Skip to content

Welcoming children

One of the quirks of being a Christian minister associated with an historic building like St Michael’s Wollongong is that I end up officiating at a lot of weddings. However I recently attended a wedding as a guest with no official capacity. It was full of joy and wonderful testimonies to the grace and love of God through his Son Jesus. But I noticed something strange: throughout the wedding, from the processional to the final speech at the reception, no mention was made of children at all. Not once.

Now I don’t think this omission was deliberate. I have no reason to think that the couple are averse to having children, nor that the minister in charge of the service tried to leave out any reference to them. I think it was just an oversight in the wedding planning process. Furthermore, the reason that I noticed it is not because I’m particularly astute or virtuous; rather, it’s because I’m an Anglican minister who has done lots of weddings, and I am required by denominational laws to raise the subject of children at every wedding I perform.

The Book of Common Prayer mentions children twice. The introduction to the wedding states that the growth of godly offspring is one of God’s purposes for marriage. Later in the service, the prayer book explicitly encourages prayer that the couple might enjoy God’s blessing of children.

In hindsight, as I reflect more on the biblical teaching, it seems to me that the Book of Common Prayer is spot-on, and the fact that children were not mentioned at all in the wedding I attended was a serious oversight. In the Bible, children are always seen as a blessing from the Lord, and childlessness in marriage is always a cause of grief. The command in Genesis 1:28 is just the beginning of a consistent biblical theme: marriage is for children, God loves children, and God’s people are to reflect God’s attitude:

And God blessed them [i.e. man as male and female]. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:28)

I’m not talking here about the details of family planning and contraception; I accept that different families will have different capacities, timings and situations. Nevertheless, the consistent biblical teaching is that marriages should have a warm and welcoming attitude to children, for this is one of the primary purposes of a marriage. It follows that in a wedding ceremony, the bearing of children should not simply be assumed, but should be given a prominent and explicit place.

It has become an accepted argument in recent times among some Christians that today’s world is different from biblical times, and that the world is so overpopulated now that the second part of God’s command in Genesis 1:28 (to “have dominion”) actually negates the first (to “multiply”). We have come to a point where there are simply too many people in the world, and any more ‘filling’ will mean that we aren’t taking care of the world properly. We have already completed our obedience to God’s command to “fill” the earth; now we can stop procreating.

However, it’s not really true that overpopulation itself is causing the strain on the earth’s resources. What is causing this strain is a much more basic problem—a problem that Francis Schaeffer identified way back in the 1960s, and a problem which the Bible talks about again and again: human greed (e.g. Exod 20:17, Rom 1:29, Jas 4:2-3). It’s not that there are too many people, it’s that certain people (especially in the West) are insatiably consuming more and more resources. Think of the majority of Australian households. We happily use up oil to get ourselves around more conveniently. We utilize more and more land almost without thinking; fewer and fewer people are now living in bigger and bigger houses. And, of course, there are the extra costs in electricity for heating and lighting. The strain on the earth’s resources would be stopped overnight if we all became content with what we had, and were happy to live with larger families under one roof.

Food resources provide another example. To quote a statistic I heard recently, there are now more obese and overweight people in the world than there are malnourished people. (That includes countries such as China.) That statistic means that there is more than enough food for everybody many times over. It’s just that it’s not being distributed properly—because of corruption and greed. Overpopulation isn’t the problem; it’s the age-old problem of greed.

In fact, I reckon a better way for western Christians to combat the problems that are so often blamed on overpopulation would be to have more children—providing that they are committed to seeing that all of their children are “Christianly and virtuously brought up”. For if this happens, there will be more and more people who have been brought up to be less greedy, more patient and more generous, to use less resources, and therefore to effect a good and lasting change in our world.

The Bible teaches that marriage is good, and that one of the indispensable reasons for marriage is children. So if you notice references to children being marginalized or omitted at a Christian wedding in your church, perhaps you could have a quiet word with your minister and politely ask them why.

