Summary: This a sermon geared towards those who work with young people.
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. “But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them (NRSV).
Proposition: We need to be advocates for our young people on their Christian journey.
Now more than ever, it is imperative that we become advocates for our young people on their Christian journey in order that we may help them gain access to that which is needed for their success. Unfortunately, many of us do not act as advocates but as hindrances to the success of our young people. Instead of helping them we are hindering them. We hinder them when we see them as unimportant. Oh you know what I mean, we have that “young people ought to be seen and not heard” attitude. We say, “Participate in Sunday school but I don’t want to know what you think about it, that is, how it can be made better,” “come to Bible study but don’t make a whole lot of noise down stairs,” or “I want to know that you’re in the sanctuary but I don’t want to hear a peep out of you.” Then, we hinder them when we become too busy to offer any assistance to them. Lets face the music there are some things in this world that our young people just can’t have access to or do without our help. Brothers, how are the boys going to learn to be men if you are never around? Sisters, how are the girls going to learn to be ladies if you are not there to teach them? Furthermore we hinder our young people by the examples we set. Young people learn more by what they see us do than what they hear us say. When we give up to soon the only thing we teach them is that when things get hard then, go ahead and quit. When we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts toward one another they begin to think that’s the way to deal with people. When we have fickle relationships—we smile and act cordial to folk at church but as soon as we get home we get on the phone and start backbiting. Inevitably our young people turn out having the same kinds of relationships with their friends. And some of us, out of our lack of understanding, hinder our young people when we stop them from doing things that would actually benefit them.
This is not the case in our scripture passage. The people in Mark’s narrative were real advocates of young people because they took an interest in their lives and helped them to establish a relationship with Christ that would change their lives forever. And this is what you and I must be in the lives of our young people—real advocates—helping them to succeed on this Christian journey. What does a real advocate for young people do? How do you know that you are advocating for young people and not hindering them?
ADVOCATES GET INVOLVED
Well, real advocates get involved in the lives of young people. Mark says in verse 13 that “People were bringing little children to [Jesus]….” These people got involved. And in order for us to see our young people’s lives changed for the better we have to get involved. Many of us will sit back and talk about all that’s wrong with the young people and how things are not like they were when we were growing up but we never do anything positive to get involved with them.
Notice, too, that these people didn’t sit back making excuses as to why they couldn’t help. They didn’t say, “I’m too busy” or “I got too much on my plate.” The fact is that all of us are busy people. We live in a world that doesn’t stop so that we can get off and rest. And I’m sure that the people in our text had 10 other things they could have been doing but they still made time to help some young people get to Jesus. I don’t want to sound unsympathetic. I know that some of you have legitimate reasons that prevent you from getting involved. But if you could be involved with them would you? Or do that reason for not getting involved present a good cover for not doing so?
What I find so interesting about verse 13a is that Mark uses the word “people” not “parents” when referring to those who got involved (cf. New Revised Standard Version). That’s important. Because, many of us think that since we don’t have kids or the kids we are asked to help are not our own then we don’t have to be held accountable for getting involved. That’s just simply not the case. All of us need to help out. If we are truthful with ourselves, we didn’t get to where we are today only by our parents help. There was a Sunday school teacher or school teacher, a deacon, a brother or sister in the congregation who we were not related to that went above and beyond the call of service and took time to make sure we learned our Christmas part when momma had to work late, bought us clothes because they knew that our parents didn’t make nothing, stayed after school or met us some where to help us learn to read or understand some mathematical concept we were struggling with, they listened to us with a non-judgmental ear and steered us on the right path when we felt that we couldn’t go to our parents. Listen, a whole lot of young people are getting pregnant before they graduate high school. Some are not even finishing school. They’re contracting diseases or being tried as an adult in an already unfair court system simply because we don’t want to get involved. But true advocates get involved in young people’s lives.