What is your first reaction when you see this picture? Strange question, I know. I mean besides how over-the-top adorable it is? Is your first thought:
a) What a wonderful thing that this child knows God so purely and early in life. Praise God!
b) This is really sweet, but it’s nothing more than a child imitating what she sees. She’s too young to understand what it means to come to saving faith.
I don’t know where this picture originated, but it strikes a chord with me. I first got it through Facebook after it had already circulated awhile. I clicked on it to find that while most people had comments that were very similar to “A” above, there were some with a more hesitant comment similar to comment “B” above.
I thought about it, and I’d like to interject that I believe it may be more consistent to say:
c) We can’t be too dogmatic either way.
Every child is different and therefore has different degrees of comprehension. I don’t believe there is a specific age that we can label as the age of accountability for every child. I do know, however, that the condition required for saving faith is an understanding of sin and confession and belief in Christ as Lord. (Romans 10:9). I also believe that confession, if genuine, will show repentance, and trust in Christ alone to live out the faith. (Acts 3:18-19, Romans 11:6).
It doesn’t have to be complicated – No one is asking children to be able to analyze the finer points of Armenian vs. Calvinist doctrine to understand that they are sinners (i.e. people who think and behave badly) and that Jesus loves them and died for them to save them from sin and its consequences. It may not be a very mature faith, but if the Lord has really gripped their hearts, it is a faith that will mature.
Whether a certain child can grasp this to the degree of saving faith is the Lord’s doing. It may be possible at a young age; we can only continue to lead, watch, and train that child in the way that he should go. (Proverbs 22:6)
On the other hand, children could very well just be imitating what they see. They are like little sponges that soak up what others do, just for the sake of doing so…but again, let’s not be dogmatic and say that the Lord isn’t somehow revealing His love or that children aren’t cognizant of who He is on some level.
People ask me when it was that I made a decision for Christ. Typically my answer has been that it was around the age of 11 or 12 when I was in confirmation class, but when I re-wind the years even earlier, I have a memory of my dad reading Bible stories to us at night. One night he told me that Jesus died for me. The strangest thing was that in my little six-year-old brain, without really knowing much else, it made perfect sense. I remember thinking, “Well, someone had to”.
Somehow, I just instinctively knew that there had to be a love so great that it would go beyond just claiming to love, but also to willingly give His all for me. I knew that there were too many hurting and forgotten people that would not know this love for there not to be a love like that. I was struck by the complete sacrifice and fulfillment of our greatest need in Christ’s act of redemption. (Sure attests to the scripture that states that God set eternity in our hearts! Eccl. 3:11)
I say that even if this little child is just imitating what she is seeing, let’s not throw the baby out with the baptismal water. She is singing and praising God with an open heart. God can use that good experience to form an immediate impression upon her, or He may bring it back to her memory in the midst of difficulties as an adult. You just don’t know.
One thing is clear. Jesus taught that children are precious in His eyes. In fact, He scolded His disciples when they tried to shoo them away. Instead of discounting them, He opened His arms to them, saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)
Do you believe that a child can comprehend the issues of law and grace, sin and salvation enough to make a life decision for Christ?
Why do you think so much of the most vivid memories of our spiritual history can be traced back to our childhood?