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6 June 2016

Why safeguarding matters to Jesus

John Risbridger (LT pics 2016) John Risbridger Minister
Lego minifig

John Risbridger gave this introduction to the importance of safeguarding on the safeguarding training day in January 2016. With news today of the sentencing of Richard Huckle for child abuse, this is a particularly relevant post.

Every one of us in Above Bar Church needs to care deeply about safeguarding. Safeguarding mistakes can be immensely costly for everyone involved. But that is only part of the picture; there are many more reasons was safeguarding should matter to us.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: 'Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1–3)

Matthew 18 is perhaps the most comprehensive passage in the New Testament on how Jesus wants relationships to be handled within his Kingdom. And he says it all begins with us becoming small: ‘unless you change and become like little children’ (Matthew 18:3).

Jesus is more radical

We tend to associate childhood with charm, innocence, simple trust, and so on. Jesus is being much more radical than that. In the ancient world, children were at the bottom of the pile – without status and therefore without rights or protection.

Jesus is turning all our assumptions about status upside down, by declaring that the way into his kingdom is to become like a little child – to take the lowest place before God as we humble ourselves in repentance.

Safeguarding training day
Safeguarding training day in January 2016

For Jesus, ‘the little ones’ includes children, but it includes all believers who stand in the lowest place. It especially includes the children and vulnerable adults who are the focus of safeguarding. But, in a sense, it includes all of us who have seen our need of God and realised that we are in the lowest place before him (see Matthew 18:6, where Jesus makes clear that ‘these little ones’ are the same as ‘those who believe in me’).

Jesus says of such little ones:

  • That we should be ready to learn from them: ‘whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 18:4).
  • That we should be committed to welcoming them: ‘whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’ (Matthew 18:5)
  • That we should care for them, protecting them from things which may cause them to stumble and fall: ‘If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung round their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea’ (Matthew 18:6).

Why this matters

Why is safeguarding important, then?

  • Because we want to be good citizens who respect the laws of the land.
  • Because we want to safeguard our church’s reputation.
  • Because we live in a fallen world where human sin presents many dangers and obstacles to us all – especially the most vulnerable.

But there are even more important reasons:

  • Because we want to care for all those entrusted to us. We want to recognise their value as those made in the image of God.
  • Because God is a refuge and a protector, and we want to reflect him in our care for others.

And the most important reason of all:

  • Because Jesus loves the ‘little ones’, and therefore it is essential for us to love them well

So please don’t think of safeguarding as merely some boring box-ticking exercise (though we must uphold important legal requirements). Please don’t think of it as merely a duty (though it is a very solemn responsibility).

Instead, recall God’s heart for the ‘little ones’ and the vulnerable. Recall how God has helped us, cared for us, and made us his children.

When it comes to safeguarding in the church, all of have a part to play – even those of us who are not directly involved in working with children and adults at risk. We all play a part in encouraging and supporting the Safeguarding Team, and in making Above Bar Church a safe and welcoming place for all the ‘little ones’ – and, according to Matthew 18, that is exactly what Jesus wants us to do.


» Watch the video from CCPAS (Churches‘ Child Protection Advisory Service) on the importance of safeguarding, ’Kids are safe here':

» Read more about safeguarding in Above Bar Church

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