Give children the gift of love

By Nnorom Azuonye

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On this Action for Children Sunday 2016 my preferred lectionary passage for today’s reflection is Luke 10:25-37 – the parable of the good Samaritan.

I believe this is an apt passage at this time in the world; a time that ethnic and racial intolerance has reached new heights creating more destitute children than ever before.

Countless children are being orphaned or wounded in troubled spots across the world, trafficked across international borders or being made to work long hours without pay in some parts of the world or turned into killers, forced to work as child soldiers.

There are also many children who are neglected or endangered as the problem of alcohol and drug-dependent parents becomes endemic.

         Who will love our children?

         Who will protect our children?

Our Lord Jesus Christ summed up the commandments into a simple narrative: ‘Love your God with all your heart, and love your neighbour as you love yourself’.

When a teacher of the law asked Jesus that question we almost always ask ourselves, “Who is my neighbour?”, Jesus told him this parable:

“There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him, stripped him, and beat him up, leaving him half dead.

 

It so happened that a priest was going down that road; but when he saw the man, he walked on by on the other side.

 

In the same way a Levite also came there, went over and looked at the man, and then walked on by on the other side.

 

But a Samaritan who was traveling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity.

 

He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.

 

The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he told the innkeeper, ‘and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him.’”

 

And Jesus concluded, “In your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbour toward the man attacked by the robbers?”

 

The teacher of the Law answered, “The one who was kind to him.”

 

Jesus replied, “You go, then, and do the same.”

 

         (Luke 10:30-37 Good News Translation)

 

Let us reflect on this story of the good Samaritan as we celebrate the work of Action for Children.

 

About Action for Children

Action for Children is the children’s charity of the Methodist Church founded in 1869 by Revd Thomas Bowman Stephenson in response to the poverty and danger faced by vulnerable and destitute children and young people living rough on the streets of London.

Reverend Stephenson was one the people that did not walk by children who had become victims of abuse or suffering under child labour. Like the man attacked by robbers in the parable told by Jesus, many people did not raise a finger to help these vulnerable children, but Revd Stephenson did, and according to the website of the charity, Fred and George were the first children taken away from a workhouse by the Methodist minister for rehabilitation. The website also lists some key milestones of the charity over the years including these:

         In 1908 the charity became known as the National Children’s Home (NCH)

         In 1926 NCH became the first charity in the UK to create an adoption agency which helped place children who might otherwise have lived deprived lives in homes where they were safe and loved.

         1935 NCH became the first charity in the world to open a Childcare Training College.

         Ten years later in 1945, it became the first charity to help the UK government set standards in childcare policy.

         In the 1990s it introduced innovative family support system to keep children safe at home and out of care.

Now known as Action for Children, the charity runs well over 500 projects helping shape and improve the lives of young people affected by poverty, disability and abuse.

Conclusion

An enduring vision such as Action for Children makes me proud to be a Methodist and inspires me to ask the question; what more can I give?

In today’s world, an organised charity or movement like Action for Children is wonderful and we must support this in any way we can. However we must also be sure that we do not neglect or abuse our own children. If we observe that our neighbour is having a hard time with his or her child, let us not be afraid to ask if there is anything we can do to help.

The other thing we must do is to teach our children to love their neighbours unconditionally. We must make sure they do not bully other children in school or after-school clubs and if they find that any of their friends is bullied or hurt, they can offer support as much as they can.

If our children pick up the habit of being helpful as young people they will grow with that attitude and this will be reflected in the way they treat people when they become adults helping create a healthier, more peaceful world in which love not hate thrives.

So, together now, let us reaffirm the Action for Children Covenant.

 The Action for Children Covenant
(to be said together)

Every child has the right to live, to be safe and to be loved. Every young person has the right to be housed, to have enough money to live in dignity and to have enough support for the future. Every young person has the right to justice, to realise their potential and to be given the space to become independent. In an often cruel and imperfect world, we uphold the work of Action for Children with children and young people in danger, in need and at risk. We support the growth of this work and the pursuit of all these rights for the young, the discounted and the vulnerable. We make this covenant with Action for Children for the sake of all God’s children. Amen

Notes: This message was shared by Nnorom Azuonye | nnorom@nnoromazuonye.com at the Pantiles Methodist Church on Sunday July 10, 2016. Sources of information used in the sermon are  The Methodist Church in Britain and  Action for Children