Children in Covenant, Part II

Even more confused is the condition of that child who is told that he likely is a Christian, but that that means, basically, only that he is a forgiven sinner who must try as hard as he can to lead a Christian life (out of gratitude for being saved, and to show that he is a Christian).  One can easily see that a “Christian” education based on those principles is not going to be a deal different from the kind given the child in the preceding post, nor even that in a “good” public school, especially if the teacher happens to be a Christian and/or the Bible is read and  prayers are offered.

Such kids grow up in literally hopeless bewilderment as to just how “good” you have to be to make personal confession of faith, or how much to know of a “before and after” as to sin and misery.  They have been told, wrongly, that they have two natures in a life-long struggle, and how can they decide which one has the ascendancy or a good prospect of winning out?  They are more to be pitied than mature Paul and his “wretched man” experience before he knew who he was in Christ Jesus.

So we come back once more, now in the case of our beloved children, to the fact that we all are saved by a Savior in such a way that we are brand-new creatures; that many of us (maybe most children born into devout Christian homes) were born “the second time” before we came into this world physically; that our old nature died and was buried while we were in our mother’s womb; that Christ lives in us and we in him in such intimacy that we can speak of ourselves as being “married”, one flesh; that we do not have to work out our own salvation in fear and trembling by ourselves, even with God’s help, because it is God himself who is at work both to will and to do.  Recognition of this is what gives a (young) person a sense of identity, of real importance, of dignity, plus a true explanation as to remaining “failure” in his life and the healthful humility of knowing that any importance and virtue in him are not autonomous but thanks to the fact of being a new person in Christ.  This is what constitutes a “coming of age”.  (Increasing awareness and experience of the infinite implications of this divine estate are life-long, and continue throughout eternity.  That is what makes heaven heavenly.)  This recognition is what constitutes making “confession of faith” or becoming a full (adult) member of a church; this kind of recognition makes the sacrament of baptism truly significant and gives it real fullness of meaning.

Children should be taught not to go to God with the endless requests, be they ever so pious sounding, “Give me faith, give me patience, give me wisdom, give me joy,” but rather, “Heavenly Father, be my faith, my patience, my love, etc.”

This parent and pastor is persuaded that such children may and ought to take part with us in the family meal that we call the Lord’s Supper.  We have many misconceptions as to that “type” and its purpose, but “worthiness” has nothing to do with age.  A long list of arguments might be adduced in favor of child participation in Communion; in fact, huge parts of the Christian Church do practice this, just as children took part in the Passover long ago.  As a “covenant” sign, it is far more appropriate than the practice of infant baptism, because the latter is a once-for-all ceremony that can hardly be repudiated and actually calls for much more initiative and action than the Lord’s Supper, which, being repeated, can be withheld from the unqualified, and reflects better the wonderful passivity with which we are saved by God’s initiation of new life and provision for its growth.  Moreover, baptism is individual, while the Lord’s Supper is communal (as its very name indicates).  It is grossly non-communal if a large sector of the family of God which is indicated as belonging by the fact of having been baptized, are arbitrarily told that we believe (or hope) they have saving faith or are parties to the benefits of belonging to God’s household, but do not want to make provision for that faith or include spiritual food (a means of grace) amongst those benefits.  The more one thinks about it, the more arbitrary and groundless it appears.

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