GOD'S REACHING OUT TO YOUNG PEOPLE TOO
About two and-a-half years ago, when I was on the Prince's Trust Volunteers, I had the opportunity to meet a young girl called Danielle. She was seven years old and in many ways just like any normal playful girl, pretty, intelligent, friendly, fun loving. She laughed with the other kids, sometimes grizzled when she didn't get what she wanted, but basically she was a good kid with loads of potential.
But unfortunately things aren't easy for Danielle. Her parents never married and her father abused, battered, beat her mother until eventually about a year before I met Danielle the relationship finally broke down altogether. Her mother herself comes from a broken home, she spent time in a young offenders' institution, drinks a lot, takes cannabis and other drugs. Danielle had to dress up to go to the pub at age seven. She already knew how to play pool in the pub - I know, I've played her. And I've recently learnt that Danielle's mum no longer has custody of her. There was a police raid on her house and they found drugs, so Danielle can no longer live with her mum.
It wasn't meant to be that way. God didn't want it to be that way for Danielle or thousands of other children like her. Her mum tried her best. I respect her efforts to rebuild her life since the relationship breakdown. But she's limited by her own experience. Society seems full of children growing up in homes where parents don't know how to express real love because they have never experienced it themselves.
Evidence suggests that children who don't receive real love, acceptance and support from their parents seek it elsewhere, often with devastating results. Teenage pregnancy, promiscuity, homosexuality, substance abuse and broken relationships of their own. It wasn't meant to be that way.
So is there any good news? I'm not here to bring doom and gloom. One of my former managers at London Underground used to do quite a lot of media interviews. When he was asked a difficult question he would answer that quickly and then turn it round with, "But the good news is " And there is some very good news. Because the creator God - the only perfect parent - loves all his children. Jesus came for young people too. God said whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. That means young people as well as old. You know Joseph was only 17 when he was sold into slavery in Egypt, and God was already working with him. (That's in Genesis chapters 37 and 39.) And in I Samuel 16 we see that David was so young when God wanted to anoint him King that his father hadn't even invited him in from the fields.
God is there for young people too. He wants us to involve him in every aspect of our lives. We can invite him into our hearts and minds no matter how young we are. He wants to help us - all we need to do is ask. He can help us with everyday things like schoolwork, exams, relating to family and friends, or when we're feeling down or unhappy. Jesus wants to help us, he wants to give us his love, he wants to give us eternal life.
But there's more. He wants to give the same love and life to many more young people, people like Danielle. We need to reach out. In James 1:27, a very well known passage of scripture, we read, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." There are many children who are effectively orphans - or fatherless as the King James puts it - one parent families, or families where parents work away from home a lot, or simply where parents may not know how to give true love and acceptance to their children. And spiritually without God we are all orphans, we are all fatherless. Let's see how David felt in Psalm 27:10. In the Psalms David expresses a lot of the same emotions that we feel in our everyday lives. "Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me." And David did turn to God to find the peace and strength that he needed. In verses one, four and five, it says, "The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid? One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock."
I'd like to share five ways in which we can show love and acceptance to children, and really they also ways that we can help spread the love of Christ. These come from a book called "The Blessing" by Smalley and Trent, about ways parents can give their blessing to children to help them to live happy and successful lives.
The first way they give is meaningful touch. Touch is something that isn't always seen as the "done thing" in British culture, especially for men. But people who don't receive love in this form may try and be touched by other people. The Patriarchs in the Bible touched their children to pass on their blessing and God's blessing as well. Jesus touched children to pass on his blessing to them. And God touches us with his Holy Spirit.
The second way we can show love and acceptance to children is through spoken words. If we use words wisely they have great power to build up, encourage and express love. God encourages us through his word. But, conversely, silence can communicate a lack of love and acceptance.
The third way for showing love and acceptance is expressing high value. People need to feel valued. We all need to feel valued. And we should never forget how much God values his children. Let's remind ourselves of that in Ephesians 2:4-7. "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even where we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus." God expresses a very high value for us. He's taken us from nothing and given us everything.
The fourth way is picturing a special future. We need a vision that rises above our mundane day-to-day routine. Something that raises our expectations to a wonderful future we can be part of.
And finally number five is an active commitment. We have to give resources and encouragement to show an active commitment in the same way that God does every day.
In conclusion, there are too many children like Danielle suffering potentially damaged lives through not receiving real love and hope from their parents. Instead problems and bad experiences are being passed on from generation to generation. Children are the future. The future of our society, of our country, of our families, and of our Church. And we as God's children are all the future of his eternal kingdom.
© Simon Williams 1999