It happened in a flash, and we were close enough to have almost touched the participants. Tonight after dinner in the cafeteria of Campbellsville University, Isaac, Ethan and I were enjoying a leisurely stroll around campus. Out of a nearby buiilding came three young men. One of the men was eating an ice cream cone, another other had a cup of ice cream in his hand. My sons were playing nearby when “ice cream cup guy” smacked the hand of “ice cream cone guy” just as he was bringing the cone toward his mouth for a bite. The ice cream cone flew from the freshly smacked hand of “ice cream cone guy.” As you could imagine, my young boys took notice of this shocking behavior. In their eyes, this is an unimaginable sin! What happened next was almost scripted. “Ice cream cone guy” retaliated by smacking the cup of ice cream out of his friend’s hand. A battle of language and some shoving ensued.
In this moment, lots of things were running through my mind. I was irritated by the imature and rude behavior. I was angered that this was unfolding right before the eyes of my little sons. I was appalled by the filthy language that poured from both of the young men. As I stood there watching I began to wonder what would happen if I asked the young men to move it along, or perhaps to clean up the language (I despise filthy language being used in the presence of children). And then in another flash, the young men moved on, continuing to curse at one another as they went.
Isaac immediately looked up at me with his big brown eyes as big as quarters. “Mommy they did not have self control!” he said. I used the moment as a teaching opportunity for how young men are never to behave. We continued our walk and talked a bit longer about self control and poor behavior when there again in that same spot another moment presented itself. Along came one of my students who saw the ice cream cone lying on the ground (although she had not been there for the altercation). She stooped over, picked up the mess and put it in the closest trash can. Isaac had comments, of course. “Mommy she cleaned up their mess! She’s taking care of the earth because she loves God and when we love God we act like Jesus.” As we finished our walk and headed home, I couldn’t help but be thanful for a child who not only recognizes poor behavoir when he see’s it, but also recognizes Christ like behavior and understands why people behave like Christ.
A child’s heart may not be able to understand the depths of spiritual matters, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the heart of a child holds no theology. Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 19:14). Sometimes it is in the simple recognition of right and wrong that the kingdom of heaven is most evident to a child, and to an adult as well.