I grew up on a farm and occasionally my dad would come in from chores and complain about a sow that ate her young piglet. Now this was an extremely rare occurrence or we would quickly have gotten rid of all our pigs. But it occasionally happened. Recently, curiosity led me to explore why this happens. Sometimes a sow eats her piglet if it is stillborn, in order to make sure that the remains do not contaminate the rest of the newborns. Sometimes she accidentally rolls over and squishes the piglet, thus resulting in injuring the piglet beyond help. But then occasionally there is the rogue sow who just turns to cannibalism for some reason. All of these are regrettable instances. And truth be told, we are horrified just even reading about it.
But a recent conversation led me to think about eating the young. We experience cannibalism in the church on a frequent basis. Oh, it may not be intentional in many cases, but it happens. We have our spiritual young who are born into the church, and yet, we sometimes savage them and “eat” our young.
It may be the former alcoholic who slips and takes a drink. Instead of walking along side of them and giving them some tools and resources to cope, we condemn them and make them feel low enough for us to grind them with the toes of our shoes. Instead of showing grace to the person who lets out a swear word, we gasp in offense, making them so uncomfortable they never return. I have seen church ladies judge a young woman for her clothing, rather than welcoming her and mentoring her in the Lord. I particularly remember one instance when a new Christian, who wore a blouse that was low cut and a skirt that was too short, was so castigated about not dressing appropriately that she never came back to the church. The irony was I watched some of the young women who had been long-time members of the church dress every bit as immodestly without a word being said.
A newborn Christian needs to be tenderly loved and tended to the same way in which we care for a newborn babe. We don’t expect them to immediately be able to walk, talk, and be toilet trained because they are not yet mature. Why do we expect mature behavior from brand new Christians? And why do we condemn them when they do not live up to those expectations? A baby learning to walk is not condemned the first time they fall, but encouraged to get up and try again. Shouldn’t we be the same way with the new Christians we encounter?
So this challenge is for me and you. Take an honest look at how we treat new believers who do not grow as quickly as we would like. Also, be sure that the things we are judging them about are not just traditions or unspoken rules (of which most churches have plenty) but are truly attributes that Scripture wants us to acquire. And if we have a rogue swine that ferociously eats new Christians, well . . . maybe it is time to get rid of the rogue.
Thankfully, I know of many individuals and churches that do an excellent job of getting their young believers into the Word of God and letting the Holy Spirit grow and mature them. For that I am truly grateful, especially since I was one of those new babies at one time. Maybe as a body of Christ, we need to have a process to nourish our young Christians and help them flourish in good health. Let’s learn to identify and curtail reasons why we would eat our young and let them grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.