These are difficult times in Bridgend. The tragic loss of a 5-year-old boy in Sarn has shocked and dismayed everyone. As I write so little is known about what happened that it would be unwise of me to make further comment.
It’s always sad when children suffer. As a former senior teacher with 37 years of experience, I became accustomed to seeing hurting children. Some suffered from a lack of care, some suffered from overbearing parents who stifled their children’s individuality. Some were hurt emotionally and some physically. Some were very timid and some displayed horrendous behaviour patterns. Whatever they were like it was unfair. A normal, healthy childhood was never theirs to enjoy and it was so sad.
However bad it is in this country we know that it’s far worse elsewhere. Charity adverts show children walking miles each day to collect water, drinking dirty water, begging in the streets, foraging in rubbish dumps. Children are not valued. It used to be that way here too but Victorian Christians like Barnardo and the Earl of Salisbury did much to provide homes for homeless children and to stop them from working excessively long hours in factories or down the mines.
Sadly, it’s been like this throughout history and it was so in the time of Jesus. Women weren’t treated much better either. Do you know the story of the feeding of the 5000? You will do if you’ve ever been to Sunday school. Did you know the 5000 were all men? There were also women and children present but they weren’t recorded. The Gospel writers were following the convention of the day so it was just men who were numbered.
Jesus had a different attitude to children, a wonderful, positive attitude that shows us how children should be treated. Let’s look at the story already referenced, the feeding of the 5000. We don’t know his name but this account from John’s Gospel tells us how Jesus was able to feed the crowd. “When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.” (1) It was a young boy who provided the food and Jesus wanted us to know about his contribution. He wanted us to know this young boy was indispensable. All children are and we should cherish the ones we have.
On another occasion, people brought children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them but the disciples tried to stop them. I guess their attitude was, he’s busy, he doesn’t have time for children, but Jesus did. He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (2) Every child is welcomed by Jesus, he loves them all and uses their simple faith as an example of how we should be. Jesus “called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (3)
I don’t know what happened to the little boy from Sarn other than his life has been taken from him, or so we say. I believe that he is now with Jesus, the one who loves all children and he is going to live forever with him. That’s true of all those who sadly passed away as children. They are living in a new environment where there is no pain, no lack of care, no physical or mental suffering. We miss them but we can be encouraged by knowing they are happy.
- John 6:5-11
- Matthew 19:14
- Matthew 18:3-5