Isn’t it fun to watch little kids? They are so interesting, and in many ways, so predictable. I have a little thought experiment for you. There is a plate of candy sitting on a table. Now, there is a little kid in the room and you tell the kid to not touch the candy. To make it even more interesting, you say, “Now, don’t touch any of that really yummy candy!” Then, after saying that, you walk out of the room. I am sure all of us would agree that the kid will go about doing whatever the kid was doing previously and will not, no matter how long the kid is left alone, touch the candy.
Who am I kidding! We know that the kid, no matter how good, will eventually go over and take a piece of the “really yummy candy!” That is just the way kids are. The moment you tell them “no,” it is then that they want to do exactly what you told them not to do.
And even though we are adults, I think we are still guilty of this behavior. I have seen people in stores handle things while standing in front of a sign that says, “Please Do Not Touch.” I have seen people graze their way through a grocery store knowing that they will never pay of the things they have eaten. We are told, “No, we should not do this,” but we still knowingly break the rules.
Does this behavior make us horrible people? Does it make us terrible people? Does it make us “BAD?” No, nothing of the sort! So what does this behavior make us? Well, it makes us human. Part of being human is to see how far we can push the rules. Don’t believe me? It this weren’t so, we wouldn’t need police; we would all know that rules and not break them. But because we are human, we always push the rules.
And if anyone would understand this, it would be God. God knows we are going to push the rules. Heck, more than that, we will knowingly break the laws God has given us. God has given us freewill and in the use of freewill, we WILL go against wishes of God. That is just a simple statement of life.
So, because kids, and adults, are going to break the rules, does this mean that we totally abandon all laws? Because just about everyone ignores speed limits, does this mean that we never have speed limits? Well, of course not. We have rules and laws in place because it is a good thing to do. Rules and laws keep us safe. Rules and laws make life easier to live. Rules and laws are a good thing. Rules and laws make our lives better.
But we still have the problem of breaking the rule. Well, there are the possible consequences such as getting an upset stomach from eating too much candy or burnt fingers from touching the hot pan on the stove. There are also other consequences such as the anger and disapproval of the parents or possible fines. But even with all the consequences, I think we would all agree the world would be a better place if we would all just follow the laws and the rules. But, alas, being human, we just aren’t going to always follow the rules.
Is God going to abandon us if we don’t follow God’s laws? Or should God just stop making rules and laws and allow us to do whatever we want? Of course the answer to both of those questions is, “No.” God will not abandon us if we don’t follow God’s laws. God wants us to follow God’s laws and rules, these make life more enjoyable, but God will not abandon us. And God is not going to stop expecting the best of us. Just as we expect the best for our children, God expects the best from us. But God is not going to abandon us if we fall short of the goal. Just like we would not abandon our own children if they fall short, God will not abandon us.
This is the lesson we are to learn from today’s scripture readings. God has great plans for us, but when we fall short of these plans, we are not abandoned. God wants what is best for us, but when we don’t live up to these plans, God does not leave us dangling. Although God wants what is best for all of God’s children, God loves us enough to have some contingency plans.
Jesus tells us that divorce was not part of God’s plans for us. God does not want our relationships to fall apart. I am sure we have all seen some pretty messy divorces and I am sure we can agree that a world where divorce was not necessary would be a pretty wonderful thing. But I think we would also agree that in some situations, divorce can be quite a blessing. Although we may not want to see marriages end, in some cases, the best thing that can happen is for a marriage to end and for the people to continue their lives apart. Divorce is not what God wants for us, but because we are human and we have freewill, divorce is given to us. Divorce, even though it is not the ideal, is still a gift.
God knows that we are not perfect. God knows that we are going to wander away and try to do things our own way. God knows that even though we are given an ideal, because of freewill, we will fall short of that ideal. And in God’s goodness, we have that out. But Jesus also reminds us that this is not what God had wanted for us. Just like we do not want our kids to get into trouble, and we would like for our children to listen to us, God wants us to pay attention and to learn. But when we fall short, we are not abandoned.
Now lets do a quick jump to the end of the gospel reading. At the beginning of the reading we have all this talk about divorce and adultery, all this really deep stuff. But suddenly, at the end of the reading, we are talking about children. "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” The shift is almost jarring. However, it is this jarring shift that should make us think.
The children are brought into the picture to help us to gain perspective. How do we love and care for our children? We set up rules, we set up laws. We provide expectations and we send them on their way. We know that our children will make mistakes, but we also know that our children will learn from their mistakes. We would hope that our children would listen and learn, but we also know that our children will have to experience life in their own way. We would hope that we could pass our knowledge on to our children, but we know that our kids will go out and find the truth themselves.
And as jarring and disjointed as this shift may seem, it does make sense. God has a vision for our lives. God has a dream for our lives. But God also knows that we, just like we know our children will do, will go out and experience life. We will run over God’s law and we will experience the pain of our mistakes. But in the midst of our experiencing of life, we are given the assurance that because we are the beloved children of God, we can still come to Christ, and we will still be accepted with open, loving, arms. "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them…” That is what Jesus is saying to us. God would prefer we follow God’s plan for our lives, but when we take the candy from the candy dish, we can rest assured that we are still loved and accepted.
We are the children of God and we are all accepted. Even if we fall short, God is there for us. Even when we flaunt God’s law, God still calls us to the table. God is the ultimate parent; we are loved more than we can ever know. We are called to the table in love, and we are called to spread that love to the world.