[In late 1983, I founded the New England Christian Action Council (NECAC) when I lived outside Boston, completing my M.Div. at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. The motto of the NECAC was “biblically committed to protecting the unborn” and my initial newsletters were entitled “Contrabortion,” written for grass-roots pro-life Christians. I started my engagement with the subject in a reactive posture, that is, defining and critiquing it. But being committed to the biblical foundations in Genesis 1-3, I grew consistently more proactive across the years. So here are the original unvarnished articles, as my thinking was at the time.]
Contrabortion, Vol. 2, No. 1, January/February, 1985
The Strength of Childlikeness
John C. Rankin
Jesus was once the feature of a parade. Not an ordinary one, with the pomp of a Roman leader seeking the applause of human pride. Jesus was unconventional, and as God become man, he had the ability to be that way. He didn’t have to impress anyone — he was not carried by well coiffured servants, he had no cohort of soldiers to escort him, and no trumpets to announce his arrival. Rather he was seated on a donkey’s colt, riding through the dusty streets that were carpeted by the spontaneously placed palm branches. The dignitaries were not positioning themselves for his favorable glance. Instead the streets were lined with the common folk, those awaiting the Messiah. They shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David” and other Messianic phrases, while the children were undoubtedly running to and fro, having a fun time amid the air of excitement. Children to love a parade.
After the parade, Jesus pursued his agenda. First he cleared the temple area of the merchants who were hawking religion for a [usurious] profit. A moment of judgment. Then a tender moment followed as he healed the blind and the lame — the Creator of the universe stepping into history to touch broken lives with is wholeness. The children see it and exclaim, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Children are marvelous. They call a spade a spade, or in this instance, they call a Messiah a Messiah. They show how well they learn, applying the Messianic phrase they heard in the parade. They did love that parade, but now they are learning the purpose for the parade.
But the chief priests and teachers (religious leaders who have a vested interest in the status quo of having compromised with the Roman conquerors) do not learn well. They challenge Jesus about the children’s behavior. Jesus simply quotes Psalm 8: “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.” Perhaps he smiled when he did so. Jesus answered the harsh opposition with an appeal to the strength of childlikeness.
Psalm 8:1-2 defines the source and nature of true strength:
O Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained strength because of your enemies, so silence the foe and the avenger.
The Hebrew word “strength” has been translated into the Greek as “praise.” Indeed, praise is a sub-category of strength in the Hebrew mind. Thus, Psalm 8 declares that the glory, or strength, or praise of Yahweh is above creation, and also on the lips of children. This contrast is powerful. It says that God is so great that his presence fills the whole universe, from its “infinite” corners to the humble stations of human life. This is so unlike the devil, who is like a paper tiger, intimidating those who do not know better, all the while knowing that “one little word shall fell him” when the Judgment comes. In Mt. 18:1-5, Jesus taught us that we must become as little children if we wish to attain true greatness, to enter the kingdom of God. On Palm Sunday, Jesus demonstrated this greatness, as he catalyzed the strength of the children’s praise to silence the opposition (Mt. 21-22; e.g., 22:34, 46).
We are called to silence the foes and avengers of the Gospel in a like manner today, and specifically we must do this in terms of abortion and related evils. And our starting place is the opposite of a “holier than thou” attitude. It is to recognize and demonstrate our universal need to be children of God, and as we exalt the strength of childlikeness, we can penetrate beyond pride and the hardness of heart, and touch the child which is in all people. Thus, we gain a basis of strength from which to appeal to society to protect the unborn. People will either respond positively, or they will be miffed in attempts to oppose us. They will be miffed because it is near impossible (or foolish) to criticize childlikeness in its pristine innocence. Even the most unhappy or angry person softens up in the presence of a newborn or a happy toddler. It is pride which is easy to censure, thus as Christians, we must renounce pride and self-righteousness, embrace humility as God’s children who know forgiveness, and then we will have the true basis of strength for defeating the pro-abortion mentality in the United States.