the time they get to college sex before marriage has become the norm. Paul then goes on to point out how things continue to deteriorate until all forms of perversion and evil are accepted. As people grow older the realisation that these things are wrong doesn’t go away but, nevertheless, they cheer each other on (Romans 1:26-32).
Jesus took away the barrier between us and God on the Cross and young children somehow seem to know this. When we live with very young children you can see something in them that reflects the fact that their angels are looking at the face of God. This “innocence” is so prized, every parent wishes that somehow it could be retained. If we are honest, it is impossible to think that any young child that dies could somehow not be going to heaven.
So how do we encourage our children and ourselves to keep that childlike understanding that Jesus says we must have if we are to enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:3)? Paul has told us how already in Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes”. The gospel (or good news) is that Jesus died for your sins on the cross and rose again to prove his power to bring you to heaven to be with Him when you die.
Tell that good news to your children from a young age and if they go from faith to faith, believing more strongly in this truth and talking to God (starting with giving thanks) every day they will never lose their innocence.