Ezekiel 16,4: "And as for thy nativity, in that day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; but thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all."
Ezekiel 16,6: "And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee, ... Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live."
Matthew 18,10: "Take heed that ye despise not [think little or nothing of] these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven."
Neglect in families is the number one issue for maltreated kids, but Jesus picks up where kids are left off.
In the vivid passage from Ezekiel 16 above God portrays himself as parenting Israel from the first moment of her orphan birth.
Likewise Jesus warns that we adults are not to take our caring eyes off our children, as the eyes of all the heavenly host are also carefully watching over them too.
Neglect in families is what happens when kids lack food, shelter, clothing, physical protection, security, medical care and love, to such a degree that this lack effects their physical, developmental and emotional needs. Neglect is about chronic carelessness, most often marked by one or more of the following: poverty, substance abuse and mental illness.
In 2006 64.1% of the roughly 6 million children maltreated annually in the U.S.A. experienced neglect (USDHHS 2008 "Shining A Light on Chronic Neglect" 2009 by Kaplan, Schene, DePanfilis, and Gilmore. americanhumane.com vol. 24/No. 1).
Neglect of children is about the learned and often generational inabilities of adults.
It's not primarily about assessing judgment, fault, and responsibility- that's for God and any proper civil authorities to assess- it's about kids breaking out of the grip of these generational cycles and so becoming what and who God planned for them to be.
1Peter1,18 puts this it this way: the precious blood of Jesus breaks the futile conduct passed down from one generation to another (JB translation).
Or think of it this way, just as God attended to the bloody and careless birth of Israel, He spies out the birth and lives of neglected kids for extra care and attention, that will one day help them overcome the carelessness of their birth.
As a pastor we hear many stories of families, and we keep all of them in confidence.
It's for the neglected kid to tell his or her story (such as Ivana Lowell in her recent "Why Not Say What Happened" Knopf Doubleday, 2010).
And while the facts and personalities and socio economic status of families differ, the careless patterns are always similar.
But the break from these patterns also has some things in common too. There's always a relatively healthy relative, or mentor figure or some teacher, perhaps at a distance, perhaps close by, who piques the spirit of the child and gives him or her hope.
This might take the practical form of taking the neglected child to church, or planting a bible with the child, or some other act of Godly kindness that the child will not, or cannot forget. And Jesus is right in the middle of these kindnesses (whether we know it or not), as inspiration, waiting to one day fan the flames of these acts into faith and healing.
I have never made this point before, but since it speaks to preventing neglect here goes.
The bible says that when a man leaves his own family and clings to his wife, the two become one flesh (Genesis 2,24).
We get the physical aspect of this.
But every time the bible uses the word "flesh", there is always way more of a spiritual reality nature going on. To say "the two become one flesh" is also to say that the two become one Spiritual entity, one "family", something holy and separated, even before any bundle of joy might come along, as a gift of God.
Nowadays, folks throw a wedding and then often say "we''ll wait to have a family."
But the word says a family is formed upon marital relations.
Kids and houses and things don't make a family, a marriage does.
So the very seeds of neglect in families have sometimes already been sown because the base relationship of the family is not seen from the very get go.
Another bible insight that might help when we talk about neglect is the fact that when a man and a woman have had marital relations, they didn't then have a "shot gun" wedding.
And if they were already married, they didn't have an "affair," they were taking a second spouse.
Because after marital relations both the marriage and the wedding have already taken place! And hey what's a second spouse (that what second tents are for) between Abraham and Sarah and well then, Hagar.
Imagine the chaste reform that would come upon our present day consumer sexuality if every marital relation rendered one married.
This brings to mind a short story by the gifted American author Dorothy Parker about a nice enough drunken rake who couldn't remember what he did last night. So he asked his perfectly genteel hostess. She adoringly cooed "You Were Perfectly Fine," that is, you were perfectly married. (1929)
Now I don't expect this particular bible ethos of marriage (that was still ripe only eighty years ago) to make a roaring comeback, absent the advent of the kingdom, but it does speak to the 41% percent of children born in 2009, who are born into a sort of neglectful relationship that does not include the benefits and protections of marriage.
That is to say, if we are going to confront or reduce the neglect of kids, parental folks might deliberate longer about "marital" relations and who is going to care for the children that might result therefrom.
One more insight, and I promise to stop.
Kids are really perceptive.
They know when Mommy or Daddy is sitting at the computer (or doing anything else) and neglecting them.
The neglected kid will throw a fit or somehow act out, while the non neglected kid knows that he or she is still a priority.
The proof is in the parenting and to some extent how the children act.
You can't fool kids.
Anyway, adoption like parenting, is also valid and highminded, in the face of millions of kids already being neglected right here in the good old U.S.A.
(I'm going to skip the non partisan issue of divorce as it relates to the neglect of kids.)
Whatever the state of a kid's circumstances in life, and or even whatever the maltreatment, the story best ends when everyone concerned turns to Jesus, and realizes that he has been watching over the whole deal from day one, and has saved and helped and loved such kids in a thousand miraculous ways already (Matthew 19.10), and will do even greater things, with just a little bit of faith, from everyone involved.
It takes a brother Jesus, and a heavenly host, to raise a neglected child.
And if the village wants to help out, that's fine too.
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...