Yesterday, I pointed out that the great advances for women in the world had its true roots in Biblical Christianity. But as great as those advances are, but it truly pales in comparison to the advances that Christianity brought in the elevation and development of children. Nothing has improved the status of children in the world more than Christianity. William Barclay notes correctly that under the Roman law of “patria potestas” (“the father’s power”), “A Roman father had absolute power over his family. He could sell them as slaves; he could make them work in his fields, even in chains; he could take the law into his own hands, for law was in his own hands, and he could punish as he liked; he could even inflict the death penalty on his child. Further, the power of the Roman father extended over the child’s whole life, so long as the father lived. A Roman son never came of age.”

James M. Boice points out, “There was also the matter of child repudiation, leading to exposure of the newborn. When a baby was born it was placed before its father. If the father stooped and lifted the child, the child was accepted and was raised as his. If he turned away, the child was rejected and was literally discarded. Such rejected children were either left to die, or they were picked up by those who trafficked in infants. These people raised children to be slaves or to stock the brothels. One Roman father wrote to his wife from Alexandria: ‘If—good luck to you!—you have a child, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, throw it out.’ Against such pagan cruelty the new relations of parents to children and children to parents brought by the Christian gospel stand forth like sunshine after a dismal storm.”

Although the Jewish community in Jesus’ day had a deeper respect for human life than their pagan neighbors, they were still shocked at Jesus’ loving treatment of children in the adult world.

“…and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children…” Luke 1:17