“My husband and I take our granddaughter to church and teach her songs, such as “Jesus Loves The Little Children”. We have neighbors who say this cannot be true, since so many children are starving and suffering. What can we say to help us understand and to respond to them?”
In my mind the basic mistake in this criticism of the Lord is the assumption that loving someone means keeping him or her from all harm or struggle. Somehow we have decided that if we love someone we must act to prevent any pain in his or her life. But that is wrong! “The Lord disciplines those he loves, he punishes everyone he accepts as his child” (Hebrews 12:6; New Century Version). God says that love sometimes include discipline, which is true even for earthly parents.
In fact, the most loving parents are parents who discipline their children and sometimes allow their children to stumble and fall. Taking this mistaken idea to its conclusion would keep any of us from ever learning to walk, since children who are learning to walk often fall down and sometimes get hurt doing so. But loving parents will allow them to fall, knowing that they must learn to walk on their own.
God allows every human being to walk on his or her own. In the process we often fall and cause much worse pain than stumbling. We hurt those we love. And it is a tragic truth that when anyone sins, innocent people suffer. So Jesus has two choices. First, He can intervene and not allow anyone to walk on their own and thus risk falling into sin and pain. Or, He can allow us to make our own choices, even though that will inevitably lead to pain for us and for innocent people around us.
God allows us to choose freely what we will do. As a result, our world is full of sin, and as a result, suffering. The painful truth is that much of that suffering is by innocents who have no say in their situation. But Jesus still loves them. “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
God cared enough to try to help humanity, including the innocents, to escape their struggle. We can come to a loving God who cares enough to put His Son on a tree to die in our place. Jesus does indeed love the little children; He proved it by dying for them.
So my simple answer to your friends would be, “Yes, Jesus loves the little children. He gave His life for them!”
Check out the lesson, “Evil, Pain & Suffering”, on the “Video Lessons” page above for more helpful insights. Thanks!