One of God’s purposes for human marriage is that a husband and wife produce children and build a secure and contented family. Godly people regard their children as a gift from God, and aim at bringing them up to know him and walk in his ways (Deut 6:6-9; Ps 127:3; Eph 6:4; 2 Tim 3:15). (Concerning the privileges and responsibilities of children in relation to their families and parents see FAMILY.) However, in a world spoiled by sin, not all children grow up in a secure family environment. As a result they may be greatly disadvantaged and even exploited (Exod 22:22-24; Deut 26:12; 27:19; James 1:27; see ORPHAN).

Examples and illustrations

Jesus had a special concern for children and warned against ignoring or despising them. He pointed to their simple dependency on others as an illustration of the attitude that people must have if they are to enter the kingdom of God. People must realize that before God they are as helpless as children. They enter the kingdom of God not by their wisdom or achievements but solely by accepting God’s grace (Matt 18:1-4; Mark 10:13-16). When Christians realize that in God’s eyes they have no more power or status than a child, they will be specially considerate of all other children, making sure they do nothing to cause them harm (Matt 18:5-10). The ‘children’ referred to here are both those who are children literally and those who are children in the sense of being new believers with childlike faith (cf. 1 John 2:12-13). Sometimes the young see truths that those of traditional views fail to see (Matt 21:14-16). Another way in which the Bible speaks of believers as children is as children of God. In one picture they are born into God’s family through the life-giving work of God himself (John 1:12-13; see REGENERATION); in another they are adopted into God’s family and given the status of mature adult sons (Rom 8:15-17; Gal 4:5-7; see ADOPTION). As children of God, they are to develop the character of their Father (Matt 5:9,48; 1 Peter 1:14-16; 1 John 2:29; 3:10). In biblical language, ‘to be a child of’ sometimes means ‘to have the character of’ (1 Kings 21:13; Luke 7:35; Eph 2:2; 5:8; 1 Thess 5:5) or ‘to be the subject of’ (Eph 2:3; 2 Peter 2:14). The Bible uses the picture of children in yet another way when it likens immature Christians to children who have not grown up. Like babies they still need the ‘milk’ of introductory teaching, when they should be feeding on the ‘meat’ of more advanced teaching (1 Cor 3:1-2; Heb 5:12-14). Love for the spectacular is another sign of immaturity. Christians should have the innocence of children in relation to evil, but in their minds they should be mature adults (1 Cor 13:8-11; 14:18-20).

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