One of my great concerns, as a pastor, is hearing a parishioner say something like this: “Hal, I didn’t call you because I know how busy you are.” Yes, like you, I am busy. To tell the truth, I don’t know anybody who isn’t busy in today’s society.

However, I’m never too busy for you or your concerns or interests. Why? Priority. You are my priority.

It was the same way with Jesus and the children. To be sure, Jesus was busy. Extremely busy. The disciples he had picked out to help him had now become his protectors. By this time, Jesus had become famous and crowds pressed in to see him. Scribes and pharisees wanted to discuss the law. Other people wanted him to settle disputes. Still, others wanted to be healed. Jesus was just so busy. Apparently, the disciples were wise and justified in saying that the children could not come to Jesus. He just had to operate by carefully established priorities.

But it was at this point that Jesus let his disciples know just what his priority was. Jesus’ priority was and is the children. Jesus said to them, “Let the children come to me. Do not stop them ...”(Mark 10:14).

Now, this passage makes it very clear that children were welcomed, loved and blessed by Jesus, and our calling, as people of faith, is the same.

What happens to our children has great ramifications both for our children and for us. Our children represent the final jury of who and what we are.

A few years back in Houston, Texas, a 2-year-old child was summoned for jury duty. Halford Luccock, a Yale Divinity School professor, commenting on the error said: “That was a divinely inspired mistake, for the child is the final jury before which our civilization will be tried.”

So, if how we treat our children is the final test, there are a couple of very important considerations for us.

First, consider the fact that we are failing our children. Not everyone, of course, but we are failing our children in this society. The dawning of each new day brings fresh stories of violence, abuse, abandonment, kidnappings, disregard and the neglect of children.

Just today, reading the newspaper and hearing a brief news report, reveals the following: a 2-year-old child dies while being left in a hot van; a father shoots his divorced wife in front of their two children; a husband and wife are on trial, accused of abusing and killing their child; a mother seeks to sell her child for an automobile; and a foster parent pleads guilty for abusing and torturing a child.

And all this is to say nothing of the innocence of children being destroyed in broken homes, by drug dealers and by gangs.

I repeat, Jesus said, “Let the children come to me; do not stop them (do not hinder them).” What Jesus is really saying is, “Do not ruin the children.”

Next, consider the well-being of children. How refreshing to hear the psalmist as he describes God’s “Blue Ribbon on Children” (psalm 127:3). The psalmist says that children are a “heritage” or “gift.”

One scholar says that this word should be translated “assignment.” Our children are God’s assignment or commission to us.

The psalmist also calls children a “reward.” Not a curse, not a tragedy, not an accident — children are the expression of God’s favor. It is a thrilling sight to see our children through the lens of scripture as God’s trophies.

Before closing, let me get practical. I read an excellent article in a back issue of Reader’s Digest (July/August 2017). It was entitled “A Plea To America’s Adults,” and it was written by Alma and Colin Powell.

In the article, the Powells mentioned four ways adults might enter and enhance the life of children and/or teenagers.

1) When you are trying to serve young people, it is necessary to really listen.

2) To influence young people requires consistency. Young people and children are always asking, “Will you be back tomorrow?”

3) The success of children or young people depends on overlapping factors: love, support and encouragement.

4) Reaching young people or children requires the conviction that they are capable of success.

If children are, indeed, the final jury, what will be the verdict on our civilization? And will we care enough for our children to do something about it.

The Rev. Hal Brady is an ordained United Methodist minister and executive director of Hal Brady Ministries, based in Atlanta. You can watch him preach every week on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters TV channel Thursdays at 8 p.m.