Free Range Jesus

My brother suggested I use a local news story for my next blog topic and since it's been a crazy week, I was thankful for the idea. In our area, a mother and father have been investigated and perhaps harassed by authorities several times for allowing their children to walk to and from a park about a mile from their home. The police cited that these children were "playing alone" and that is apparently a crime in today's society.

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So I thought I'd take this story apart and talk about why we need to let our kids go free because that's how they learn and they need exercise and isn't anything better than having them staring at a screen all day? I thought I'd talk about the over reaches of the "authorities". Some localities believe they have the right to tell you what you can pack in your kids' lunch or what size soda can be purchased at the movies. But after pondering all of this, I don't really know how to take it apart. Sometimes I think the world is dangerous and scary and I wouldn't my kids walk alone and sometimes I let them loose to explore and create and be independent.

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The recent news story reminded me of the story of Jesus being left at the Temple when he was about 12. The story is documented in Luke 2. Jesus' parents made a journey to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover and upon their return they realized Jesus was not with them. Like a couple of day days later they realized he wasn't with them! Now before we call the authorities on Mary and Joseph, these journeys were taken by large family clans of hundreds of people. Children were likely in the back of the caravan hopping and playing along while the men and animals led the way. So it wasn't like Jesus would have been in the back seat of the minivan listening to his tunes.

Imagine of the horror of realizing your kid isn't with you. The highways of Bible times were dangerous, complete with thieves and bandits. Mary and Joseph turn around and make the three day journey back only to find the boy Jesus teaching in the Temple. The 12 year old is teaching the rabbis! The Bible says all were amazed at his wisdom and understanding. We have the luxury of knowing that they were getting front row seats with God Himself but the folks of the day just thought they had some Bible protoge kid with them.

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Mary and Joseph seem pretty ticked off at their son and even say, "Why are you treating us this way?" I laugh because Luke did not write down, "What on God's green earth were you thinking you little....!", which is what I would have said. And Jesus gives a respectful and truthful response, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” That must have hit their guts pretty hard. Jesus basically says, "I'm right where I should be. I'm doing what I'm purposed to do. I'm safe and you shouldn't have worried."

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God allowed Jesus to hang back so Jesus could begin His teaching ministry. Imagine the wonder on the rabbis' faces when a 12 year old boy was able to explain a mysterious God and His ways. Jesus had to be free to begin fulfilling the purpose God had for him. And perhaps there's a lesson there with our own children. As parents, we plan and schedule and make a path for our kids. Sometimes when they get lost or don't fit the vision we have for them, we become a bit indignant and we think or sometimes say, "Why are you doing this to us?" And our kids, who might not realize that God is working in their lives feel pulled and confused and don't even know why they're off track. Perhaps by being off track, even in the unsavory things, they are working out God's plan.

It's hard to believe addiction and rehab might be part of God's plan, but what if your kid is supposed to help others from the grips of addiction? It might seem the talent they have abandoned means dollars and hours lost but what if they can now use those dollars and hours to minister to someone else instead of focusing on themselves? Maybe your kid isn't meant to be a straight A student, perhaps college isn't even where he or she should end up. Are we confident in God's love and care of our children to let them "free range" a bit?

We ought to be thankful for our free range Jesus. If He hadn't begun His ministry of going about and forgiving and loving and healing, I'm not sure where our world would be today. Even the very "best" guys of Jesus' day and now aren't very good at maintaining an example. Jesus' path was so radical and so against the establishment it eventually brought Him death. As parents, we fear death and persecution for our kids. I don't believe God wants that for our kids either. But I do believe God wants us to trust Him with our children and allow our kids to explore what His plans are for them.

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