A Devotion for 30 December 2020 Anno Domini (Christmastide), the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
13 ¶ Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished. * 14 For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor. 15 I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead.
1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. 6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:1-6
The simplicity of the Gospel far exceeds, I fundamental understanding and meaningful insight, the academic and rhetorical debates of the theologians of our day. There are a number of internet groups that are devoted to theological discussion. If you thirst for empty pontifical discourse, then you may satiate that thirst by joining in those endless arguments describing exactly the moment and point of growth that an “anthill becomes a mountain.” There are no winners in the argument – each participant goes away that believing his opinion is superior to those of the others including, perhaps, even the Word of God itself. The only salient rule of these forums is that no one convinces another of his error! The arrogance of theologians who so parse the Word of God as to render it meaningless, or even contrary to its clearly stated proclamation, is mind-boggling! Some of these glory-hounds love to be called by the title, ‘father.’ If you point out the admonition of the Lord Jesus Christ against such titles, (see Matt 23:9) you are branded a theological maverick and publican.
Perhaps the greatest scientific mind of our age has stated this simple principle: “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” (Albert Einstein). I have often challenged the readers of my devotions to conduct a little survey that involves only one question: “Do you believe in God?” – but the question is to be asked, not of an adult, but of a five-year-old child. I believe you will get an affirmative answer from more than 95% of the subjects. I have yet to find one negative response from that test group.
What happens to the faith of a child when years are added to adulthood? It must have to do with some learned behavior since the very definition of learning results in a change of behavior – mental or physical. What did our ancient mother, Eve, learn from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? I can conjecture that the learning was heavily weighted on the side of Evil. She partook out of pride for she shunned the counsel of God, her Maker, and opted to make her own decision based on the pride generated by her talk with the Serpent.
This leads us to the source and fountainhead of all sin – PRIDE! The great Serpent of Eden – Satan – was a mighty angel until his pride overruled his soul. He was cast out of Heaven owing to inordinate and ungodly pride. “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelations 12:7-8
It should be pointed out that there are two levels of pride – the pride of man in himself, and the pride a Christian takes in the power and glory of God. The latter is outlined in Psalms 34:1-7 – “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his all his trouble.” The only pride that is righteous is that which the Elect of God take in their Maker. Any self-pride is sin and results in the proliferation of other sins.
Of self-pride, the Word of God says: “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” Proverbs 6:16-19 The last phrase herein reminds me of those exalted theologians who can never come to agreement on the simple meaning of the Holy Bible.
Children, by simple and humble faith, come to an excellent understanding of the Person of Christ simply by the inherent nature which has not cooled from their recently granted spirit from the Lord. I believe in the sentiments expressed in one of the greatest English poems ever written – Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth (1750-1850):
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
There may be some question regarding the doctrinal soundness of this poetic verse, but there is no error in the sentiment expressed, for it fully describes the innocency of the child to which our Lord made abundant reference.
Between the ages of five and fifteen, many influences act upon the soul, spirit and mind of the child. Many of his doubts concerning faith in God are learned from his teachers – either at home, in public school or even in churches. But when the formerly unbelieving adult is drawn to faith in Christ by the grace of God, he actually begins to grow younger in spirit. What is the spirit of man that belongs to Christ compared to the Eternity Future which he is blessed to enjoy!
I love children because my Lord loves children. Most of my personal preaching, outside my duties as a cleric in the Anglican Orthodox Communion, has been to little children and young people from elementary to college levels. I have learned much about faith from these precious souls. They do not devise intricate questions about whether or not God created the world – they simply know and accept the fact from a natural innocence. They willingly accept the literal truths of Scripture without conjecture. In dealing with these young souls, my own soul has grown stronger in faith and younger in spiritual stamina.
We hear much of egregious sins against the innocent children of our day – sex trafficking, perverse abuses in the home, disorderly living, etc. These are to be despised by the Christian professor. But there is more general child abuse that takes place in most homes across America every day – the failure to teach proper behavior, biblical truth and principles, and the dangers of sinful living. Though not the greatest in degree, certainly these latter failures of parents are greatest in general practice.
I believe every reader above the age of sixty years will recall the early education taught to children in public schools. From the first day of Primary (Elementary) School, we were taught to pledge allegiance to Old Glory, recite the Lord’s Prayer, read and memorize a Psalm, and sing a single verse of My country ‘tis of Thee. My character was not damaged by these experiences. In fact, they reinforced those principles I had learned at hearthside. But in a time when evil is called good, and good is called evil, the evidence of immoral and ungodly raising is overly apparent in the fruit of the forbidden trees. Perhaps you may find this condition well illustrated in a book entitled, Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton. It reveals the snobbish and prideful society of New York City of the 1920’s. Pride ruled in the hearts of the social elite who cared little for the pains of the common people.
What are the things in which YOU take pride, self or God?