Published inCreationEthicsThe Briefing

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on Ephesians

Recent blog posts

  • Entering a tomb in PompeiiWe too: the offenders (Ephesians 2:3)
    Judgmentalism. It’s a bigger problem than we think. Judgmentalism is certainly a danger for God’s people. That’s because God’s people have God’s word. God’s word helps God’s people to see how wonderful God is, and how terrible humanity is in comparison. But Ephesians 2:3 contains two highly significant, emphatic words: “we too”. We too, says Paul, were the offenders. We, too, were the disobedient. These words aren’t talking about all those horrible people “out there”. They’re talking about God’s people. And it’s something we, too, need to hear. These words tell us something incredibly important—something that we ignore at our peril.
  • Photo by Daniel Lienert on UnsplashThe root of the problem (Ephesians 2:1–2)
    I hadn’t visited the dentist for years. Then I felt a tiny amount of pain in one of my teeth. But I ignored it. I didn’t want to bother with a dentist. Anyway, I had my own solution: I’d always brushed my teeth quite thoroughly, and was proud of it. So I just kept brushing. But after a while, the pain came back. This time, it was worse. So I finally visited the dentist. That was painful, too. The root had become so infected that I needed root canal surgery. That was a while ago. But last year, it flared up again, as these things apparently do. And yet I chose to visit the dentist again, even though I knew it might be painful. Why? Because I’d learnt something. I’ve learnt that if I have a problem that goes to the root, and if I know someone who has the solution to the problem, I shouldn’t ignore it or try to fix it myself. I should face up to the root problem, and get help. So I got help. Now, I don’t have a tooth in that spot at all. In Ephesians 2:1–2, Paul seeks to go deep, to the root of the problem. The problem Paul talks about here is incredibly serious. It can be very painful to admit. But Paul can and does admit it—because he also knows the person with the solution. According to Paul, this isn’t a problem to ignore or try to fix ourselves. It’s not something we can educate ourselves out of. This is a problem to face up to, and get help.
  • Captivated by ScriptureCaptivated by Scripture: A personal reflection on D. W. B. Robinson’s legacy for biblical studies
    What made Donald W. B. Robinson such an inspiring and influential teacher for generations of students? His commitment to being captivated by Scripture. This is a paper given by Lionel Windsor at the legacy day and launch of Donald Robinson Selected Works Volume 3: Biblical and Liturgical Studies & Volume 4: Historical Studies and Series Index. Moore Theological College, Sydney, 16 March 2019.
  • The first thing to say about church (Ephesians 1:22–23)
    Here in Ephesians 1:22–23, for the first time in his letter, the apostle Paul uses the word “church”. He’s taken quite some time to get to this point. That might make you think that the church isn’t very important to Paul. But actually, the reverse is true. This is a climactic statement. So far in Ephesians, Paul has poured out his praise to God for his blessings and plans and purposes. He has told his readers how he is praying for knowledge and hope and strength in God. Now, finally, at the highest peak of this amazing prayer, Paul names “the church”. So what is the first thing Paul has to say about the church? What is the word he associates most closely with the church? What matters most to Paul when it comes to the church? The answer is, in fact, obvious. It’s so obvious that you might think it doesn’t need to be said. You might even wonder why Paul bothers saying it, when there are so many other more practical things he could say about the church. But while it might seem obvious, it needs to be said first. Why? Because it’s so easy to assume it. Yet without it, nothing else about the church makes sense.
  • Grave of John BunyanStrength to live (Ephesians 1:19–21)
    What do we do when we feel weak in the face of the powers that be? One response might be just to shut down, close ranks and find a bitter satisfaction in our identity as victims. Another response might be to try to fight as hard as we can to exert our power and dominance over others, seeking to turn the tables so that we become the conquerors instead of the oppressors. Both of these responses involve seeking strength and power in ourselves. They are often the way that oppressed individuals and groups in our world respond to the powers that are oppressing them. But is that the way God wants his people to respond to our weakness in the face of power? In Ephesians 1:19–21, the apostle Paul gives us a far better way to respond. Paul’s response involves looking for strength. But it’s not a strength that comes from within ourselves. It’s a strength that comes from God himself.
  • Christ, the Cross and Creation Care ConferenceConference: Christ, the Cross and Creation Care
    I'll be speaking at the "Christ, the Cross and Creation Care Conference", Sydney. 8.30am to 3.30pm, Saturday 22 June 2019. A conference run by A Rocha Australia
  • Palatine Hill from Roman Forum with contrails – Black and WhiteWhat’s the point of theology? (Ephesians 1:17–18)
    The full name of the college I teach at is “Moore Theological College”. That word “Theological” says something important about who we are. It reminds us about what we're on about. Yes, the Bible is at the centre of everything we do. Yes, we seek to train people for ministry. Yes, we're driven by the worldwide mission of Jesus Christ. Yes, we're committed to learning together, and having our characters formed in loving Christian community. But our careful study of the Bible, and our pastorally-motivated ministry and mission training, and our encouragement of one another in our community, all matter because of something more basic: theology. Unfortunately, the word "theology" can be misunderstood. It sometimes gets used to mean something like “technical details about spiritual things that experts argue about and isn’t much practical use to regular people”. But that's just a caricature. It's not what theology is. Theology is something far more profound, far more life-changing, and far more fundamental—not just for people at a college, but for everyone. In Ephesians 1:17–18, Paul prays for his readers—people who have come to believe in and live for Jesus Christ. It's a prayer for more theology.
  • Youth praying, Finchale PrioryPrayer: What are we actually doing? (Ephesians 1:15–16)
    “A Muslim, a Jew and an Anglican Minister walk into a classroom”. This was the advertising blurb for a local Community College seminar I participated in a few years ago. I joined a Muslim educator and a Jewish academic (who is also a friend of mine) to give a series of presentations on different aspects of our three religions to interested people from the community. When we came to the topic of ‘prayer’, I was fascinated to hear what my co-presenters had to say. Even though we were all using the same word, ‘prayer’, the word meant very different things in the different religions. As a believer in Jesus Christ, what did I have to say about what prayer is? What would you have said? Christians, too, can often be a bit confused or unclear about what prayer actually is. That’s where the Apostle Paul really helps us. In these verses in Ephesians, Paul starts telling his readers about his own prayers for them.
  • Photo by Danielle Macinnes on UnsplashThe Holy Spirit: Our security (Ephesians 1:14)
    The Stanford Marshmallow Experiments are a favourite illustration of motivational speakers. The lesson is this: If you can learn how to delay gratification early in life, you’ll do better in later life. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? But unfortunately, like many popular conclusions drawn from famous psychological experiments, it doesn’t stand up to closer scrutiny. The more up-to-date study demonstrates something far more mundane: if you grow up in a secure home where you know there will always be food on the table, you’re more likely to be able to put off eating a marshmallow. This isn’t a particularly useful lesson for motivational speakers. But it’s a great illustration of what it means to be a child of God.
  • Mission. Photo by Ben White on UnsplashThe message is the mission (Ephesians 1:13)
    What is God’s mission? What means is God using to bring about his purposes in Christ? What does that mean for our own mission as Christians and churches?

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor