Reflection on National Child Protection Week

By Rev Philip Gardner
Executive Officer, Placements and Safe Church

Posted in Safe Church,Family

The week commencing 6th September 2020 is National Child Prevention Week. You might like to check out the National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) website for more information. https://www.napcan.org.au/

It is also one of those times when the lectionary readings are very helpful. The gospel for the 6th September is Matthew 18:15-20. A passage you are probably very familiar with, it begins with ‘if your brother or sister sins against you’ speak to them when you are alone, and then describes the process if they fail to listen. It ends with promises regarding answered prayer (19) and the promise of the continuing presence of the risen Jesus (20). The passage is part of the five major discourses that are a feature of Matthew’s gospel and this one focuses on the nature of community.

I think there is a major tension throughout this discourse between being a community that takes mutual discipline and mutual forgiveness very seriously. At the beginning of the chapter there is a clear statement about the inclusion of children in the Christian community, which would have been counter-cultural in Jesus’ day. Then in verse six there are the robust warnings about not putting stumbling blocks in the way of these little ones. The parable of the shepherd follows, and in this context it strengthens the importance of pastoral care, especially not causing little ones to be lost.

When we talk about processes for protecting children in our communities, such as screenings, increasing the number of adults in any Sunday School class, increasing the oversight of Church Council over activities and the like, some people murmur about government regulation and compliance. Matthew 18 reminds us that Jesus, from the very beginning of the Church’s life, placed a high priority on protecting the vulnerable in our communities. It is not only about compliance or the fear of being sued, it is a basic gospel value. People thrive when they feel safe. It is even more difficult to become the person God intends you to be when you first need to be healed from abuse and neglect. Next week is an opportunity to pause and commit afresh to being communities where vulnerable people feel safe, are protected and are encouraged to become fully alive in response to the generous grace revealed in Jesus.

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