A friend told me of an event he attended this past weekend where he saw an eight or nine-year-old armed with a megaphone and preaching fire and judgment to passersby. An adult, ostensibly his father, filmed him proudly as the little boy yelled Bible quotes into all manner of nuanced adulthood. A decade old, likely not yet acquainted with the confusion of a first crush or financial disappointment, calling his world into account.
I've seen documentaries and news stories where children are thought especially blessed by God for preaching (and screeching) with bold, knowing charisma beyond their years. Tearful adults remark with disbelieving shakes of their heads. "He's got that Holy Fire!" Sometimes it's cute. Except when it's not. Those other times it's rather sad.
I believe children hold a very special place in the world and are far more valuable than most of them are ever treated. We often overlook them in deference to our grown-up rat race. In doing this, everyone -kids and adults- misses out on life. Christ, as we've heard, went so far as to say to a child-ignoring first century palestine that the Reign of God belongs to children, despite (and perhaps because of) their very inability to earn it. Yet I don't fully understand how yelling at strangers before you know how the world works, let alone how it should work, is considered inspired. Children always yell about the world not being according to their preferences. We call it whining. Why when tucked into a miniature suit and accompanied by a Bible and amplification is it something from the great beyond?
When Jesus was twelve, his parents left him in Jerusalem on accident. They'd assumed he was in their friends' minivan or something. Going back and retracing their steps, they found him hanging out in the temple with religious leaders and scholars. And their minds were blown. Why? Because Jesus asked great questions. The second chapter of Luke records amazement not in what Jesus preached, but in his ability to interact with the ideas, to listen and ask follow up and clarification, to involve himself in the exchange rather than distance himself in order to conquer.
Jesus made his mark by being an inquisitive presence, not a declarative one.
Kids with megaphones judging things they don't understand typically only become taller with time. There's not much maturing available for those who see faith as the declaring of how things ought to be irrespective of their own ignorance. Making statements instead of conversation is probably not a phenomenon powered by Christ, but by a desire to control and complain one's own kingdom into view. I'm saying this isn't really age-specifc.
I'd like to see kids celebrated for listening and wondering and remaining humble. While we're at it, let's celebrate those things in every stage of life in which we find them. Let's call that charisma.