“Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have ordained strength…” (Psalm 8:2).

Recently I shared some loud and unexpected words in a children’s sermon. The adults present were surprised, but maintained a decorous silence. One of the children, however, shouted out “Are you kidding me!?”

Having raised two children of my own, I am not overly sentimental about the innocence, goodness, guilessness, etc. of children. They are small human beings, made in God’s image, flawed and in transit just like their elders. But with their relative lack of experience and less sophisticated filters, they sometimes express their feelings directly or blurt out the obvious when we adults are weaving, bobbing and dissembling.

Ask a child about God, about right and wrong, about the church. Prepare to be instructed. Prepare to repent of your rationalizations, your opacity, your defenses. And speaking of church: when we have a congregational life where children are honored, are consulted, but not patronized or romanticized, we will be on a good path.

Jesus said, in a time when children were often expendable because of high childhood mortality rates, and were routinely put to work as soon as they were weaned, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).