What About Innocent Children?
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:1-3)
We often wonder why certain children are born with birth defects or handicaps that affect their ability to live a normal life. It seems unfair, we think, that some are born healthy and some not. Does God do this? Why does He allow it? What purpose does it serve? What about children which seem not to even have the capacity to choose right and wrong because of brain damage? What about those that are born with gender issues and ambiguous reproductive organs? How can they be expected to do what God demands of them? These are all valid questions.
This issue becomes even more difficult when we are thinking through how someone is saved and if everyone has an equal chance to receive Christ. The Bible teaches that God wants everyone to be saved (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9) and that salvation is available to everyone (2 Cor. 5:15). But if someone is born with a mental defect that leaves them with an inability to reason very well or choose what is right, how would that line up with this doctrine of God’s free gift of salvation to all who call upon Him (Rom. 10:13)? What if that person cannot make a faith choice because they can’t understand the Gospel due to that birth defect?
I want to start by saying that yes, God creates us in His image, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139: 14), and He loves us all (John 3:16). God is not partial. He treats us all the same (Job 34:19). However, the Bible is very clear that we live in a fallen world which is tainted by the effects of sin and death (Gen. 3:19). And this sin problem will not be completely eradicated until there is no more curse and the old things have passed away.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.” 5And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.” (Rev. 21:4-5)
This will happen when Christ comes again and restores this present creation to what He always desired it to be – free from sin and death and all it’s effect (Rom. 8:20-21). That answers the general question we are posing. People are born with diseases and defects because of the effects of sin. The curse affects us all in one way or another. But, that still leaves the lingering question of the seeming unfairness of it. If God is sovereign and loves all of us, why would He allow certain innocent babies to be born with this defect and others not?
If evil had never entered the world through sin, then every single baby would be born healthy and live forever. But evil did enter the world through sin. So, God is just and allows the consequences of sin to occur. We are all born in sin (Psalm 51:5). However, His solution to fix this problem is to send His Son to die for us. The true healing doesn’t happen here, it happens in the restored kingdom I mentioned earlier.
No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. (Rev. 22:3)
When someone that doesn’t have the cognitive ability to choose right from wrong (whether child or adult) acts out in evil or cannot understand the Gospel message because of that handicap, we can be assured that God will be just on the Day of Judgment. We leave them in the hands of a just and loving creator. We can trust that He will always do what is right and we will be blown away at the result.
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. (Lam. 3:22)
We can also be sure that whatever God allows, He does so for His glory. Once we start trying to figure out why God makes one person one way and another person another way we are infringing on territory that only belongs to God and wandering into an area that is far above our human ability to comprehend.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33)
Remember Job? He was the most righteous man on the earth and it all seemed so unfair what happened to him. But God never told him why. It was way above his head.
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge? (Job 38:2)
But then Job figured out that he was asking the wrong question. “Why” is the wrong question. God doesn’t often answer that question. Instead, He shows us Himself. He shows us “Who” is worthy to be trusted, in spite of the fact that we cannot understand.
Then Job replied to the Lord:
2 “I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6)
When something bad happens to one person and not another, it often seems so random. Does that mean that the person it happens to is a worse sinner than anyone else? Jesus answers that one too:
“…those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:4)
The child born with the birth defect is not being punished by God. Jesus didn’t answer why the tower in Siloam fell on certain people and not on others. But He did say it wasn’t because they were being punished for something. So we shouldn’t think this way about innocent children born at a disadvantage.
I started this all with a passage from John 9:1-3. How can a person born blind end up displaying the works of God in his life? Likewise, how can a child born with a horrible disability bring God glory? Maybe the child will bring a family together to care for him or bring out compassion in a bitter health care worker or teach mercy to one of her siblings. Maybe a criminal will repent because of him. Maybe God will heal him and bring glory that way. Maybe that child will teach us how to love one another in a deeper way. Maybe he will bring a community together to pray. These are a few of millions of possibilities. But whatever the reason, God is trustworthy. I think that is my main point in all of this. We may not understand the “why”, but we understand who does. And that is enough.
- God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
- Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.
- Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
- Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
- His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
- Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
William Cowper – “God Moves in Mysterious Ways”