Jesus says, “But whoever cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck , and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Mt. 18:6)
Jesus gives us a terrifying warning in these words. He says it would be better to end up dead on the bottom of a lake than to lead our children astray. One of the striking things about this verse is that Jesus assumes that our little ones already believe in him. The job of Christian parents, according to this passage, is not so much convincing children to believe but rather protecting and feeding and nurturing the faith that they already have. But in God’s kindness many of us are seeking to be faithful in this, and happily our children are participating with us in worship, learning to sing and pray and feast with us every Lord’s Day. But the warning does not therefore become meaningless for us. In fact in some ways it is only heightened. We who affirm that these little ones do love Jesus, trust in him, and are growing up in this faith; we of all people have no excuse. We of all people must not cause our children to stumble. If this service of worship, these words being read and sung, these prayers, these gifts of bread and wine, and the blessing of God upon us and our families, if these things are our life, if they are all that we are, if the blessing of God and our life in him is more important than anything else, that must come out in our words, our actions, and our demeanor. This calls for a certain gravitas, a certain heavy joy, an exuberance and fear and glory that we are called before the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. In churches where the kids are shipped off to children’s church and kept away from the table of the Lord, for all the problems of those practices at least they are actively creating a sense of mystery, a sense of reverence. If our welcoming of our children results in their stumbling it would have been better to be drowned, Jesus says. And fathers you are held responsible in particular for creating this kind of culture in your homes. What’s dad’s favorite day of the week? How do you know? What’s dad’s favorite thing to do? What’s most important to him? You can tell by the way his face lights up, you can see it in his eyes, you can hear it in his voice. Fathers, do not welcome your children here in such a way that in 10 or 15 or 20 years they would have been better off as orphans.