Continuing with Matthew 18:1-6, now we arrive at one of the most intense teachings concerning children and faith. Jesus deals directly with the great responsibility we have when it comes to guiding children. He doesn't play word games or speak in abstract terms. He is as clear and to the point as anytime in his whole ministry. He says, "It is better to be drowned than to lead a child astray!"
I have watched a video about this teaching that was filmed in the Holy Land. The presenter showed a "large millstone" like what Jesus is referring to in this verse with a sea in the background. He demonstrated how vivid this warning would have been for the people listening to Jesus. It left quite an impression on me.
In context, this passage leads into some more verses explaining the devastating dangers of sin and how it is to be avoided at all costs. There is nothing light about this passage no matter which Gospel you take it from. And clearly, Jesus seems to be just fine with letting the immensity of it lay heavy on our minds and hearts. In sum, Jesus argues that the children are the greatest in the kingdom and becoming like them is really good, and causing them to go away from God is really, really, really, really, really BAD!!!
So, that leaves us with the responsibility of evaluating our own beliefs. What are we passing on to the next generation? How are we shaping their belief systems? What are we communicating about God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Are we interfering with God's will or contradicting God's word? Are we passing on the gospel of peace or our own tradition? Are we handing children and youth a vibrant faith that accompanies true discipleship, or are we programming their lives with the religion of Pharisees? How honestly and willingly are we analyzing these issues?
If nothing else, we are at least left with a sense of burden from these verses.