Kara Oliver: Children, Beloved

Kara Oliver shares how we can strengthen and empower each child to live as a beloved child of God.

“You are my son the Beloved, and with you I am well-pleased.”

These words spoken to Jesus at his baptism may be the most important words uttered to Jesus, and to any child since then. He heard these words before he was tempted, before he began his ministry, before he healed anyone. Even when he was hungry, tired, and vulnerable, Jesus knew he was loved. Period.  That Love gave him strength to persevere. To advocate. To heal. To teach. To share the same message of Love in word and action.

That same unconditional love is the greatest gift we can offer to any child we meet. Before he draws his first stick figure or writes his name. Before she kicks her first soccer ball. Before he gets his first grades. Before she picks up an instrument. Our children should know they are loved. Period. They do not have to do anything to deserve it.  

And the truth of that Love can allow our children to resist the temptations of bullying, of judging another when they enter the wilderness of the playground and the world of metrics and testing. Even when their self-esteem wavers, when they don’t live up to their own standards, when the system is stacked against them. They can be messengers of the same Love in word and action.

Jesus’ love and compassion was such that parents longed for their children to be in his presence. “One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them.” (Matthew 19: 13, CEB) The Contemporary English Bible says the disciples “shooed them off.” But Jesus intervened. I imagine he called the children to him, laid hands on them as he whispered to each one, “You are God’s child, Beloved. And with you I am well-pleased.”

What if each child who left his presence that day went out into the world, to become a tax collector who heard these words echoing in his soul when he chose not to tax more than his fair share? Or a seller of purple cloth who chose to donate the most beautiful cloth to her synagogue when she remembered Jesus’ hand on her head? Or a mother who whispered those same words of love each night to her own children as they fell asleep at her breast?

Who are the vulnerable children who need to know they are Beloved? Are they children in the foster care system, street children in Kamina, Democratic Republic of the Congo, immigrant children living in the shadows? Are they students not reading at grade level? Are they those who have been abused and hate their own bodies?

Our greatest act of love is to see children –their challenges, their potential, their need, and their capacity. To love – by advocating against the school to prison pipeline; by teaching our children how to stand in between bullies and their victims; by empowering instead of blaming.

Wherever you find yourself in the presence of children, offer the prayer, words, and touch of blessing. To the fidgeting child in the grocery story line, let your eyes say, “You are Beloved.” As you watch the horrors of children caught in natural disasters or the disasters of war and forced emigration, take political and compassionate action because you believe in their belovedness. At your local church or community center, get down on eye level to praise and affirm each child for their talents and gifts. In your home, see your own child as a gift, Beloved simply because she is a child of God.

You, Reader, are a Beloved child of God. With you God is well-pleased. Let that knowledge drive you into the Wilderness where the Love that lives inside you is most needed.

What You Do Matters

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Kara Oliver: Children, Beloved

What does it mean to be a beloved child of God?

  1. How are children recognized and honored by God? What does this mean about how we are to recognize and honor children?


  1. What does God’s unconditional love mean with children? What does this mean about boundaries that we may have to eliminate for their well-being? What does this mean about boundaries that we may have to shape for their well-being?


  1. Consider your children—be they relatives, or children that you work with. What can you do to love them more? What is something that is either missing from or could be added to their environment so that they better know how God loves them? What does it look like? How do we bring it forth? If it involves others or a lengthy process, what can we do right now?


  1. Consider yourself. What is something missing from or that could be added to your life that enables you to more deeply express yourself to the children around you as a beloved child of God? How can they better see those gifts reflected in and through you?

What You Do Matters

What would you like to do next with Kara Oliver: Children, Beloved?

Take Action

Kara Oliver: Children, Beloved

How can we express to children that they are beloved, and empower them to live and grow as such?

What are ways that we can better love and empower our children to know they are and love as God’s beloved?

  1. Help children learn and establish a sense of autonomy, in the mind, spirit, and body. Children are part of community, and should both be included and seek to be in community in healthy ways. We must strike a balance between the too common beliefs that they are either the center of or to sacrifice themselves for community. God created us each as a unique gift, and with unique sets of gifts. Help children to explore, discover, and build on those gifts. Those gifts are what they share in community--not necessarily themselves.


  1. Help children maintain their sense of imagination. Parker Palmer says that who our life calls us to be is located in our play and in our dreams. Help children to maintain a sense of wonder, awe, and questioning in life—it is in these spaces that the Holy Spirit most often speaks.


  1. For children who are most at risk in this world—be they without family, impoverished, hungry, or undereducated—look to serve and empower them. Sign up to volunteer at your local school, become mentor with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, or follow Global Citizen for both information and actions to help children.


  1. Does Sunday School at your church focus on just teaching children Bible stories and about the traditions of the church? Or does it also seek to help children explore and understand why and how those stories and traditions matter in how they live their lives? Faith development means not just telling and correcting, but allowing children to be curious, ask questions, have doubts, and explore in an environment that affirms they are loved as God has created them and encourages them to be.


  1. Show and teach children compassion. Compassion is one of the greatest gifts that we give to a child—it is what God offers Their beloved. Children who receive compassion know that, even when they have made a mistake, that does not change the fact that they are loved, accepted, and wanted. Children who receive compassion are better able to express and give compassion—they not only to receive God’s belovedness, but can share it with others in need of it.

What You Do Matters

What would you like to do next with Kara Oliver: Children, Beloved?

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